With less than one semester left in my Yale career, I would like to offer some thoughts on the often chaotic struggle to find employment after graduation. I would like to suggest that the job search process and the apparatus that facilitates it — Undergraduate Career Services — are slightly skewed towards certain kinds of jobs (namely finance and consulting) and present a comparative paucity of alternative opportunities.
When I arrived back on campus in late August at the beginning of this school year, I was preparing myself to enjoy the company of my friends for one more year before we would inevitably be strewn about throughout the world for the next chapter of our lives. I would try to solidify the bonds that I had established during the first three years of my time at Yale and take in my last worry-free breaths as a college student.
Unfortunately, the job market (or my perception of it) had other ideas. Restful breaths were not meant to be. Rather, I found myself gasping for air and employment. UCS put forth a veritable smorgasbord of options, which were conveniently made available to me the very first week of school. Consulting, finance and banking positions were all within my reach, or so I thought. “Should I work in London or Singapore?” I asked myself. “No, better stay closer to home. Midtown Manhattan will do just fine.”
Needless to say, that plan didn’t exactly work out, as evidenced by the fact that I’m presently writing a column about my dissatisfaction with UCS. But I do feel that I have been able to learn something from the experience that might translate into a gentle and constructive criticism of the current state of their services.
By definition, Yale students are a very talented group of young adults who are chosen for their wide range of skills and passions. The autumn job search, however, would seem to suggest otherwise. Those who attended the career fair can attest to the overwhelming preponderance of finance- and consulting-related companies that populated the Lanman Center. For anyone who was less than certain about his or her future life path, the allure of such jobs (and the apparent lack of other options) compelled me, like so many other seniors, to head straight for the corporate vortex. My dean described this phenomenon by employing a metaphor of people in a zombie-like state uncontrollably walking towards a recently arrived flying saucer, moving towards the light with blank stares and arms outstretched.
I eventually made it away from the alien spaceship alive, but with my ego slightly bruised, my prospects confused, and not without a little bit of scar tissue that inevitably results from the probing application and interview process. I’m not quite sure what happened, but I do know, without a doubt, that I was not really cut out for all those consulting jobs and that I really had no business applying for them. So why did I feel obligated to apply?
Yale College is a liberal arts institution. We are encouraged to pursue various interests and involvements as we learn from our peers, who each have diverse interests of their own. After college, we will be able to do whatever we wish, applying our vast interdisciplinary knowledge in whichever field we choose. The demands of the fall job search, and perhaps UCS more generally, seem to negate part of the liberal arts mission and undermine much of the diversity Yale fosters. Though perhaps any student of any academic background may be equipped for any job, the diversity of the jobs themselves leaves something to be desired.
This should by no means be interpreted as a diatribe against finance-related jobs or the people who work them. If anything, my respect for them has been enhanced as a consequence of the first-hand realization that not just anyone can perform — or at least obtain — such occupations. Rather, I would like to suggest that UCS needs to do a better job not just of making alternative opportunities available to us but also of presenting these alternatives in a way that students are not suffocated by the distinct sense of career claustrophobia which currently accompanies much of the job search. While I fully realize it is the companies themselves that hold information sessions for students and determine when they will be interviewing, it is nevertheless the role of UCS to do a better job creating a more accurate portrayal of what jobs are truly available to seniors. At a pivotal and vulnerable time in our lives, it is important that UCS gently wean us off the nurturing environment that is Yale and usher us into the next stage of our lives — whatever that stage may be.
Greg Aponte is a senior in Saybrook College.