The aisles at the 2007 University Career Services Career Fair were dominated by representatives from finance giants such as Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Co. Inc. and Goldman Sachs. Of the more than 90 employers at the fair, 30 were in the finance and business industry and 29 were consulting firms.
But according to a survey of recent Yale graduates conducted by UCS, only 18 percent of students from the class of 2006 had jobs in the fields of business, finance and consulting as of May 2007, one year after graduation. Despite common perceptions on campus, business and finance was the third most popular field for Yalies, behind graduate school, which attracts 24 percent of recent graduates, and teaching, which 19 percent of Yalies pursue.
But every one of the 25 students approached by the News in an informal survey guessed that the percentage of Yale graduates involved in business and finance was higher than the percentage suggested by the UCS survey. The mean of students’ estimates was approximately 35 percent, and the overall data ranged from 25 percent to 60 percent.
“It’s [a] myth that everybody goes into the business and finance fields,” UCS Director Philip Jones said.
Christine Geiser ’07 said a career in business and finance may seem seductive to students looking for a high-paying, competitive job right out of college, which is especially attractive because many firms accept students from all academic backgrounds. Geiser, who graduated with an English degree, now works for a large finance firm in New York City.
More than half of the students interviewed for the informal survey cited UCS as responsible for the misconceptions about the number of Yalies in finance. Simone Berkower ’09 said she thinks UCS gears most of its clinics and application-writing workshops toward helping students find jobs in banking. Most of the on-campus interviews sponsored by UCS are for finance and banking firms, she said.
Emily Schofield ’09 said she was surprised to hear that only 18 percent of recent graduates went into business and finance.
“I think that given that this is the case, UCS should put more effort into having a more balanced representation of careers on campus,” she said.
Bevin Peters ’09 said she does not think UCS is good at covering the full range of career options, especially those in science and public health. While she said she does not plan on going into finance, Peters thinks her classmates who are considering that path would benefit from exposure to a more diverse field of careers.
UCS did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article.
But not all students interviewed said UCS was responsible for the misconception.
Zach Marks ’09 said he thinks student perception is skewed by the prevalence of recruiters during the fall semester.
“When you continuously see all of your friends walking around in suits and ties, coming to and from interviews, it feels like there is a higher presence of these careers on campus,” Marks said.
Jones said one of the main reasons that investment banks and finance firms are so visible on campus is that they have high turnover rates, which he said compels them to heavily recruit seniors in college. Many students go into these fields for only a few years before leaving for MBA programs or other careers, so finance firms must constantly hire new employees to maintain their numbers, he said. Other popular post-graduate career tracks, like academia or medicine, require a longer-term commitment.
But Marks said he thinks that ultimately fewer Yalies go into finance than one might expect because a lot of students come to Yale with an interest in promoting social justice.
“A lot of seniors say that they went through the interview process with a lot of these firms because the process is great training and a great experience,” he said. “They don’t want to pass over opportunities, but that does not mean they will go into business.”
Hunter Swartz ’07, a financial analyst and recruiter with a prominent investment bank in New York City whose company policy prohibits employees from revealing its name in the media, said while he was conducting interviews for his firm, he noticed that few Yalies were certain they wanted to enter a career in finance.
“What makes Yalies so interesting is that they are so diverse, but when they come in to interview, they have a difficult time, at the end of the day, to say why they want to do banking,” Swartz said. “This affects their interview because it’s supposed to be about convincing people that this specific job is what you want to do for the rest of your life.”
Although Harvard University does not publish statistics about alumni career choices, the Harvard Crimson conducted a survey last summer of 55 percent of the graduating class that indicated that 58 percent of men and 43 percent of women who entered the workforce as graduating seniors went into finance.