You’ve heard it all before.
The Wall Street crisis. The financial meltdown. The economic apocalypse. The markets are crashing and, with it, your hopes of a cushy post-grad I-banking career.
But if this crisis proves anything, it’s that the conventional wisdom isn’t always wise (especially when it tells you that housing prices will never, ever fall). So before you chuck those recruiting brochures from the career fair, reconsider some widely circulated myths around the current financial job market.
MYTH: “This is the worst time to go into finance.”
Given the plunging Dow and doom-and-gloom stories throughout the media, students fortunate enough to find opportunities in the financial industry right now could easily be convinced that heading to Wall Street is career suicide. Who knows what the markets will do? Who knows whether you’ll have a job when you graduate?
If job security is your primary concern, work for the post office. Then again, chances are if you were keen on going into finance before the current crisis, you’re not that fussy about job security anyway. Wall Street has always tended to draw “risk-loving” individuals, as my intro econ professor might say. People who are willing to bet their careers on the stock market or the price of oil may be intimidated by the current financial climate, but not many would-be traders and hedge fund analysts will be scared off. Risk is the name of the game, and those who choose to enter the industry — whether in good times or bad — should know it comes with the territory.
MYTH: “Analysts are dispensable — especially summers.”
The word from many employers is that analysts — while highly compensated compared to other industries — are relatively inexpensive to keep, especially given their productivity and willingness to do smaller, more detail-oriented tasks. Plus, hiring summer analysts is an easy and cost-efficient way of recruiting for full-time employees. Think of it as a 10-week interview.
For full-time analysts, the opportunity to cut your teeth in a bad market can be a real learning experience. Most firms have factored the current environment into their recruiting efforts. With fewer analysts, many firms will rely on first-year employees to tackle bigger projects and spend more time in the office (unfortunately, the all-nighters are not a myth).
MYTH: “You should really go to grad school.”
Wall Street aside, no other subject seems to divide Yale students (or professors, for that matter) more than graduate school. For some, it’s the mark of an intellectual or the path to an academic career; for others, it’s a deferral of real-world responsibility.
Chances are, you already considered grad school at some point, and it either tickled your fancy or made you gag. If you fall in the second camp, a soft job market is probably not going to make you hate the idea of grad school any less once you’re there. Writing a thesis and spending the next several years in the library isn’t for everyone. Face it — if you weren’t that hot on grad school to begin with, there was probably a reason.
Fortunately, the choice isn’t just between Wall Street and grad school. If you can’t make it to a bulge-bracket firm straight out of college, try looking at financial jobs in other sectors. Work for a think tank doing development and fundraising work, or for a firm specializing in bankruptcy consulting. Smaller consulting firms can also give you good exposure to understanding markets and corporate strategy — experience that will come in handy when the financial job market is back on the upswing.
MYTH: “If you want to go into finance, you have to get a head start.”
If you’re an underclassman, don’t worry over getting a summer internship in finance — especially not this year. Take a summer to do something completely different, and in a couple of years, that experience will stand out on your resume. Spend two months learning German in Berlin, go to Officer Candidates School, work at an NGO in Brazil — be a Yalie. As long as you can give evidence of an interest and commitment to finance, your career aspirations should not prevent you from enjoying other experiences in the meantime that will ultimately make you a more interesting, well-rounded person.
That’s good career advice for any job market.
Kate Aitken, a senior in Silliman College and a former Arts & Living editor for the News, interned on Wall Street this past summer.