My hand runs through my hair. Too greasy; they’ll judge. It’s a little too late to do anything about that now.
Is my tie right? Right enough: solid blue, not too thin. I gently slide on my grandfather’s gold tie-bar. They’ll definitely like that, maybe even think that I’m one of them.
Navy blazer? Check. Confident patrician smirk? Check. My face? Shit.
I should shave. Why didn’t I think of that before? There’s nothing they hate more than an unshaven hippy. I’ll stick out like a sore thumb. I better go fix that.
Money people. That’s what they are. That’s all that matters to them. They’ll forsake the rest of humanity for a quick buck, and they’ll laugh at ignorant liberal idealism until it’s back in Canada where it belongs.
I was set to attend the Oliver Wyman Finance Information Session at the Omni Hotel. I wasn’t quite sure what they did (my roommate assured me it was some finance-y thing), but that didn’t matter: I’d smile, dress sharp, act miserly, and they’d pat me on the back and offer me a million-dollar starting salary.
Armed with these and other prejudices and assumptions, I headed Omniwards. I was prepared to face the fat-cat bankers and soulless Yalies who stood in my way to getting that awesome Wall Street job.
As I approached the Temple room on the second floor, I was dismayed to see my competition. Not only were they concealing their inner Gordon Geckos by wearing plain looking sweaters, no blazers and very few ties, but they also looked regular! Dammit: They’re smart. By showing their ability to blend in with regular folk, they’re demonstrating their insidiousness: the most important quality of any money-grubber.
But then all was right with the world. As I entered, a woman approached me, and handed me an umbrella in exchange for my name and contact information. This blue, logo-emblazoned gift symbolized everything I’d been hoping for: the dealing and compromising had already begun! Very soon I’d have no soul, but a corner office overlooking Wall Street.
After walking into the magnificent room (resplendent with a brownish red floral carpet and a sickly yellow wallpaper), I was quickly approached by a man named J—.
But instead of regaling me with tales of Wall Street debauchery and excess, I was treated to something very different. Turns out, Oliver Wyman has about as much to do with Gordon Gecko as my grandmother.
J—, like all of his Oliver Wyman colleagues, is a consultant. This means that he spends half of his time traveling around to different companies where he consults with them on upper-level managerial and financial policy. He spends Monday through Thursday in a hotel, and is never doing the same job twice.
Alright. Well, it’s not the level of evil I was hoping for, but I guess it works. At least I’ll get to tell the evil banks how to be more evil. That’s like being a Sith lord’s adviser, which isn’t half bad for an entry-level position.
Then I learned that some of the most common jobs Oliver Wyman consultants take after leaving are in the investment banking and hedge-fund worlds. Nice, so this will be like fat-cat prep school.
J— was very nice to talk with, and had a deceptively friendly tone, but I decided to leave his clutches before he swindled me into buying subprime mortgages or something.
I next met T—. I walked toward him as I was trying to get a peanut butter cookie from the food spread, but before I could get my hand on that treat, he’d called me over to join a group of pretty girls listening to him rave about the firm.
Oh great. He’s the salesman of the group. He’s going to try and ensnare even the bleeding hearts among us with fictitious non-monetary benefits of Oliver Wyman.
I was right. He spoke of “really smart colleagues who challenged and excited” him. He made up fantastic stories of “having a ton of fun” on the job. And funniest of all, he claimed that his company encouraged community and the pursuit of individual interests!
Who did this guy think he was? Pretending like people who go into fields like consulting or finance care about things besides money: He’s not fooling anyone!
He played it cool. But once, just once, I caught a brief smirk cross his face, as he must have thought he’d convinced me of his lies.
But the pretty girls let him continue and I wasn’t going to butt in. We nodded with equal-part enthusiasm and comprehension, and occasionally peppered his monologue with “Really?!”s and “That’s great!”s.
But to be honest, we didn’t come to the info session for information; we could get that online (if I had actually looked before attending, I’d have known this). We came here for NFA: networking, face-time and some serious ass kissing.
I had never NFAd like this before. The next ten minutes were a barrage of introductions, hand shakings and feigned interest. And it was absolutely exhausting (not to mention delightfully soul-draining).
But the information eventually came. We were told to sit down in the chairs, and a man in a power-suit began to tell us the dirty secrets of Oliver Wyman.
Or that’s how it should have gone anyway. Instead, that man fed us more lies like T—.
His company only attracts the highest caliber people who are looking for an intellectual challenge, he told us.
They promote 55-hour weeks so employees are not enslaved to their work, he said.
“We have deep respect for our colleagues as individuals,” he told the group.
What is going on here? Are these information sessions the most elaborate con game ever conceived? It’s hard to say. But I know that he mentioned Oliver Wyman also does pro-bono work which just cannot possibly be correct: Those don’t pay money!
In fact, the only allusion to money during the entire talk was when he awkwardly referred to “very attractive economics.” I think that means employees are making some serious bank, but I’m not entirely ruling out the possibility of it being one of those weird fetishes.
Needless to say, I left the event confused. How was I ever going to afford an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with money? Has the financial industry turned soft on America? Why were all of my fellow Yalies asking questions about community outreach and personal-enrichment? Is this even capitalism any more? What’s wrong with this world?
To answer these questions, I decided I needed to go to someone with experience.
Daniel Adler ’07 started consulting the summer before his senior year. At that time, he worked for a non-profit called New Sector Alliance that consulted with other non-profits and he really enjoyed the mode of thinking that his internship required.
So, after finishing with Yale, he decided to join Oliver Wyman. He said he came to this decision because the company markets itself as offering its employees the opportunity for “really broad problem-solving that [deals] with high-level analysis.”
The job he described for me was startling similar to the one that I’d heard about at the information session: plenty of friendliness in the office, lots of critical thinking and lots of superlatives about the personally enriching opportunities of the job.
Adler did laugh at the 55-hour week figure. “The light work weeks were 50 to 60 hours,” he said.
But despite the many compliments he had for the job, Adler decided to leave Oliver Wyman.
“I wasn’t very satisfied,” he said, explaining that the firm only worked a few pro-bono cases, and that he didn’t feel he was getting the most out of his intra-company community service projects.
So after an internship at Forbes, he moved into the non-profit sector. After working an AmeriCorps-sponsored job consulting, he is now working for an education providing non-profit called Year Up.
“It’s a lot more rewarding,” said Adler of his new job, “I get more psychic gratification, and I want to come to work every day.”
After reflecting on his time at Oliver Wyman, Adler confirmed my suspicions that I’d been lied to. He told me that because it was a for-profit firm, it sometimes created an environment of competitiveness and bottom-line-informed decisions.
OK, maybe that’s not evil. But at least it sounds like capitalism.
As for my future job searches, Adler had some advice, “Do your homework, and make sure that the company is a good fit for you.”
I wonder if the Sith are hiring…