As snow begins to collect on the ground here at Yale, the annual job search is upon is, and with that search comes the inevitable question: “to sell out, or not to sell out.”
I’m not here to make any judgments on whether going into finance or consulting is, in fact, “selling out.” That’s a different column for a different time. But let’s say that you did think it was selling out, that there were nobler pursuits to which to devote time and energy.
This idea isn’t foreign to most Yalies. However, every year many of us do choose finance or consulting. And time and time again, moralists point their fingers and demand some kind of change.
However, before we can change anything, we need to ask why people are going into consulting and finance instead of teaching or nonprofits. Only by answering this question can we figure out exactly how we can steer Yale toward a different path.
There are the obvious pragmatic motivations, like money and job benefits. There are also our egos, of course. These motivations are quite real, but they all have one thing in common: There’s nothing we could do about them, even if we wanted to.
These motivations are the result of something so powerful that, as an institution, Yale couldn’t do anything to change them. After all, how is any institution, without some revolutionary overhaul, supposed to rid its members of something as deep-seated as a desire for wealth or prestige?
Yet, there is one source of these decisions for which Yale is directly responsible: its career resources.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Yale has amazing career resources — on-campus recruiting programs, alumni resources, et cetera. Granted, that is, if you want to go into consulting or finance. If you want to go into retail, or maybe work for a think tank on prison reform, you’re largely out of luck.
While our relationships with finance or consulting firms are up to par with just about any other school, our relationships with workplaces outside of those two fields are lacking. And while many socially conscious Yalies may be quick to sneer at those who pursue consulting or finance, these same people constantly remind us that individuals never act in self-contained vacuums. Actions are always the result of a person’s interaction with his environment.
And Yale perpetuates an environment in which students are corralled into these jobs due to their high availability. Yes, other factors relating to the individual — greed, ego, whatever you want to call it — exist. But the fact is that Yale’s resources play a significant role in this process. We are lazy, after all, and more often than not, we take what’s available and visible.
When dealing with this question of “selling out,” we tend to place a lot of emphasis on the individual. As a result, many of the solutions we propose deal with the individual. Maybe if we shame people enough they’ll change their ways! Or perhaps if we breed a culture of social responsibility more people will go into teaching.
But this simply isn’t the way to achieve lasting change. If we want Yale students to pursue different careers, that initiative needs to start at career services. By increasing the availability, access and visibility of these socially impactful fields in career services, we could make it easier for Yale students to pursue such options, and chip away at the status quo.
Leo Kim is a junior in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .