How Investment Banks Snare Ivy league Grads

The myth is that top Ivy League grads turn to investment banking jobs because of the vast sums of money they offer. But an interview posted by the Washington Post online paints another picture.

In it, a former (and anonymous) Harvard graduate who spent time with Goldman Sachs in New York says it’s the well-oiled recruitment machinery that sucks in top grads with the prospects of job security after graduation and skills they can take anywhere.

Surprisingly, this grad didn’t even have a finance degree. He studied history, government and political philosophy. So why did Goldman think he’d be a whiz at investment banking?

“There are a lot of Harvard people at Goldman and they’ve put a lot of effort into recruiting from the school. They really try to attract liberal arts backgrounds. They say this stuff isn’t so complicated, that you’ll pick it up as you go along, that it’s all about teamwork, that they have training programs,” says Mr. X.

He never thought he’d wind up in investment banking. But in the middle of his junior year, the recruiters begin their onslaught, first for interns. The internship is really a summer-long job interview, he says. If you pass that test, you have a job offer in your pocket by September of your senior year. Something that makes your last year at university much more relaxed. “You can focus on your thesis, you can drink more. You just don’t have to worry about getting a job.”

Many grads initially think they can do this for two years, gain transportable skills and have a great name on their resume. But it’s a slippery slope that lures many bright young people into careers in banking, consulting, even law, when they didn’t intend to go that route. Pretty soon, having invested so much time and hard work to learn the business, and pulling down six-figure salaries, they are too encumbered by the golden handcuffs to change directions.

What about you? Did you intend to go into investment banking all along? Or did you find yourself in your current position more by chance than by planning? Add your comments below.

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{ 1 comment }

ROYAL May 1, 2010 at 2:40 am

Does this really mean that it is difficult to get an entry-level job on Wall Street without a degree from an Ivy League school? I questioned because IBs offer internship to those who have no plan to make career in finance but are studying in Ivy League schools. What about non-Ivy Leaguers who have made up their mind to build their career in finance?

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