Keegan is a senior at Yale majoring in English. She writes of how some 25 percent of Yale’s undergraduate class ends up working in finance, even though many of these students major in liberal arts or engineering or other non-business subjects. The numbers are even higher at Harvard and Stanford. What’s more, many of these students enter as freshmen with a decidedly anti-business attitude. So what accounts for the turnaround?
Careful, systematic courtship by the big financial firms. As Keegen puts it, they have it down to a science. “Each fall, our country’s top-tier banks and consulting firms cram New Haven’s best hotels with the best and brightest to lure them with a series of superlatives: the greatest job, the most money, the easiest application, the fanciest popcorn.”
It isn’t just the lure of high salaries, either. Rather, it’s because few college seniors have much of an idea how to get a job, or what their first job out of college should be. Representatives of the big financial institutions understand this. They invite students to special information sessions. They make students feel special, desired and important. Rather than stress the chance to get rich (which is less cool these days), they market the opportunity to work for a bank or hedge fund as perfect preparation for what they eventually really want to do some day, which is save the world.
Keegen says she heard that over and over again when speaking to her classmates. They are told working at JPMorgan or Bain or Morgan Stanley was the best way to prepare oneself for a future doing public good.
Keegen herself isn’t buying it. And she mentions a group of Stanford students who are starting a national student organization called Stop the Brain Drain committed to empowering “more young people to solve America’s greatest challenges” by combating Wall Street recruitment.
What do you think? Did you enter investment banking as something to do “for a few years” to gain the experience and training, before moving onto something else? Or was a career in finance your dream? Add your comments below.