Peter B. Idziak’s foray into the world of Harvard recruiting was short.
There was some hope in October. “In the race for plum jobs, Pete is probably one of the favorites,” wrote FM in Part I of this series, misguidedly. “I just have an affinity for business. Why not apply to them all?” Idziak said himself. But I-banking, especially this year, is a cruel mistress and Pete did not get any job offers. By his count, he applied to 10 companies and got 10 fairly prompt rejection notices, with nary an invitation to even a first-round interview. Credit Suisse First Boston didn’t bother to inform him of its decision, while one industrious firm rejected him twice.
Idziak had hoped to excel at the personal side of recruiting (those parts of the process where his grades didn’t come into play). In October, explaining his feeling that he could shine in interviews, he said: “I tend to connect well with people.” But he didn’t get the chance to speak to, much less connect with, a live human at any point in the process. He did receive an e-mail from McKinsey & Company’s Harvard recruiting team that was notable for its declaration that interviewing him would not be “appropriate,” as if it would violate some code of decency. He also got a letter from Katzenbach Partners that did actually say he was turned down, but urged him to “keep in touch and share your successes and your evolving interests with us.”
But for the most part, Pete’s only contact with the firms he applied to was through the Office of Career Services (OCS) standard rejection e-mail, which is unusually blunt and makes not even the pretense of being from a real person—the sender is one “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“Your interview has been declined,” says the mysterious and cruel ocsrec (who rejected one of Pete’s friends from the same job seven times) and then lists a company and the position it’s decided you are not qualified for. The e-mail is free of any normal rejection-letter bullshit but does mention that “Experience.com, Inc., has enabled over 50,000 employers to successfully connect with over 2 million students at over 1,000 leading universities,” which comes across as a taunt. Ocsrec also helpfully adds, “If you have questions about the recruiting process, please contact the Office of Career Services via phone.” Though presumably there is no good answer to the obvious question, which is “Why did I spend four years writing response papers if I can’t get a damn job anyway?”
Idziak hasn’t asked that question. His grades were likely the foremost reason he didn’t get far in the process. Idziak says an acquaintance at one of the companies he applied to “pulled me aside and said ‘you didn’t make the first cut—it’s just because your GPA’s too low.’” So the question for Pete is: “Why didn’t I spend four years writing response papers?”
But he says he does not regret his approach to academics. “That’s a tough question,” Idziak says. “Is the point of a high GPA just so you can get a job? I don’t even know what employers think a high GPA means. I think it just means you’re willing to bust your ass countless hours a week and you know you’ve got to hate some of the stuff you do. If I don’t like the class I don’t really try that hard in it.”
Perversely, then, his disinterest in liberal arts classes hindered his ability to get a job in the world of finance. “I would enjoy [business] classes more than a class on Charlemagne and the Birth of Medieval Civ,” he said in October. Perhaps he might have better grades had his education not been so well-rounded.
Of course, a poor showing in fall recruiting is not the end of the world; it’s not even the end of recruiting (there is always the spring season). “I thought that I would be more disappointed that I didn’t get anything, but it was more like, well, maybe I didn’t want to do it that much,” Idziak says. He has been admitted to the University of Texas Law School, so he has at least one secure option. By now he can’t even remember the names of all the companies he applied to. “I applied to a few places—10, I think,” he says. “McKinsey, Katz, BCG, Goldman, two at Credit Suisse, Bain...three more…[pause]…that was back in October.” A few minutes later he thinks he’s remembered another but just lists Bain again.
He wonders whether the traditional business career path is ideal: “Everyone says you work for two years, go to B-school, then you’re 27 and then you can do what you want,” he says. “I might be 27 and I might be married, I might have a kid. I’ll probably have a dog. I’m not going to be able to do what I want. If anything I can do what I want right now.”
Idziak’s musings on his future make him seem more skeptical of business than his professed interest in Wall Street would indicate. “The thing that’s changed the least [since October] is I still have no idea what I want to do. Maybe even less of an idea,” he says. He questions his desire to work a desk job, though he mangles the expression in a slightly comical way which suggests he might be unfamiliar with such non-conformist slogans: “I don’t even know if I want to sit in a desk for the next two years.” In a desk, at a desk, whatever—his sentiment is clear, and a little strange coming from someone who also makes comments like “I just want to make some money, do something that will give me a good skill set.” Any college senior who uses the words “skill set” cannot be that wary of a life in business—and so it seems that although Pete’s recruiting experience might have given him a dislike for automated e-mail and made Texas a more appealing destination than Manhattan next fall, it’s hard to believe he won’t eventually make his way behind (or into) that proverbial desk.