May I Have Your Business Card?

Why holding off on recruiting for as long as possible is a good idea

Among other things, this summer I drove chemicals to warehouses in New Jersey. I ended up with this unlikely job after I somehow managed to miss every substantial resume and interview deadline offered by the big companies on Wall Street handing out junior-year internships. Quickly, I had to deal with endless nagging from my mom about how my future was ebbing away, how the dream that was college life was soon to end, and how soon I would be lucky if the Spare Change guy would even give me the time of day as I panhandled on the streets of Cambridge or pushed my shopping cart/house around Allston. Needless to say, none of this has happened, but I guess we’ll never know how close I came.

The reason I bring this up is because of the malicious specter of recruiting that has covered the beginning of this year like a dark shadow. As a Harvard senior, you are sort of expected to end up with a high-powered job—to be able to return to your five-year high school reunion, turn to the hot girl you never had the guts to talk to, drop the back-to-back bombs of “Yeah, I went to Harvard…no big deal,” and “Sure, I conducted some structured debt capital equity raisings yesterday for a Fortune 500 company and made about $200,000 in simple liquidity…no big deal,” and then have a one night stand with her. The actual meanings of these terms are not important, but the idea behind them is that you work an important job involving lots of money and long hours in an important building, and that building is most likely incredibly tall or at least covered with windows. Furthermore, you have beautiful mahogany furniture in your office, and (to paraphrase Will Ferrell) you have a library filled with many old and important books.

Yes, recruiting seems to offer a golden-plated archway to endless riches, but I can tell you it has more than its fair share of annoyances. For one, attending three to five hours of meetings each night for several weeks is pretty intolerable. It’s even worse when you have to watch people you once respected grovel at the feet of first-year analysts at these companies, salivating like rabid dogs and pouncing at the first sliver of a business card emerging from their target’s pocket. Collecting that business card is all important because it means you can then e-mail that person and tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them, which means they might tell someone to remember you at an interview, which means…well, some marginal advantage in the application process. Actually I’m not really sure.

You see, recruiting is like applying for college, but taken to a much higher and more insidious level. This isn’t to say that the jobs can’t be incredibly interesting, necessary, or worthwhile. It’s just that people seem to have grown way too obsessed with the lure of the fast track and the promise of quick and easy money—so obsessed, in fact, that I am reminded of when Yoda tells Luke that the Dark side of the force is “quicker, easier,” but not better. People are willing to do almost anything to get into these companies, and no time is too soon to start.

At one recruiting info session the recruiter asked what percentage of people were in each class, and there were more than a couple freshmen there. The urge to go over and knock the plates of shrimp and chicken and chocolate-covered pretzels out of their greedy little freshman hands was overwhelming. If you’re not a senior, you should be enjoying your college life, enjoying your summers, and making sure you wait as long as humanly possible to start worrying about getting a job. It seems my mom was right after all— I am already coming to the sad realization that there is no option to skip your job because the Science Center is too far away or the weather is too cold or rainy. Having a job is so wildly different from college that I still haven’t even comprehended it. Honestly, don’t rush it.

But time to get off the soapbox. A friend of mine, upon hearing that another friend had received an offer from an investment bank, mused this gem: “$60,000, eh? I guess that’s the price a soul is going for these days.” And he was right. Enjoy your college life to the fullest, and realize that these four years are so unlike any other four in your life that you’d best “invest” in them to get a good “return.” That’s a little joke for the I-Bankers out there.

And with that, you’ll have to excuse me, because I’m late for a Goldman Sachs info session.

Andrew Kreicher ’06 is a biology concentrator in Leverett House. His column appears alternate Fridays.