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Fri Aug 29, 2014, 10:26 AM

Why Wall Street and Consulting Firms Win at the Elite College Brain Drain Game

from Naked Capitalism:

Why Wall Street and Consulting Firms Win at the Elite College Brain Drain Game
Posted on August 27, 2014 by Yves Smith

The question of why graduates of prestigious undergraduate schools still wind up, in disproportionate numbers, at places like Goldman and McKinsey may seem so obvious as to be unworthy of notice. These schools are elite institutions, correct? Certainly this was all part of these students’ plans. They went to fancy academies to make sure they occupied a good position in society. The most obvious way to assure that is to get on a well-recognized fast-track career path. Even if things don’t work out as planned, these graduates will have accumulated more markers of their superior intelligence and work habits on their resumes, which surely will afford them better options later than other choices would have.

A new article in Washington Monthly describes why this conventional picture isn’t as tidy as it seems. Author Amy Binder and a small research team investigated recruitment processes at two campuses, Harvard and Stanford, and interviewed sixty undergraduates and recent grads who, seemingly by accident, wound up competing for and getting these highly-sought-after jobs. In fact, none of them had any interest in these careers before they encountered a systematic effort, in conjunct with the campus recruitment offices, to groom students for these plum positions. Consider: these firms still are magnets for new graduates:

In 2007, just before the global financial meltdown, almost 50 percent of Harvard seniors (58 percent of the men, 43 percent of the women) took jobs on Wall Street. That number contracted sharply during the Great Recession, but after 2009 it began rising again. Among this year’s graduating class at Harvard, 31 percent took jobs that will channel their energies into derivatives, mergers, and often destructive outsourcing. And many more tried out for such positions. According to a study by the sociologist Lauren Rivera, a full 70 percent of Harvard’s senior class submits résumés to Wall Street and consulting firms.

Meanwhile, among Harvard seniors who had secured employment last spring, a mere 3.5 percent were headed to government and politics, 5 percent to health-related fields, and 8.8 percent to any form of public service. Only high-tech fields captured the interest of graduating seniors at anywhere near the level of finance and consulting, and even this seemingly healthy countertrend has problems.

Yet perversely, the students aren’t keen about these jobs despite having competed fiercely to land them. As Binder writes:

Of the 31 percent of graduating Harvard seniors going into finance and consulting, only 6.39 percent say that they expect to remain in those sectors (0.68 percent of those going into consulting jobs and 5.71 percent of those heading to financial services).

It’s pretty much a given that way fewer than 6% will drop out. The compensation in these fields is well above those of other jobs that the employees can’t leave without taking a serious pay cut. And that pay gap widens further as they advance in these careers. That may not sound like a big sacrifice until you also realize that if someone has gotten married, or (worse from the perspective of mobility) had had kids, they have likely gotten themselves locked into overheads (houses, private schools, spousal expectations) that are very difficult to unwind. And these careers are so stressful (trust me on this one, despite the lofty pay and glamourous trappings, you have no right to say “no” to unreasonable tasks, time pressure, total hours, or travel demands) that buying yourself presents to reward yourself, aka “retail therapy,” becomes part of the coping mechanism. And that’s before you get to the fact that many of these firms are cult-like (Goldman and Bain are widely cited examples). The combination of routine boundary violations, limited contact with people outside the firm (family and friends go on the back burner) and elitism means that the employers strengthen their psychological hold over their staffers. For instance, even among those who had left Goldman to go to splashy jobs, virtually every one I spoke to said it took them two years to get over the idea that leaving Goldman was a major step down in life. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/08/why-wall-street-and-consulting-firms-win-at-the-elite-college-brain-drain-game.html

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Reply Why Wall Street and Consulting Firms Win at the Elite College Brain Drain Game (Original post)
marmar Aug 2014 OP
Zorra Aug 2014 #1
DetlefK Aug 2014 #2

Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Aug 29, 2014, 10:42 AM

1. Seems to me that a person who chooses to live a shitty, unhappy life,

for money and prestige, isn't really all that bright.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Fri Aug 29, 2014, 10:50 AM

2. Not just in the US:

Financial corporations are regularly looking for scientists in Germany. Why? Because they can juggle complicated formulas and they can write programs. They will never see a lab again, but at least they get to optimize the money-making of their employer.

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