Web Exclusives: On the Campus...

November 6, 2002:

In the balance
What does a senior do when it seems the only option is I-banking?

By Melissa Renny ’02

As I walked through the career fair last month, I was overcome with a sense of impending doom. An English major looking for a career in journalism or publishing, I felt more than a little out of place in a room full of investment banking and consulting firms. I wandered from booth to booth searching for something that interested me, and found only options like Princeton in Asia, Teach for America, and fellowship programs that I would have to pay for.

According to Beverly Hamilton Chandler, director of Career Services, 65 percent of graduating seniors who had accepted employment last year went into either the financial services industry or the services industry, the most popular choice in each being investment banking and consulting, respectively. In addition, 27 percent of the Class of 2002 planned to attend graduate school, up from 19 percent in 2001.

Andrew Baron, a senior in the Operations Research and Financial Engineering Department who is getting a finance certificate, has already accepted a position at Bridgewater Associates, an investment firm. He found out about an internship Bridgewater offered at the career fair his sophomore year, and was hired for the internship last summer. After a summer of work, he, like many other seniors interning in the financial world, was offered a job at the start of the school year.

Although Baron has always been interested in a finance career, he believes that the atmosphere at Princeton encourages students to pursue this career choice.

"You see so many people going into i-banking and consulting," Baron said. "It's hard not to get swept up in all the money that these firms are offering."

Anneliese Gerland, a senior Woodrow Wilson school major interested in a career outside of investment banking and consulting, also believes it is hard to keep the job search in perspective. She maintains that as so many seniors are interviewed and hired for jobs in these industries, students interested in other fields feel that they are behind in the job search.

"Firms other than investment banking and consulting are not hiring right now, and it is hard to remember that," Gerland said. "If you call up companies, you will find that they are not prepared to hire this far in advance."

For students interested in nonprofit work, Career Services offers another career fair later in the year and closer to the time when these organizations are ready to hire.

As I watch my friends dress in their suits and ties for interview after interview, it is hard to remember that not only am I not qualified for the jobs they want, I am also not interested in them. While jobs with Princeton in Asia and nonprofit organizations are hardly as glamorous as a life on Wall Street, they seem to be more suited to my interests and experience. And while I may be earning only half of the salary of some of my friends next year, I'm pretty sure I'll be just as happy with my career.