Flirting with finance as time runs out

September 25, 2008

“Wearing shoes appropriate for a Friday night with your suit is the number one mistake Georgetown students make when dressing for interviews.” I picked up this helpful hint during an On-Campus Recruitment Information Session at the Career Center, right before I realized I was in over my head. It’s not that I would ever wear the 5-inch, patent leather stilettos I don’t own with a pencil skirt and jacket. The bigger problem is that I am a novice at this professional world stuff, and I’m certain that I’m constantly making some kind of number one mistake.


I stumbled out of the Leavey Center with the impression that the job market is a realm ruled by who you know and what you wear. This does not bode well for me, the West Coast-raised only child of two immigrants who still has yet to figure out “business casual,” and gets flustered at the notion of “high quality paper” on which to print my resume. (Don’t even get me started on embossed business cards.)

When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut (until I heard about the Challenger disaster). I wanted to be an astronomer (until I figured out they have to stay up all night). Then I realized that I just wanted to be the person who gets to make up the stories about the constellations—an illustrious profession I refered to as being a “mythologist.” And since the cosmos-naming gig never came through, here I am: suit-less and clueless and feeling incredibly behind because I have neither a job offer from Crédit Suisse nor a second round interview with Goldman Sachs.

What propelled me into that finance and banking information session in the first place? Staring down the imminent end of my undergraduate career has me grasping aimlessly at the future; everywhere I look, I see possibilities that should be investigated just in case. Though some professors propagate the myth we were sold as kids—that we can be anything we want to be—loans, rent, the desire for prestige, and the fear of disappointing people who have invested time and money in us are more likely to define what we think we should want to be.

At top-tier universities across the country, employment-envy in the guise of Wall Street fever strikes unsuspecting seniors like me every fall. The banking collapse should have us running for shelter, but finance has become intriguingly ubiquitous. Every other article the New York Times publishes these days follows the downfall of high-flying bankers and brokers, exposing their luxurious, fast-paced lives in the process. “I was just this average Joe, but I became captivated by Wall Street,” a tech support worker at Bear Sterns laments, as he awaits his layoff.

At the end of my information session, one student looked up from her copy of the Career Center’s On-Campus Recruiting Schedule and raised her hand skeptically: “Can we assume that the Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch slots will be filled by other firms?” The Career Center representative hung her head in embarrassment and my daydream of wearing perfectly tailored pants as I wait for a space-age elevator to rocket me up to my financial analyst’s desk dissipated abruptly.

After an hour’s lesson on interviewing etiquette, I realized that grad school might be more my speed. I wonder if there’s a good mythologist-training program at Georgetown?

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