Taking the Recruiting Road

Will it Draw You off Your True Path?

The Adverse Power of Recruiting

Can “Traditional Paths” Pull You Away from Your True Calling?

Staff of the Stern Opportunity

Are you recruiting for a profession you never before considered? You’re not alone. Before I started this year at Stern, I was sure I would pursue a career in entertainment and media. Now, two months into my first year, I’m recruiting for consulting.

These sudden, seemingly dramatic changes in career trajectory all hemmed into the first couple weeks of business school, are by no means unique to Stern—every top business school in the country has a few industries that float to the top of recruiting opportunities.

For Stern, investment banking and management consulting rule the roost; they can draw in students who never gave the industries a second thought.

For the past several weeks, as the recruiting rush has started in earnest, I’ve been wondering how much of the excitement (and pressure) of wooing and being wooed by Stern’s top recruiters drives a wedge between the target careers that MBA1s started at Stern with, and the employers with whom they’ll end up.

Why We Choose the Road Well-Traveled:

For me, slipping into a completely different recruiting area than I had originally intended was, well, practical. Knowing that consulting provided a high degree of career flexibility down the road combined with a career assessment test that strongly matched me with management consulting made the decision a lot easier. But I wanted to know if my peers were feeling the same tensions and pressures that I was; if they were having a change of heart because of them.

One MBA1 I spoke with said, “I came to Stern with a desire to stay in the social entrepreneurship space but wondering if a short-term focus on consulting would be the best way to succeed at social impact in the long term. When I got here it was hard not to get swept up in the herd of people moving toward consulting, and the pressure to follow that “traditional” path.

Ultimately, I decided not to. Regardless of what industry you want to go into, Stern is very helpful in preparing you to recruit. But the reality is that, if you’re planning on pursuing “non-traditional recruiting,” the resources are not going to be nearly as strong. In a sense, it can leave you a little directionally challenged.

The Challenge of Entrepreneurship

Probably more than any career trajectory that students come into Stern interested in that can fall prey to the recruiting rush is entrepreneurship. Before entrepreneurial students even have the chance to get their feet wet, formal recruiting begins. Fear of missing out is very real and, from what I heard from other students, a prevailing thought is, “if I don’t get on board the train now, I may never get to board at all.”

Furthermore, formal recruiting is a very structured process and there is no ambiguity (right down to the color and style of tie to wear). Entrepreneurship, unsurprisingly, is the exact opposite—while Stern is filled with resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, the path to a successful, post-grad career is one you have to blaze on your own. That is a daunting proposition.

One of the students I spoke with for this article weighed exactly that choice and turned from a path toward entrepreneurship to recruiting for investment banking.

“I felt that Stern’s recruiting infrastructure is designed to help students land jobs in investment banking and is thus a safer bet,” the student said. “Also, the salary, compensation, and career progression timeline is very clear for a career in investment banking, but a timeframe for compensation in entrepreneurship is not clear. There is high variance in entrepreneurship and no data surrounding it. Ultimately, while there are a lot of resources for entrepreneurship on campus, investment banking seems to be [a] gateway to other careers [and] opens other paths down the road.”

It’s hard to argue with such a balanced and thoughtful decision. Nevertheless, I find myself wondering if the recruiting choices we’re making now will be for the best in the long run. As food for thought, I’ll leave you with a Harvard Business Review article I’ve been mulling over from Harvard professors Richard Ruback and Royce Yudkoff entitled “Why More MBAs Should Buy Small Businesses” (you can find it here).

The gist: while right now the stress of a “risky” endeavor, like starting your own business or acquiring an existing one, may feel overwhelming (especially in the face of the recruiting rush), you could find yourself well rewarded in the future for taking a deep breath and deciding to run against the herd today.  I think we should all take that advice into consideration.


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