Break out your blazers, it’s recruiting season baby! For many Boston College sophomores, the time surrounding Bank Week and Finance Week is the most dreaded—and important—part of the year. Campus representatives from major banks and firms visit BC to network with students and scout out the next class of investment banking or consulting summer interns. It’s a high-stakes game because securing a summer internship is oftentimes equivalent to having a job lined up for post-graduation (given that the internship goes well and leads to a job offer). Recruiting is more than just handing out your resume and dusting off your H&M blouse from high school debate competitions—it’s about your future.
Due to the high stakes, the recruiting process brings out the best, and worst, of students. Just like the reality show Survivor, alliances are made and broken, secrets are kept and revealed, and no victory is guaranteed. This chaos of ensuring a future career overshadows what internships should really be about—gaining experience and industry knowledge to decide if a job is right for you.
Due to our digital era’s shiny distractions—like LinkedIn bragging rights for prestigious jobs—it is difficult for students to focus on what really matters in the internship search. Ironically, companies love to hear about prospective intern’s ideal career goals, but most applicants don’t really know why they’re even applying in the first place. This makes it difficult to genuinely answer fundamental interview questions, such as “why this company?” and “why this job industry?”
Oftentimes, students seeking careers in business do not truly think of the answers to basic career questions until they’re starting to prepare for interviews. Proper research and deliberation should drive these students’ actions—they should not rush to decisions based on clout or convenience only to fully rationalize them later.
Thus, I propose a theory about the structure of business recruiting at BC: the Lazy River Jetty to the Grand Rapids (patent pending). In the beginning, the Lazy River pushes students along a few major flows: finance, accounting, and consulting. When it comes time to begin applying to internships, students can lean left, right, or center, and their raft will continue to float along happily through their career search. That is, until they get sprayed in the face by the overwhelming number of recruiting emails that flood their inboxes. Suddenly, the Lazy River of introductory classes and firm informational sessions has turned into a white-water rafting nightmare. Thousands of resumes are whipping around in the cold breeze, and there’s no going back. Students feel rushed to secure an internship, so they start frantically paddling—trying to avoid jagged rocks (rejection emails). The Lazy River of exploration becomes the Grand Rapids of recruiting.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being interested in finance or consulting. After all, U.S. News ranks the Carroll School of Management’s undergraduate finance program as eighth in the nation, and its undergraduate accounting program is ranked 11th in the nation. If you’ve taken Portico, you know that it’s silly not to specialize where you excel. And BC is really, really good at preparing students for careers in finance, consulting, and accounting.
Recruiting is also heavily based in school-to-firm relationships. This means that if Citi or Deloitte typically hire students from BC (which they do), these firms are going to have a great deal of connections with the BC community. But, if a student is looking to apply to a firm that is more closely linked to another school—such as JP Morgan Chase, which typically recruits from the University of Michigan—they might have a harder time swimming against the current. Even if they have gained the advantage of differentiation. Without access to every major employer in consulting and finance, the Lazy River-turned-Grand Rapids at BC is even more restricting.
BC has strong finance and accounting departments with a plethora of quality professors, advisors, and alumni all willing to help students in the recruitment process. One unfortunate result of this strength is that other industries and sub-industries—such as private equity, boutique finance, and real estate—are overshadowed. Without robust institutional support to guide them, students must travel on their own when they look beyond the Lazy River’s few industries. There are so many more options available to students than just finance or accounting, investment banking or consulting. Students should be equipped to explore far more than these two choices, and they should be able to use their internships to try out diverse career paths and learn what they truly enjoy doing.
The careers along the Lazy River can be extremely rewarding, but if you find yourself unsure why you’re even applying, or that the recruitment process is just a little too miserable, it might be high-time for some good ol’ Jesuit self-reflection. It’s not too late to set sail in a new direction. Plenty of blue oceans and new frontiers await.