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The recruiters are coming (Mar. 1995)

For three years, they waxed rhapsodic about the virtues of a liberal arts education, shunned classes that carried so much as a whiff of pre-professionalism, and cultivated an elaborate ignorance of anything occurring outside the College gates. Assuming the guise of the eternal student—slightly disheveled, a bit eccentric—they spent long hours brooding in the Daily Caffé, staring off into space and languidly exhaling cigarette smoke.

Then the recruiters arrived.

The notices started appearing on campus and in the Daily News around mid-September: “The firm of So-and-So cordially invites all Yale seniors to attend a presentation of our two-year Investment Banking and Financial Analyst Program.” The advertisements went on to speak of “fast-paced environments,” “creative and dynamic work,” “worldwide career opportunities,” and often threw in a list of their offices for good measure—in places like London, Paris, Milan, and Madrid.

And so began the transformation of Yale’s intellectual aesthetes into hardcore careerists. On any weekday evening they can be seen trotting off to the Graduate Club, the Quinnipiac Club, or the Colony Inn to ingest sales pitches and hors d’oeuvres. In their pressed suits and short haircuts they are unrecognizable to friends who knew them in messy ponytails or three-day stubble. They speak in code: “Hey, P & G’s having a career fair tonight over at UCS.” They are regulars at the résumé workshops and mock interviews offered by the Career Services office. They carry briefcases.

After several months of such assiduous impersonation, however, a backlash has set in among some of these recent converts to careerism. Many seniors seem to be having difficulty dropping the values and skills learned at Yale for those of the marketplace. The recruiters tend to represent a very narrow group of industries—investment banking, financial analysis, information technology, real estate—hardly the sort of jobs to appeal to a Latin scholar or a philosophy and linguistics double major. And often the presentations themselves are less than impressive.

At a recent meeting sponsored by a New York advertising firm, for example, the recruiter played a 15-minute video about how much fun it was to work at the agency. The flashing images and thumping soundtrack left most of its viewers thinking they had unexpectedly tuned into MTV.

Another presentation, given by a large consulting company, purported to offer advice about the interviewing process. A representative from the firm showed a tedious procession of transparencies, one of which had escaped the copy editor. “Don’t let yourself become flustered by undo stress,” it warned. Missing the misspelling, the speaker took the giggle that circulated through the auditorium as a sign of just such anxiety, and responded reassuringly, “Really, it’s not as scary as you think.”

The message was clear to even the most dedicated job seeker present: Don’t let recruiting become your (intellectual) undoing.

Filed under 1990s
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