Being on the verge of graduating college sets you up for a nasty bout of the “shoulds” — a cascade of career advice from everyone you know. This is all good and well, however, the shocking eminence of important career decisions begs the question: how are college grads to evaluate themselves and their career opportunities? How do you tailor your own personal competitive strategy to get you to the next level? As college students, we feel intense pressure to live up to the price tag of our undergraduate educations, yet simultaneously need to use this time to figure out who we are. Despite a surplus of advice, sorting your life out is no menial task —we are stuck in the college/professional dichotomy. In such a state of flux, some decisions deserve thinking out of the box.
Who’s hiring? What is the opportunity cost of my time? With one foot on either side of the college/professional dichotomy, the decisions we make regarding first-time employment seem to lack creative or alternative thought processes. The same metrics are referenced in every job description, every piece of advice, and every interview, leading to a feeling that our choices are limited.
A recent piece in The New York Times entitled “A Mad Scramble for Young Bankers: Wall Street Banks and Private Equity Firms compete for Young Talent” gave me new insight into my search. The article details how the competitive landscape for top-tier finance graduates is shifting towards private equity, where hours are shorter, pay is comparable, and the grass is greener, and away from investment banking. My peers competitive strategy doesn’t need to be the tried and true iteration of yesteryear — we have more opportunities these days and can take lifestyle considerations into account. To elucidate: the high costs of investment banking are finally being realized (and acted upon), forcing a mismatch between young talent and the traditional banking career path, pushing would-be career bankers into private equity jobs. Too often are arduous work hours, an unfavorable work-life balance, and difficult work environments taken as a necessary evil by green talent in finance. Perhaps tides are turning.
In suggesting this, I don’t demean the importance of developing and maintaining a personal competitive strategy. One thing I’ve learned at Watermill is that competitive strategy is king. I merely assert that no longer do we need to accept the status quo, giving up so much for so little. By using just as much introspection as external analysis, we allow ourselves greater agency and a solid departure point for career decisions. Therefore, I implore us not just to listen to the “shoulds;” but to develop our own brand of personal strategy, by keeping an open mind and asking the questions people don’t ask. Like my peers, I often feel lost in weighing income and lifestyle. But taking a step back and comparing your personal life against the requirements of industry may prove to be a solid point of departure in post-graduate decision making.
– By Intern Luke