The school year has started up again at Wharton. Life as a second-year student is bittersweet—sweet since Wharton is usually more fun than working, but bitter because the end is coming all too soon. As I’ve settled back into the “networking” lifestyle that elite business schools are famous for, I’ve found my first conversations with old acquaintances to be full of chatter about our summer experiences (many of my friends had internships in management consulting or investment banking). Anecdotally, it seems that people have had interesting summer experiences in their chosen fields and that a good number of full-time offers were given out (hooray for the recovering economy!).
The thing that is scary for me to hear is how most summer consultants and bankers who received offers seem to be justifying returning to their respective companies rather than truly excited about it. Friends coming back from these demanding internships are using expressions such as: “Long hours, but I know I’ll have more opportunities two years from now;” “I have to put in my time;” “I can’t turn down that salary;” and “Recruiting was time consuming/stressful/a pain, I just want to be done with it.”
Don’t get me wrong—there are obviously plenty of reasons to take jobs in these demanding industries if you love the work, but after I had spoken with the tenth friend who was lukewarm about his banking internship but probably going to accept the offer anyway, I began to wonder if business school alumni who entered banking and consulting jobs (who didn’t intend to stay) actually did end up switching to something different. Or, is the lure of the high bonuses and quick promotions too difficult to turn down? It certainly can be daunting to stare down $150,000 in student loans and realize that taking the most interesting or challenging job will almost definitely ensure that you will be paying back loans for the next 20 years. But maybe it’s worth it if you truly love what you’re doing every day.
It feels like the “existential” dilemma that second-year business school students are facing is appearing much more in our casual conversations. There is a lot of pressure to make the “right decision” about our futures because we’re supposed to be adults now. And since this is the final academic degree that most of us will pursue, our next job matters more than those that we took out of college.
So the question remains: Is taking a job (that you don’t really love) for the money or prestige factor worth it in the end?