The non-corporate path less traveled

by Karen Cao and Lisa Oh | 1/7/16 9:48pm

As winter term 2016 kicks off, Dartmouth has been filled with harried students by day and a silent tundra by night. Frisbees, lacrosse sticks and tennis balls are being dropped in favor of cozier, indoor options like hot cocoa, hockey games and the library. But these are not the only things being dropped this winter season. In the warmth of their dorms and homes, hundreds of Dartmouth students are dropping their resumes on Dartboard this winter, with hopes that one corporate all-star will favor their application and transform their career.

For students who are looking to pursue a career in finance, business or consulting, corporate recruiting has often offered a convenient opportunity to secure a hot internship for a chilly winter off-term. But did every student in recruiting start off with the intention of finding a corporate workplace -— or have they been influenced by the culture or their classmates at Dartmouth? And what about the slew of other students who intern at non-corporate companies — where are they dropping their application this winter?

Er Li Peng ‘16 said that corporate recruiting seems like an appealing option because of its accessibility and popularity.

“It’s so prevalent and there’s the mentality of fear of missing out, in which everyone else is doing it so why am I not doing it?” Peng said.

Peng compared corporate recruiting’s prevalence and allure to that of the Greek scene.

“I kind of see it as related to Greek life in a way, where people come in and they’re not as interested but a lot of people are in Greek life and they kind of get persuaded into it,” Peng said.

Peng said that while it may not seem that way, corporate recruiting is not the only vehicle through which Dartmouth students can find career opportunities. In fact, Peng drew a parallel between corporate recruiting and an iceberg, with it being the only visible trajectory – the tip – and everything else, though larger, invisible beneath the surface.

Director and senior assistant dean of the Center for Professional Development, Roger Woolsey, shared a similar concern to Peng, speaking to the frequency with which corporate companies come to Hanover to garner talented, ambitious Dartmouth students.

“I think what confuses students is that all they hear about is corporate recruiting, particularly for the finance and consulting sector, because those industries have a great deal of capital and are aggressive in their recruiting,” Woolsey said.

Because of the recruiting intensity of the corporate sector, many of the non-corporate opportunities available may not be as visible to students, Woolsey said.

In 2015, for example, the top industries with internship or job postings on Dartboard were diverse, with industries such as education coming in first, and research coming in fifth, Woolsey said.

“If you look at Dartboard, a lot of these other industries are posting,” Woolsey said. “The number one industry that posts is education, not finance or consulting.”

Maggie Finn ’16, who plans to pursue teaching, said that she did not use Dartboard to find her internships in education. She said in her experience, she’s largely seen teaching internships advertised on the listerv of Students for Education Reform.

Woolsey also said that size and vast need of corporate companies engenders the frequency with which they recruit, which subsequently might contribute to the conception that Dartmouth is a corporate school.

“The investment banks and the consulting firms, they have very predictable hiring needs,” Woolsey said. “They are more visible on campus because they come here more often and have more resources. That’s what gets the most attention, and it seems like that’s what Dartmouth does, because that’s what people see.”

Whether frequent corporate recruiting draws students to majors such as economics or a high concentration of such majors brings firms to campus remains unclear.

Jess Zischke ‘16, who interned at the Sierra Club and Seedling Projects, two environmental non-profit organizations, shared a similar perspective to Peng and Finn.

“I think the corporate trajectory is taken as a given a lot of times and it kind of feels like its self-perpetuation,” Zischke said.

Zischke said that she bypassed corporate recruiting, expressing how much she has valued the experiences she’s gained by working with smaller businesses, noting that she gets to play a bigger role than other student interns might at larger companies.

“I think that has been a lot more beneficial to me,” Zischke said. “I was able to feel more invested in overall goals, and it feels more worthwhile in the end.”

The invisibility of non-corporate options can leave students who don’t apply via corporate recruiting scrambling for other channels by which to discover internships. For many students, these options can seem not readily available. This may make students feel like their options are not only more limited, but also that pursing these options takes greater effort than a resume drop.

So, where do students find non-corporate internships and jobs? Peng suggested applying directly to company websites, which Finn and Zischke also said they did. Peng said that applicants might have more competition because they’re up against students from all different schools, not just Dartmouth like when students apply through Dartboard.

“Sometimes they may not get back to you because they have a lot of other people applying to them whereas when you apply to CPD, there’s less of an applicant pool,” Peng said.

Woolsey said that the CPD does have a lot to offer Dartmouth students with non-corporate internship and job interests. He said that many opportunities are advertised through email, which is not the ideal way to reach busy students.

“A big part of the problem is that our main means of communication is through email,” Woolsey said. “There’s a lot of information that caters to non-corporate opportunities in our emails. But emails clutter, so it’s not the best way for communication.”

Email can be not as effective, because students often get bombarded with blitzes and many don’t have the free time to sift through all the clutter to find those relevant to them. In order to rectify this, the CPD has started several programs to make opportunities more visible, according to Woolsey.

“We are trying to increase our use of technology to give students access to things with the fingertips of their hands,” Woolsey said.

The CPD has recently developed a phone application, DARTmobile, for the students in the Professional Development Accelerator program.

“If you hit a tab, it gives you all the resources that you could connect to.” Woolsey said.

Among others, these resources include Dartboard, the Dartmouth Career Network and DartmouthCircles. The app is meant to be a more practical way to display opportunities than blitz.

Although Zischke recognized these efforts by the CPD, she noted the remaining inequalities.

“I think the resources have gotten better, but they’re not entirely equal.” Zischke said. “It’s hard when so many students do go through corporate recruiting, so it makes sense that there will be more resources for them.”

Senior associate director of the CPD, Monica Wilson, explained that the vast majority of students go into fields outside of corporate recruiting, at least while at Dartmouth.

“We have a very loyal alumni base in the corporate sector, so we don’t want to turn employers away when they want to recruit Dartmouth talent, but we work hard to engage other industries as well,” Wilson said.

Wilson explained that typically, 15% of students who go into recruiting get hired, so the remaining 85% are getting jobs out of recruiting.

Although they may seem invisible at times, there are a multitude of options available for students who aren’t going into corporate recruiting, such as non-profits, non-governmental-organizations, graduate school, startups and many more.

Ultimately, people should pursue the career paths they desire, even if it defies the typical corporate culture at Dartmouth, Finn said.

“[The corporate sector] has this prestige around it,” Finn said. “People will look at me and say ‘You’re going into teaching?’ and ask ‘Why?’”

Ultimately, she said, this occasional incredulity from others has not kept her from pursuing a career she is passionate about.

Zischke is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.