"Cool" Plans After Graduation?

by John Strayer | 4/25/96 5:00am

That's so cool that you have rejected the whole corporate recruiting investment banking and consulting complex."

More than once, I have heard words to this effect from my younger peers. I wish I had as much confidence in the "coolness" of my plans for life after graduation.

In one sense, the path I intend to follow is most certainly "cool," if we define "cool" as acting without regard for the expectations of the mainstream. My future does not fit what might be called Dartmouth norms.

Career Services must be the envy of fascist regimes around the world for its tremendously successful propaganda campaign designed to convince Dartmouth seniors that there are three options after graduation: graduate school, consulting, and investment banking.

Oh sure, most students realize this is not quite the case (I understand there is an option called advertising, but it's just a rumor), but simply realizing that there are other possibilities does not relieve the tremendous pressure to pick one of the officially recognized alternatives.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to a job in the service industry, more specifically waiting tables. I plan to launch my career in Madison, Wisconsin (it's close to home) and then move the locus of my industry to London, England. I want to use the time to focus on my writing and maybe finish a novel by the end of the year.

So I guess it is accurate for underclassmen to label my plans "cool" as I walk away from graduation, thumb my nose at the green money light in Baker Tower and shout "Money Schmoney, you fools!"

But then I catch myself and give things a second thought. My "cool" decision to reject the Dartmouth paradigm of gainful employment really isn't much more than following the path of least resistance.

I mean really, I couldn't have swallowed the Dartmouth norms even if I had tried. To do so would have been to reject virtually everything I have stood for in this column and on this campus.

By parading my opinions around in public, I have fostered a peer pressure to conform to my personal norms which is just as powerful as the general pressure to subscribe to Dartmouth norms. I have not made the "cool" move of rejecting norms altogether, but rather created my own norms which I follow as strictly as the future investment banker follows the Dartmouth paradigm.

Am I really all that different from the guy whose parents bought his way into Exeter so that he could go to Dartmouth despite mediocre academic talent? Such a background has certain implications for what constitutes the path of least resistance.

Your family has invested significant amounts of money toward the specific purpose of getting you a high paying job out of school. You could reject your family's expectations, but why bother? Your parents want you to be an investment banker and Career Services is falling over itself to help you get that job.

Meanwhile, I wandered into Dartmouth with none of the pressures that come with being predestined to attend this school. Where I come from, private high schools are where we ship the losers with "behavioral problems," and New Hampshire might as well have been next to Delaware as far as my guidance counsellors were concerned.

People still make fun of my father for wasting his money on Dartmouth when I could have gotten a great education at the University of Illinois. And if the fact that most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went to state schools means anything, they are right to a certain extent.

Given this baggage, it would have been nearly impossible for me to consider my Dartmouth education as a mere investment in my financial future. In order to be justified at all, I have always felt a tremendous pressure to take advantage of the intellectual opportunities which separate Dartmouth from a state school.

That's the path that has gotten me here. It would take a lot of effort to switch directions and jump into the corporate game. I mean they want resumes, cover letters, and a nice suit. I don't think a blue blazer and my good looks are going to cut it.

So I head out of here dancing with the one that brought me and plan my future around the intellectual process of writing, rather than worry about the financial measures of success. I guess in responding to the pressure I have put on myself, I have rejected the Dartmouth notions of what one is "supposed" to do after graduation. Is that "cool?"

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