In his defense of the corporate recruiting
process, ("On Corporate Recruiting," The Dartmouth, Oct. 11) -- a response to my caricature of the annual Employer Information Fair -- Dan Galemba raises a number of excellent points. He argues that though I might eschew the values of the "i-dash" culture, one day I will come to depend upon such mechanisms of capitalism -- if I'm not already. "Eventually [Adam] will get a job" he says; I will "earn money, maybe have a family and, yes, even one day need to plan for retirement.
Though it's upsetting that Galemba has presented the "mainstream sector -- nuclear family -- 401K" narrative as the only one available to me, it is true: I could wake up one distant morning, realize that I had long been steeped in the anti-capitalist ideology orthodox within my left-leaning social circles, and call up an investment management house to repent. God knows I have pulled more dramatic doctrinal switcheroos in the past. It is also true that those investment firms often create opportunities for people: hard-working folks have perched comfortably upon nest eggs in retirement; small businesses have expanded with profits from speculation; Dartmouth has pinched off a piece of its well-leavened endowment for my financial aid. And though I think he flirts with elitism here -- yes, if Dartmouth's "responsible," "honest," "creative" graduates didn't enter corporate America, Enronesque scandal might prove even more rampant.
There are, of course, ways to problematize some of Galemba's contentions. For instance, the same economic machinery that creates opportunities for some also, in the end, amplifies the disparity between rich and poor, domestically and abroad. And I wonder who Galemba thinks has created the recently-uncovered business scandals if not the allegedly honest and responsible Dartmouth alum. After all, Dartmouth doesn't draw the most corporate recruiters among the Ivies because of Hanover's central location.
But Galemba needn't have stopped his defense of corporate recruiting where he did. Though I typically flee from generalization, my parody was reductionistic: for example, there are students participating in recruiting to learn from the interviewing process; others are hoping to stanch themselves against huge and looming student loan debts with a well-salaried position. And it was also myopic: if all bankers and analysts and consultants decided to desert their cubicles and become musicians or organic farmers or schoolteachers, it would be a global catastrophe.
To itemize all of my position's flaws would produce a long and very dirty laundry list.
But as it all shakes out, the more abstract merits of the corporate recruiting process are debatable. And though I don't believe that an objective evaluation is possible, I would enjoy listening to Galemba slug it out with another intellectual heavyweight coming out of the opposing corner, maybe a dashingly articulate disciple of Marxist economic and sociological theory. Because when it comes down to it, I don't really view the argument from above, as an all-encompassing panorama. I can try -- as I've done here -- to understand the larger context, and to imagine what the future might hold; but frankly, I don't think I have the mind for it.
Instead, I sense the small, person-level quirks of the situation. I see ironies: a student who has chosen his major as an easy way to cash in now -- with the slumping job market -- winding up in everyone else's shoes. And feel absurdities: though certainly hyperbolic in my initial letter, I do regard the corporate acolyte, so constrained by the process that she can only use brightly colored fabrics to assert her individuality. But most importantly, I suffer pathos: childhood dreams of becoming astronauts and actors and authors corrupted into oily statements to oily recruiters.
That's why I wrote the letter. See, I can't convince people in a few hundred words that corporate America cannot make any claims to the good and true; I'm not even convinced myself. It was meant only as a quick, awareness-raising barb, a moment of pause for those about to dive into the heady Wall Street milieu. It just wanted to ask -- with much less self-righteousness than was let on -- "Why are you doing this again?"
Because as Galemba suggests, as much as people like to make fun of the recruiting process, it is still normative. Or it sure seems that way to me. Some of the people who do the joking -- and all of those who had different (more authentic?) aspirations at some time in their lives -- still give a quick glance in the mirror, smooth out the wrinkles in their shirt, and head over to the Information Fair. Friends whom I had never known to harbor corporate ambitions end up standing in line to posture with the recruiters. The free stuff might have brought some; others might have come to find out if a job in the financial sector could really be satisfying; but it seems that many are simply whisked up in the draft of the other hopefuls, lured by the elaborate support system the College has provided, attracted by the ferment of assumedness, always wondering "Am I missing out?"
So I guess this is the letter that I should have written in the first place. Maybe I was afraid to be too didactic. But the point, I think, is a good one: to many of my fellow '03s, "Is this really what you want to be doing?"