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Princeton MFin Article about Princeton's students seeking finance jobs

From Competition for careers - The Daily Princetonian


Students described a mix of motivations for seeking finance and consulting positions.

“I think the main motivation of Princeton students who are interested in finance and consulting is the desire of a high-paying job,” Mark ’12 said in an e-mail. Mark was granted anonymity because his internship applications are still pending.

“Many students also pursue ‘prestigious’ jobs in an attempt to differentiate themselves,” Mark added. “Prestige usually translates to competitive ... The root of the question is, again, money.”

According to the Office of Career Services, the average starting salary for Princeton students in the financial services industry was $66,783 in 2009 — surpassed only by the manufacturing industry, which reported an average starting salary of $70,963.

But many students hoping to work in these fields denied that income was a strong motivation.

“Money is an attractive factor, but it’s not the real reason people go into an investment bank,” said Rebecca Yu ’11, a physics concentrator who applied for an internship at Goldman Sachs this summer. “I think — at least, I hope — that people do it because they’re genuinely interested in [investment banking].”

Timothy Koby ’11, another physics concentrator who is also applying to an internship at Goldman Sachs this summer, noted that students could more easily make high profits in other fields.

“I mean, sure, if some people do it [for that reason], fine — but that’s definitely not why I’m doing it,” he explained.

Operations research and financial engineering professor Alain Kornhauser said the students he has known who entered these fields are generally genuinely interested in investment banking. “Who’s doing it just for the money?” he said. “To be perfectly frank, there aren’t that many that I have known.”

But Mark said that interest in these fields is also driven by the pressure to take a job that signals a successful college career.

“Many students hope that their education is worth the high cost of Princeton’s tuition,” he explained. “One common, straightforward way of measuring this ‘worth’ is by the paycheck of the job he or she secures after graduation.”

Pi noted, however, that students are careful not to give off this impression during the interview process.

“[Money] is a very, very big reason” for entering investment banking and consulting, Pi said. “But in interviews, [students] will try very hard to convey that they’re not in it for the money.”

When asked about his own motivations for entering the investment banking field, Pi was hesitant. “It’s hard to word this correctly,” he said. “I’m truly interested in the area. And I really enjoy the work that investment bankers do.”

Kornhauser noted that these jobs attract certain types of students who are “bright, quantitative, deal with numbers, [and are] fascinated by the complication and details involved in these situations ... In the end, you have to love numbers.”

Koby said, however, that diligence, rather than an affinity for numbers, was a defining characteristic. “Probably someone who doesn’t mind working hard,” Koby said of students who typically pursue these careers.

Several students also noted that some majors, such as ORFE, economics and the Wilson School, are overrepresented in these fields.

“I know a lot of people who are trying to do ORFE just so they can make a lot of money,” Bryton Shang ’13 said. “It’s psychological — you think you’re on the good path and that knowing more about it will help you.”

Kornhauser said there is significant overlap in the skills used by investment banking and the ORFE concentration. “[Investment banking] is a very, very quantitative enterprise,” he said.

But choosing certain majors for the sake of pursuing certain careers is unnecessary, Hummer said. “I was an ORFE major here, but I don’t think it’s necessary to major in certain departments in order to get internships or jobs in finance or consulting,” she said.

Whatever reasons students cite for entering these industries, landing a spot at an investment bank or consulting firm is still popular, though it has become more difficult in the wake of the recent economic downturn. Of Princeton students who had accepted full-time employment offers by graduation, the number working in the financial sector fell from 41.5 percent in 2008 to 33.4 percent in 2009. The number of graduates who accepted full-time offers also decreased from 35.7 percent in 2008 to 29.6 percent in 2009.

What these jobs entail

Students said that internships in the financial and consulting industries often involve tedious and repetitive work.

“Last summer, I spent 70 percent of my internship making spreadsheets,” Pi said. He said that it was the other 30 percent of his work — what he called the “thrill of the hunt” — that kept him going through the time he spent doing grunt work.

Koby said he feels that the less interesting work at the beginning of an investment banking career is a necessary step toward advancement in the field. “I guess it’s all towards the goal of being higher up in the company,” he said.

Students said that workdays in investment banking and consulting jobs are notoriously long for both interns and full-time workers.

“No one likes working 100-hour weeks,” Pi said. “Last summer, I pulled multiple all-nights, and I worked for 12 weeks. So I basically had no summer.”

But the long hours have not deterred Princeton students.

“There are a lot of times in investment banking and in finance where you’ll be sitting around doing ‘bitchwork,’ ” Pi said. “A lot of people in finance just have to train themselves psychologically.”

Koby noted that the same could be said for a lot of different industries. “The first few years are definitely going to be long hours and not the most interesting work,” he said.

Many cited substantial interest as a primary motivation for entering the investment banking and consulting fields. “I guess what attracted me to it is solving real-world problems,” Yu said. “It’s the same concept as solving any kind of problem, but you can see results.”

Hummer added that she enjoyed the camaraderie she had with her colleagues during her internships with investment banks the past two summers. “There’s really a spirit of collegiality,” she said.
Wow! A lot of people want to solve real world problems. If 10% of those graduates were genuinely motivated by solving problems than the real world would have no problems at all.

Very insightful though.
“Money is an attractive factor, but it’s not the real reason people go into an investment bank,” said Rebecca Yu ’11, a physics concentrator who applied for an internship at Goldman Sachs this summer. "

LOL sure.
I can understand that money isn't the motivating factor in consulting... but you don't go to an IB for something other than the money... that's just BS.
Well how do investment banks make money really. They make money out of money, in most general terms. So the only real world problem that you are faced with is a maximization problem of the form

how to make money
subject to the condition that I won't lose it

But seriously, if 10% of those people wanted to solve real world problems the world would be problem free.