Back to the start(up)
Yesterday, Caroline wrote a moving post pointing to the recent undergraduate solidarity regarding the GS Class Day controversy as proof that after years of division and contention between our schools, there is finally unity. It is the culmination of much of what Caroline spent her time writing about, and it’s a result that we can all appreciate.
In the same vein, I’d like to point to a positive sea-change that I have seen this past year, namely the noticeable increase in non-traditional post-graduation employment for the class of 2012. Back in November, I published a lengthy article discussing a problem that many had identified: a disproportionately large amount of Columbia grads have been going into consulting and banking and not other professions. I made the case that startups were a perfect fit for our core-educated minds and that there should be more of an effort on the institutional level to promote this career path.
Two things strike me as I head out the door:
First, CCE has really stepped up in this regard. As of this moment, they are one of the primary champions of startups on this campus. The Career Center, while still catering to the banking-bound masses, has taken the requests of many in the student body for more alternatives seriously.
In the fall, the extent of their startup support was a well-run panel at the career fair about startups. It was effective and appreciated, but not the centerpiece by any means. In the past semester, though, CCE has not only continued posting startup jobs, but also hosted a career fair specifically for startups that boasted dozens of companies. I am very excited about what this means for future Columbia students. They now have a career center that supports and can help them begin a career that is both challenging and rewarding.
Second, students have taken huge strides in pursuing unorthodox opportunities. A quick survey of my friends and campus leaders reveals a striking change from several years ago. Those going into consulting and banking are, if anything, in the minority. My friends (and I’m going to assume this is representative of the whole of Columbia) are going to philosophy grad school, working in a lab at the medical center, doing AIDS activism, going into the NYC startup scene, attending seminary, working for a food company, doing fashion, and entering the film world among other things. Certainly, there are many doing consulting and banking. The fact that so many are doing things besides that is remarkable, though, and our fellow students deserve praise for taking paths less travelled.
Of course, the causes for these changes are less clear. It could simply be that banks and consulting firms are hiring fewer people, the economy is so bad that students are taking lower-paying jobs, students felt inspired by the Social Network, or CCE decided to change for its own reasons.
Whatever the reason, it’s a welcome change. My hope is that this diversity of post-graduation occupations will become the norm. It’s in your court now, Class of 2013!
Derek Turner is a senior majoring in Political Science and Anthropology. He enjoys the blanched faces people make when he tells them he’s voluntarily moving to downtown Detroit for two years after graduation.
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