GOOD

Dear Ezra: Wall Street was No Match for a Liberal Arts Degree

WaPo's Ezra Klein thinks elite college grads head to Wall Street because their liberal arts degrees are failing them. One former analyst disagrees.


\n
Last week, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein posed a theory: Graduates of elite schools default to Wall Street jobs because of the familiar recruiting process and useful on-the-job training, which he claims better prepares recent graduates for the real world than their degrees. It is this, and not the high salaries, that attracts our nation's brightest minds to finance. I was once one of those minds, and maybe it's the Wesleyan University in me, but I must beg Klein not to put me in a box. I got my job on Wall Street by making a Father's Day card.
The summer after my freshmen year of college, my mother, who served a few terms on the New Hampshire Retirement Board, brought me with her to an investment conference in Prague, Czech Republic. There, I met a kind hedge fund manager named Bob, who was sad to be away from his young family on Father's Day. Thinking of my own dad, who was back home in the United States, I made Bob a card wishing him well so that he wouldn't have to celebrate alone. He was touched by my simple act of kindness and maintained contact with us even after my mother left the board. During my final semester, he asked my mother what my career plans were after graduation. Career plans?
Like many of us, I had never thought about life after college and was hoping to put it off for as long as possible, like doing the dishes after a big meal. As the daughter of a lawyer-mother and musician-father, I swore the last thing I would do right out of college was hunch over a computer in a cubicle all day. Yet when an unexpected medical emergency and the culmination of my thesis saw me with limited time and funds required to seek out the perfect job, at Bob's suggestion and my mother's urging, I put on the suit she had mailed me—a black Elie Tahari skirt with a cropped jacket—hitched a ride to New York City with a friend, and walked into my first job interview in the financial district.
The office was impressive: a high-security art deco building with soaring ceilings and marble floors. When the elevator doors opened to the 12th floor, I saw chic, smart suits sweeping by me in all directions. I walked into an office with mahogany furniture and an intimidating man across the desk. As my future boss asked me questions about "driving the bottom line" and other lingo I had yet to learn, I scrambled to come up with coherent responses. Unlike the process Klein describes, I skipped the formal application and used the networking skills I'd developed at Wesleyan to maneuver my way straight to the source—a shortcut Ivy Leaguers take all the time. Because of this, I had absolutely no idea what job I was even applying for. I laid it out:
"Look," I said. "I never studied math, or economics, or finance, I'm a Classical Civilization major. But I do know how to get what I want in life, and if you hire me, I'll get you what you want."
Leveling with my future boss took confidence I had thanks to small classes and ample opportunities to defend my opinions to professors. My boss later told me that what impressed him the most was the story I told him about having to fight to keep my undergraduate thesis. My advisor had suggested that I drop the thesis and switch to a less ambitious senior essay. Instead of becoming disheartened at his lack of enthusiasm for my project, I went home from that meeting and rewrote my entire outline in great detail, emailed it to him and told him I'd see him tomorrow to discuss the new direction of my thesis, which I fully intended to keep.
So without ever formally applying or even knowing what the job was, I was offered the position of Business Development Analyst, filling one of only 13 new analyst slots of more than 2,100 company employees worldwide in 2007. (I found that my peers all had different stories of how they landed the elite post, but the majority had had clear intentions of entering the business world.) My analyst role was in sales, and I had sold myself. But not in the college application way, where with enough study you can spin your story to fit their desires. I landed the job with realtalk, based on my merit and self-confidence.
This is what my college education had prepared me for. Sure, the career counseling didn't teach me how to navigate Monster.com or guide me towards the proper career path (I wound up leaving the job on my own two years later to move to Italy). But there is no way two years on Wall Street could even compete with my four years at Wesleyan. As I watched friend after friend who had majored in economics lose their job during the financial crisis, while I got promoted to manage as many as three people for my division, I began to understand that my skill set was much more valuable and recognized by those at the top. To translate an elite degree to the real world, all you need is a little imagination. It's not that my liberal arts education gave me everything I needed to make it, but it set me apart from my cookie-cutter peers. It certainly didn’t, as Klein suggests, “fail” me.
Klein also downplays the salary factor in the decision recent graduates make when joining the financial workforce, but the truth is these companies make you an offer that's too good to refuse. In my early 20s, I was earning close to what my mother, who has been a lawyer for 30 years, makes annually. Working on Wall Street gave me an opportunity to bulk up my savings while providing me with a status of position that's important in hypercritical New York. But it did not give me the skill set that has benefited me in the rest of my life. If anything, it taught me what I did not want to become.
So I did what not many others would do in my position. I quit. At the height of the recession in August 2009, I packed up my desk and later my suitcase to set off for Italy, even though I had no job lined up and no Italian language skills. For a while, I worked as the associate producer at a Roman production house making documentary films for National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Now, I'm a magazine editor and a professional jazz singer, headlining concerts in Italy and other parts of Europe. I value myself and my ability, and I was taught I am capable of doing anything—qualities nurtured through a well-rounded education, not a cutthroat finance job.
Articles
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business