Gang, something big has come up this morning and we need to discuss it right now. Don’t want to scare anyone but also don’t want to minimize the enormity of this news so let’s just get right to it. Wall Street has been keeping a secret. Look around at your colleagues this morning. The ones who attended schools like Yale, Princeton and Harvard and played sports like lacrosse and squash and use the word ‘summer’ as a verb and describe the color red as Nantucket red and argue the HJs don’t count if you give them to a guy whose named ends in IV and get aroused at the mere thought of an ACK sticker? They might have had an easier time breaking into the industry than those who graduated from lower ranked universities and did not get their WASP on. Yes, really.
After you’ve picked your jaws up off the floor, you’re presumably going to want to fight us on this and shout “It can’t be!” and “You lie!” Sorry to say it, pumpkins, it’s the truth. But don’t take our word for it- someone actually did a study on the shocking phenomenon.
Lauren Rivera — a 32-year-old sociologist who teaches management and organizations at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management — has concluded it’s still where you went rather than what you did there that makes the difference…She says “elite professional service employers” rely more on academic pedigree than any other factor. For recruiters, it’s prestige that counts, rather than “content” like grades, courses, internships, or other actual performance. That’s because if you got into a “super-elite” school — which essentially means Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Wharton (University of Pennsylvania), and Stanford — you must be smart. Plus, time spent at those bastions in turn will make you “polished” and attractive to corporate clients. It is, according to Rivera, a largely self-perpetuating hiring process that prizes efficiency: Why spend effort looking for “that one needle in the haystack” at a “safety school” like the University of Michigan or, heavens forfend, Bowling Green, when the run-of-the-mill Yalie’s still a prince. Even “second-tier” Ivies like Brown, according to Rivera, are suspect for the top firms.
The most surprising finding in Rivera’s research — conducted through observation and anonymous interviewing — was about the role of extracurriculars. While going to a super-elite gets your penny loafer in the door, that isn’t enough. Rivera says it’s leisure pursuits that seal the deal. Employers use these as “valid markers” or “proxies” of a candidate’s “social and moral worth,” all the more so for time-intensive sports that “resonate with white, upper-middle-class culture.” Think lacrosse, squash, crew, and field hockey. Skip football, basketball, and soccer. And no sport at all suggests “nerd,” which correlates to future “corporate drone.”
Now that this wild news is out in the open, let’s get into something even crazier- the people who were able to get jobs on Wall Street without such “polish.” If you, for example, attended Columbia and played football, how were you able to land a gig? If you’re bashful about admitting it involved 2 pieces of Scotch Tape, a half empty sugar free Red Bull, a poster of the original Saved By The Bell cast, a used colonoscopy bag and the board game Chutes and Ladders, don’t be- it’s what we were expecting anyway.