After the economic slump scuttled their plans to enter the financial sector, business students at Duke University look at different alternatives, such as graduate school, or rethink their career paths altogether. Judy Woodruff talks to some recent graduates in the second part of her Generation Next series.
JIM LEHRER: Now the second of our reports on Generation
Next. Judy Woodruff is examining how
young people are coping with the recession. She recently went to Duke University
in North Carolina,
where she talked to graduates who are having a tough time finding jobs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Over the past two decades, it became a
tradition of sorts. Following the pomp and circumstance of commencement, many
graduates from the most elite liberal arts schools in the country packed their
bags and headed for Wall Street to seek their fortunes in the world of finance.
Salaries and bonuses for new graduates often topped $100,000
a year, according to students we talked with at my alma mater, Duke University.
VANECIE DELVA: To be able to make that much right out of
school as an undergrad was kind of insane. So I guess my first taste of the
money was sophomore year when I had the scholarship programs that gave us
compensation. It was over time. It was a scholarship. It was like, "Oh, my
gosh, I'm rich."
JUDY WOODRUFF: At Duke and many of the other most
competitive colleges and universities, finance had become one of the most attractive
fields to enter, even more than law or medicine. It was a magnet career for the
best and the brightest.
But the meltdown in the financial markets has shaken those
assumptions and scrambled the future for many students here.
Job offers grow scarce
Griffin Tormey was an economics major and a manager for the
Duke basketball team. He had hoped to get a Wall Street job by going through
the usual recruiting process.
Duke is considered a core recruiting school by New York investment
banks and consulting firms. In past years, they would court hundreds of
students for internships and jobs.
But not this year. Campus visits by banks were down 15
percent and, as at other schools, the job offers were scarce. In fact,
according to a survey this spring by the National Association of Colleges and
Employers, banks expected to hire 70 percent fewer people this year than last.
Tormey was one of many Duke seniors who didn't get an offer,
so he's now pounding the pavement looking for alternatives, one of which is
graduate school. Through it all, he's tried to remain positive.
TORMEY: You know, it stressed me out a little bit at first, but there's no
sense in beating yourself up and worrying about stuff that's entirely outside
of your control. I mean, we really didn't have any role in what happened in
So you've got to do the best you can do every day and, you
know, at the end of the day, if you can look yourself in the mirror and say,
"Hey, you know, I did everything I can do today," then you've got to
JUDY WOODRUFF: Not all students have remained so upbeat. We
contacted dozens of Duke students who were unable to get the jobs or
internships they wanted, but they said they were too discouraged to talk about
it on camera.
Econ Professor Emma Rasiel, who works with students to help
them find jobs, says she's not surprised.
EMMA RASIEL, professor of economics: It is very difficult
for many of them. Many of them have had Wall Street in their sights since
relatively early in their career at Duke. That's been some sort of a Holy
And they're having to adjust to the fact that, however hard
they've worked and however well they've done, there are any number of qualified
students who would do great in these jobs, but the banks simply have fewer
spaces for them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that was the case for honor students and
history major Rachael Nordlinger.
RACHEL NORDLINGER: There came a point when actually all of
my older friends were going into either banking or consulting. And I got very
swept up in that idea, because it seemed like it was the natural progression
for me after college, because if everybody else was doing this, then I should,
JUDY WOODRUFF: Since she had an internship with the bank UBS
last summer, she assumed the company would offer her a job after graduation.
But soon after the banking industry took a nose dive, she learned there
wouldn't be a position for her.
Although Nordlinger was initially disappointed, she said it
ultimately forced her to really think about what she wants in a career. She
interviewed and got a teaching job at a low-performing school in New York City through the nonprofit organization Teach for
RACHEL NORDLINGER: I'm looking to make a connection with
students. I think that a lot of people don't know that education is really the
ticket to success. And it's something that I really believe, so I think by just
going there and getting people excited about academics, excited about school,
and showing them that they can use that to succeed.
Shifting sights to social justice
JUDY WOODRUFF: So called social justice jobs are fast
becoming an alternative for many would-be investment bankers. Nationwide, Teach
says applications were up 42 percent this year, and it has become the
number-one employer of Duke graduates.
Sociology major Vanecie Delva also finds herself
unexpectedly about to do some nonprofit work in the coming year. She is one of
the fortunate Duke grads who was offered an investment banking job at Credit
Suisse following her summer internship last year.
Delva, who was raised by a single mother of five, says it
was a relief to know she would have a job.
VANECIE DELVA: So by first semester, I knew I was -- I had
an offer. I'm fine. I had an offer. I'm secure. I don't have to worry about
JUDY WOODRUFF: But then, just a few weeks before graduation,
Credit Suisse asked Delva and others to take a voluntary deferment for one year
and receive a small stipend in return. The bank said it had to reduce the
number of analysts it could bring on because of the faltering economy.
VANECIE DELVA: I got a phone call actually from a fellow
analyst who's a future co-worker. He was like, "This means that, you know,
things are probably worse than we know about. And I'm not sure if we're going
to actually have a job." And I signed up for Credit Suisse to work there
like right after undergrad, and I was like, "Dude, calm down. I think it's
an opportunity." So he didn't see the silver lining.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Delva did. She chose to take the one-year deferment
and accompanying stipend and hopes to travel the globe pursuing one of her
other passions, dance. She'll also volunteer in poor communities in India and Thailand.
You worked really hard here at Duke. You're graduating, and
suddenly this job is delayed. What's your mom saying about that?
VANECIE DELVA: My mom is a huge inspiration to me. I'm one
of five kids, and she's basically raised us all on her own, little to nothing
income, and yet I've never, like, yearned for anything. She's always been motivating,
encouraging and supportive. And like you were saying, what does my mom think?
She's like, "Do whatever your heart desires."
JUDY WOODRUFF: Even graduates who are going immediately into
the world of finance know their future is far from certain. Daniela Rausnitz
was an econ major and founded a women in business organization on campus. She
starts a job with JPMorgan in the fall.
DANIELA RAUSNITZ: Even when I tell people what I'm doing
next year, they go, "Oh, are you nervous about that? Do you have any
backup plans?" And it's almost like, you know, people are looking down
upon the job because of all the negative publicity and also the instability.
JUDY WOODRUFF: When you have a conversation with somebody
who says, "Gee, do you have a backup? Are you sure? Did you make the right
decision?" what do you say to them?
DANIELA RAUSNITZ: Well, personally, I feel that I don't have
a backup. I don't think that's the right way to be living my life. I have this
job, and I'm going to go into it with a mindset that, if I do a good job, I'll
be capable of staying there and learning. And if not, then that's not what's
meant to be and another opportunity will arise.
Upsides to the downturn
JUDY WOODRUFF: Duke career counselor David Lapinski, who
himself worked on Wall Street before moving to academia, says he thinks the
upside to the downturn in the economy is that it's making students broaden
their career horizons.
DAVID LAPINSKI, Duke
I think that there are -- this generation of students are looking at a wider
array of job opportunities. The students that are coming in now as first-year
students are going to be doing things that aren't even invented yet.
You'll see students that are interested in more socially
responsible, you know, positions. They're interested in jobs in the environment.
They're interested -- you know, versus when I came out, you know, it was
completely different. I wasn't aware of the diversity of career paths that were
JUDY WOODRUFF: While in the long term that freedom may be a
benefit, in the short term, it's causing a great deal of angst for many in this
generation who've been so tightly scheduled and programmed by their parents
EMMA RASIEL: I do find myself wondering, is it those kids
whose parents have encouraged them all along to make their own choices, do
their own research who are the ones who are now bringing those skills to bear
in finding jobs off their own back versus the ones who have been very taken
care of, who assume that their job hunt would be taken care of through the standard
recruiting on campus, who are now deer in the headlights and unable to cope
with the need to go and do it for themselves?
JUDY WOODRUFF: With graduation now behind them, many of
those Gen-Nexters may soon be forced to go and do for themselves in a job market
that forecasters say isn't likely to improve much for at least another year.