It’s Spring at Cornell, which really only means two things: the weather has dramatically improved in time for Cornell Days (How convenient! Tell President Pollack I know she’s concealing a weather machine in the Ivory Tower) and banks are on campus to inform rising sophomore and juniors about internships for next summer. Hey, it’s never too early to make money. It’s why teens and twenty-somethings, each carrying a binder and their resumes, dressed in business attire, waddle around a room in Statler Hotel for a networking session hosted by the Royal Bank of Canada. And because I’m a business major and I have one more column due for The Sun, I decide to pull double duty and join in on the fun.
At one end of the room, a blonde straw-haired boy stares absentmindedly at the sign in sheet. He’s dressed in the quintessential eff-you outfit — sneakers, khakis, and a striped shirt. A banker might see that and figure him a troublemaker. I figure that only the coolest person in the room would dress so casually. Well, either that or he’s blind. I approach.
“Nice to meet you” — I bend sideways to peer at his name tag — “Eric!” I say, reaching out my hand, a bit nervous.
“Oh!” He looks up, surprised. He cocks his head, left to right, trying to gauge if I’m the type of person to call him out on his outfit. After a few seconds, he decides he likes what he sees. His surprised expression slides into a playful smile, he lower his voice and leans in: “Let me tell you a secret. Eric isn’t my real name. I’m just here to troll the people here.”
Networking is a game of Reverse Russian Roulette: the person you run into might be the one that gives you the one crucial connection for your first job. But you have to sell yourself first, tell a little story, make an “elevator pitch,” as my Communications Professor would say, which is a 30 second personal story that can fit snugly within an elevator ride from floor 1 to floor 5. But as I watch “Eric” walk away, I realize I’m down one bullet.
That’s okay. I’m a freshman who’s in way over his head, and frankly, I’m not that interested in banking or telling a story about myself. In fact, the people in the room prove to be far more compelling.
Next up is a “quant,” short for quantitative. His name is Edmund, and he’s starting an internship this summer doing something with equities at RBC. He’s pretty excited, too. He majored in operations research, and he hints that it may have been too theoretical for his taste. He’s glad to be doing something more applicable, which I realize now is code for “employable.” He regales me with tales of his interview, which was filled with grueling statistical questions. I’m impressed. After a few rounds, I realize that a banking session isn’t just for hotelies and AEM students — engineers abound here as well.
After Edmund, I run into one of my friends. She wants to talk to one of representatives from RBC because she’s interested in his field, and because she’s sure that of the two reps standing alone in the corner, one of them is the guy that she wants to meet. But she’s hesitant. She needs someone to keep the other guy occupied — namely, me.
So I’m stuck with the guy on the right, who seems particularly inspired to finally have someone with whom to talk. He’s a recent graduate of Cornell who’s starting soon in his new job of healthcare finance, and he’s excited. I pepper him with a few questions (Why RBC? What made you choose your area? What did you do at Cornell?). Each time, before he answers, he takes a deep breath and unleashes a dazzling smile and says: “That’s a very good question; I’m glad you asked that.”
He might not be a banker yet, but he’s got the act nailed down airtight.
Turns out, he didn’t come to Cornell for business. He came here wanting to be a doctor, but after the first year, he decided to double major with business. Pre-med was stressful, and he decided he needed something healthier. But the passion for the sciences never waned. When looking for a job on Wall Street, he stuck by looking specifically for a job related to the health care market. The good part of this strategy was that he knew exactly what he wanted, and it showed in the interviews. The bad news was that it left him an awfully thin margin of error. But when he got the offer from RBC for their healthcare markets division, he was ecstatic. The bank was on the rise, and the people were awfully nice. (This happened to be a common theme throughout my interviews. When mentioned that this wasn’t helping the Canadian stereotype of being too nice, one rep threw back his head and laughed.)
Ultimately, I left a bit shaken from the whole event. Maybe it was the Canadian hospitality, or the prankster at the beginning, but the event was awfully casual and loose. I liked that. One of the assumptions I’ve made from banking is that it’s too strict, intensive, and only for type As. But frankly, I didn’t see much of that at the event.
Does that mean I would ever consider a career in banking? I’m not sure. I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not sure that’s what I want to pursue in life. Looking back on this year, while I did enjoy my time with the eclectic people at Dyson, my happiest memories were for The Sun. Commenting on the fashion show (and being ripped in the comments section), covering the Gingrich event (and being ripped in the comments section) and doing a piece on Roombas (not being ripped in the comments section, but only because nobody read it). I liked what I learned from the guy who was initially pre-med. He took dual interest, combined it, and learned a lesson along the way: it’s not where you start, but where you end up. In other words, the first letter doesn’t matter. Only the last one does.
William Wang is a freshman in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com. Willpower appears every other Monday this semester.