Business As Usual
The Merit of Selling Out
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 13:01
Students encounter an array of courses regardless of their school or major. While incoming business students might bemoan the theology requirement and those pursuing a degree in English often begrudge their time devoted to a math course, most recognize Georgetown’s general education requirements as a way of discovering new interests and opportunities.
Georgetown’s diverse course catalogue is often seen as a reflection of the many aspirations and ambitions students hold when they arrive on the Hilltop. Given their common commitment to social justice, many aim to make a difference on an international, humanitarian level.
But for all the dabbling in the liberal arts, for all the experimentation with quirky classes like “The Philosophy of Star Trek” and “Medieval British Folklore,” Georgetown’s undergraduate career inclinations lean sharply toward the realm of business.
Across the entire undergraduate Class of 2011, careers in financial services and business consulting attracted 26 percent of all graduates, representing the largest group of graduates by a considerable margin.
Alissa Orlando (SFS ’13), who has secured a post-graduation job at top consulting firm McKinsey & Company, is prototypical of this phenomenon. Although her passion for social justice is evident on her resume — Orlando is majoring in Regional and Comparative Studies with a focus on Africa and completing a certificate in International Business Diplomacy, volunteered in East Africa and worked for non-profits in the District — she chose a career in business after graduation as a way of attaining high-ranking positions quickly.
“The large consulting firms have the financial and training resources to ensure that even entry-level employees are doing substantive work that demands thought leadership,” Orlando said. “By going corporate first, I hope to enter at a point where I can manage, instead of just support, projects and teams.”
For Orlando, who rose through the ranks of the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative to become chief operating officer this year, a job at McKinsey marks a considerable departure from her freshman dream of a career in television.
“My freshman year, I went to [The] George Washington [University] for political communications,” Orlando said. “I aspired to be a political correspondent for a major news network. This ended when I realized you had to do your fair share of hard news stories before becoming the next Nicholas Kristof.”
Due to the financial safety of getting hired at a corporate job that offers a respectable salary and robust benefits, the corporate world can serve as a transitional period for graduates before they pursue further education or positions at non profits, which are often unable to conduct the same major hiring campaigns or to offer the same amount of security that many new graduates seek.
“Taking a corporate job that allows you to pay off your debt and maintain a quality of life that you’re accustomed to over a position with a non-profit isn’t a crime,” said Alex Honjiyo (SFS ’13), who considers the corporate world an opportunity to earn a substantial post-graduate salary in exciting and challenging work.
For Chris Timko (SFS ’15), pursuing a career in business is not mutually exclusive with the Georgetown curriculum emphasis on social justice. According to Timko, he and many of his friends are motivated by the opportunity to make a positive international impact, even if that means securing a job at a Fortune 500 company.
“I think most students at Georgetown strive for a higher good. I think most genuinely want the thrust of their career to focus on leaving the world better than they found it,” Timko said. “Corporations around the world do so much in the way of philanthropy and service to others. On the whole, I see them as positive elements of society.”
“A big factor in deciding to work with McKinsey was when I learned more about the public and social practices, especially the work following the earthquake in Haiti,” she said.
For Eva Wang (SFS ’16), Georgetown’s wide-reaching curriculum is strong preparation for a career in business because of its universal meticulousness.
“I think that Georgetown attracts people who are corporate-world material,” Wang said. “The Georgetown curriculum is … rigorous. Students know they’re getting an applicable education.”
Others, like Charles Patterson (MSB ’16), consider a degree and ultimately a career in business a way of fulfilling their creative potential in the workplace. When Patterson started his college search in his senior year of high school, attending Georgetown’s business school was far from his initial intention. Originally planning to go to UCLA to pursue a career in film and television, Patterson ultimately joined the McDonough School of Business’ Class of 2016, where he is pursuing a degree in international business.
“The corporate world has the appeal of having more stable careers and higher salaries, as opposed to riskier entrepreneurial pursuits or less lucrative jobs in the non profit sector,” Patterson said.