“Chelsea Clinton Exited Wall Street to Seek Career with Meaning”, this Bloomberg headline shared by a friend on Facebook caught my attention this morning. My friends commented on the piece as inspiring. This is not the first story of someone that left Corporate America behind to find “meaning”. This is the first time, however, that I became frustrated at the fact Mr. or Ms. Goldman-Sachs-McKinsey who left to “seek meaning” and to better the world gets a gold star. They often leave their high paying jobs and go on to secure interesting positions in the social and public sector because their skills are valued.
On the flip side, fresh graduates who “found meaning” from day one need to scramble among low-paying entry level positions within non-profits, to creatively frame their experiences in the Peace Corps, Teach For America, etc. to persuade employers that they too have something valuable to contribute. Investment banking and management consultancy are not the only places to gain useful skills. Besides, Wall Street firms do not like to waste their resources only for their talent to go “seek meaning” elsewhere. This is evident by the recent scale-back of Analyst Programs at Goldman Sachs (likely to follow by others). It’s also important to note that unless you are Mr. or Ms. Goldman-Sachs-McKinsey or some other fancy combination of high echelon names in finance or consulting, translating private sector experience to public/social sector can still be very difficult.
Where then, should a young professional who is able to define their passion early in their career go to “gain experience”? Perhaps it’s time for the social and public sector organizations to begin develop their own Analyst Programs and to train the next generation of leaders. It’s time to reward new graduates who are dedicated to the missions of public and social sector organizations the same way Wall Street rewards graduates who are sure that banking or consulting is their calling. The current status quo leaves many dedicated young professionals and career changers very frustrated and even jaded. One shouldn’t need to succumb to a career path they dislike simply to prepare for one they enjoy later in life.