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Networks

Twice a year, upperclassmen go through the spirited ritual of corporate recruiting. Suits get dusted off, resumes polished and the padfolio sales at the Duke Store skyrocket. Otherwise diligent students sacrifice class participation for flights to New York, all in the hopes of scoring a sweet job offer. Usually, it all starts with networking.

These introductions’ real value is in training students in self-salesmanship; the majority of the actual “information” at information sessions isn’t information at all. As any veteran recruitee knows, it isn’t about what the company representatives have to say—it’s being given the opportunity to show off.

A student who asks a banker about how federal short selling restrictions might prove deleterious to quant trading models doesn’t actually care about the answer. Possibly, the student isn’t sure what his question means. What the student cares about is that the firm now knows he is in the “know.” Congrats, kid! You know how to regurgitate a Journal article.

But learning how to be somewhat disingenuous is just a byproduct of the rat race. And the skill is undoubtedly important to any job: consultants need to sell what is essentially a PowerPoint presentation; financiers need to convince investors to cough up millions; journalists have to persuade themselves that people still read newspapers. The ability to sell a product that isn’t as good as it appears is important in all careers. Hell, the entire marketing and advertising industry is built on this principle.

Recruitment can be frustrating and time-consuming, and it always hurts to get rejected, but it teaches valuable skills—namely, being able to convince someone you just met that your skills and background warrant employment over every other “unique” candidate. It isn’t an easy task.

And if it doesn’t work out, go ahead and convince yourself it wasn’t your fault.  

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