Finance & the Non-Traditional Path

The answer to the question “what if I don’t want to do finance?” has changed drastically in the few years I’ve been here. We’re finally acknowledging and accepting “non-traditional” career paths. As we open ourselves up to these choices, we also allow for more variety in our student body. Not only does this help us in our careers, but it’ll also help future classes of Stern students explore their various interests without being confined to one path.

By Anvitha Jagannathan

Last spring, I attended a networking event for an investment bank to find possible internship opportunities. I told an acquaintance at the event about my recent transition from a finance concentration into the BS/MS Accounting program. When she asked why my concentration isn’t finance, I told her it just wasn’t for me. After telling her I was not planning to take any finance classes, she asked why I was at a networking event for an investment bank, and even why I chose Stern if finance is not my area of interest.

A year later, this interaction still makes me wonder if other people in Stern face similar situations. After trying to interview a few people, I found that everyone wanted to remain anonymous while speaking about their experiences because “it’s hard being a non-finance student in Stern and talking about the culture.” One student, in particular, came into Stern with the intention of avoiding the finance route. Her parents wanted her to have flexibility and a good work-life balance, which are not characteristics of the banking industry. Since coming to Stern, she reports hearing “what the hell is the point of going to Stern if you’re not in finance?” far too many times. In her experience, she felt that professors “shamed” the non-finance students, calling marketing students too creative, sustainable business students “tree-huggers”, and data science students too technical. These comments, although rarely meant to be hurtful, do affect the student body at large. 

Though this impact is hard to trace, one consequence is that some non-finance students feel left out of prominent social circles simply because they’re not recruiting for investment banking or because they’re not taking the same classes as their finance friends. This doesn’t always happen, nor is it an explicit discrimination, but in a finance-centric school, students who are not interested in finance tend to be left on the sidelines. As illustrated by my experience above, it seems that a lot of firms recruiting at Stern assume that students are studying finance, making it just another scenario in which a non-finance student has to explain and justify their decision. However, as notable companies have begun searching for students from various academic and personal backgrounds, this need for justification has reduced.

As recruiting requirements change, more students in their first or second years decide that they don’t want to study finance and choose marketing, data science, or operations instead. Whatever their reasons for this decision, they can make this choice without having to justify it to everyone around them, which means that we are making progress. Although Stern is still known for its finance curriculum and does put a large chunk of its resources towards that field, various clubs, classes, and recruiting events have helped broaden the opportunities provided to us and shifted our school focus to a more holistic educational experience that can help everyone achieve their diverse goals. 

The answer to the question “what if I don’t want to do finance?” has changed drastically in the few years I’ve been here. We’re finally acknowledging and accepting “non-traditional” career paths. As we open ourselves up to these choices, we also allow for more variety in our student body. Not only does this help us in our careers, but it’ll also help future classes of Stern students explore their various interests without being confined to one path. So what if you don’t want to study finance? There’s a world of possibilities out there and we’re just getting started.

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