Before even fretting about what it was to be a jobless second year, it might be helpful to understand the jading process that was first year on-campus recruiting.
As a first year business student it is not long before you realize the importance of the second years. That is to say, it is not long before you are made by one twist of fate or another, to believe in their importance.
The on-campus recruiting process is a dismal one and, right or wrong, the perception is that small edges make large differences. Most banks, one is told, hire for their full-time programs from their summer programs. This makes one's acceptance to a summer program a critical element in career path.
It is not that second years are necessarily any smarter when it comes to the recruiting process, rather that they often sit in on the recruiting discussions their employers have following interviews. You can hope for three things from them in this respect. First, there is the mostly empty hope that they possess some dark and hitherto unknown secret code to gain admittance. That you need only complete the right challenge-response phrase, as if you and the recruiter have together parachuted at night behind enemy lines. "Flash!" "Thunder!" A friendly fire incident narrowly averted. Many second years, for entirely unaltruistic reasons, play up the importance of this illusion. "When they ask you to name a personal flaw, and they will, tell them you lose track of time when engrossed in a project, and forget to eat or drink." Because it never occurs to you that you aren't the only recipient of this critical secret, the baffled recruiter ends up wondering what kind of robots your MBA program is minting.
Beyond the secret codes, if you do enough kissing up, and here as elsewhere the competition is stiff, the second years might put in a good word during the whole 35 seconds in which your candidacy is reviewed. Of course there is no way to know if they ever even made a peep during the review session, or if anyone bothers to even listen to summer interns during the discussions. Still, in such an opaque process even faint hopes are hopes. A few first years, having identified what they think is an edge, turned up all their seductive charms, figuring perhaps that this was the only currency in their possession and of sufficient value to trade for career admittance. I must admit that I too fell for this trap, and while I did not go as far as some, I found myself looking up to people I never would have given the time of day to a year earlier. My own machinations were, however, slight compared to those undertaken by some of my contemporaries.
Allison, a tallish blonde from California, was perhaps the most flagrant example of the perils of this carnal approach. Within weeks of deciding that a famous Swiss bank was her first choice, she had identified the second years who had "summered" there, cross referenced them against the facebook of second years and shamelessly thrown herself at the two she regarded as the most attractive. Of course, there were more than enough liquor inundated social events to lubricate her task and by the end of the first month she had gotten to Colin, her man on the inside.
We all politely looked the other way, well most of us did, but her overtures had been so overt it was hard to pretend not to notice what was going on. If Colin knew, which we all suspected he did, he didn't let on and instead placated her with gentle wooing mostly revolving around what an excellent fit she would be and how perfect the Swiss bank would be for her. It wasn't a week after they "met" that Allison could be seen daily getting a "ride home" in Colin's BMW, as if the two hour wait she often endured from the end of her classes until the end of his was convenient to her. One can easily imagine the tone their nightly pillow talk took. Easier, perhaps, the content of the mutters her many detractors frequently intoned.
I suppose the more old-fashioned among us might have been affronted by these sorts of shenanigans, but there were dozens of reasons not to be. For one, such liaisons were not particularly uncommon. Just in my class I can call forth three engagements and five marriages that were left on the rocky shores of business school antics when one or another classmate was awarded the none-too-rare Master of Infidelity Administration degree, and that's just off the top of my head. I might add that my recollections include one couple who entered the program together married, and left the program engaged, both of them, to third parties. I sat between them in a marketing class and was often the conscripted purveyor of the notes, filled with angry scrawls written with loud scratchings towards the end of the term, they exchanged. That quickly came to an end when I, tired of being a runner by the 15th such note since the beginning of that class, flagrantly opened it and read it. I could feel their hot and hateful but helpless stares as I absorbed the words, "No FUCKING way." The "fucking" was underlined. They stopped passing notes through me after that.
The end of Allison's tryst took a predictable route. Though I was not there myself I heard from others, everyone heard it from someone else it seemed, that the same evening the callbacks came and Allison had not been invited to the second round she threw a drink into Colin's face and called him a "manipulative cocksucker" before storming out of the event and never, it was whispered, speaking to him again. A more clear sense of irony in her choice of pejorative nouns I don't think I could have dreamed up myself. I heard that Colin had an undergraduate soothing his ruffled feathers within a week. Allison, who, so sure of her chances with Colin's employer, had not bothered to pursue any fallback plans, found herself entirely unemployed, and without another bedmate, that summer.
After all the antics the usefulness of the second years was confined to feedback on why one had failed at this or that bank. In one case I heard a distraught first year pleading with his mentor, "My tie? What's wrong with my tie?" Admittedly, it was a pretty ugly tie. One could, in theory, be shocked ("I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!") at the trivial strikes which could cause an intern candidate to be tossed from the game, but then in such a rarefied environment it didn't, in the end, really surprise anyone.
My feedback boiled down to three things. Firstly, I was too intense. Second, I wasn't driven enough. (This comment from the interview where I refused to accept the recruiter's highly forward invitation to meet for drinks after the interview). Third, I didn't seem committed to banking. So arbitrary and capricious were these comments that it became clear to me that the selection process was more about popularity, and a strange version even of that, than merit. Genuine effort was pointless. Sleaze was the order of the day. This last point was driven home brutally when I heard the tale of the three first years who had taken the entire recruiting team, minus the women, of a highly sought after bank out to a strip club after the interviews. Unsurprisingly, all three were awarded summer positions at the same bank.
Nearly despondent, I slouched into summer with a middling internship in the mergers and acquisitions department of a large corporate. In a way this was gratifying. If this was the culture I was idolizing, perhaps I needed to revisit my assumptions. I wasn't sure if I was happy I hadn't lowered myself to the level that seemed required to command a position, or upset that I had failed to capitalize on a clear opportunity. At what price, honor?