How Top-Performing College Grads Fall Into the ‘Prestige Career’ Trap

We funnel our highest achievers into consulting and finance — and it’s hurting all of us

Photo: Austin Distel/Unsplash

Surely there must be a better place in society for a computer science Ph.D. than a hedge fund’s tech department.

But Alice doesn’t discover this when she’s a job-hunting senior. These firms start recruiting and marketing as early as freshman year on college campuses, when most students have never even heard of most of them — unlike their senior counterparts, who can rattle off the differences among the major management consulting companies off the top of their heads.

It’s pretty hard to switch to a more “exciting” job that doesn’t pay nearly as much.

And while these firms lure students in with the generous salaries and trendy offices, these status symbols often come at a cost. It’s difficult to demote your lifestyle once you’ve become accustomed to it. When you’re rocking a high six-figure salary and steadily contributing the highest amounts to your retirement accounts, wearing well-made clothes, living in a well-appointed apartment, and buying most of the things you want whenever you want them, it’s pretty hard to switch to a more “exciting” job that doesn’t pay nearly as much. This phenomenon is known as the golden handcuffs.

Co-Founder of @soraschools. @GeorgiaTech '18. Talk to me about education reform, startups, diversity. Prev @startupexchange @contrarycapital @trueventures

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