Over the weekend I happened to get my hands on a copy of the Forbes 400. For those of you who don't know, the Forbes 400 -- or the "rich list" as it is commonly known -- is an annual report on the 400 wealthiest Americans. Attaining a spot in this issue is no small feat; this year the cut off was $725 million. As I read through the profiles of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Paul Allen and Warren Buffet, I couldn't help thinking how close this issue hit to home. Lately it seems all we do is talk about money and how to get more of the stuff. It's everywhere. Just look at the pages of the DP during the last couple of weeks: a story on how the endowment is up, but not as much as Harvard's; another on how Judy is making more this year; a groundbreaking revelation that College grads make less than Wharton grads in the financial services field; and all those full-page recruiting ads. The campus is obsessed. I gather that many of you are in the midst of trying to figure out what exactly one does after Penn. For those of you wondering how best to reserve your place on the Forbes list, here are a couple points to consider. Of the 400 members of the rich list, 108 never finished college. This must be a disturbing thought particularly for you Whartonistas who came to Penn because you heard the names Trump, Milken and Perelman and figured that a similar education could lead to similar rewards. In fact, however, a fourth of America's richest people have no embossed diplomas hanging on their walls. Something to keep in mind as you struggle to juggle your academics with the weight of recruiting. Speaking of recruiting, you may find yourself going from one pointless company presentation to the next, each stressing the advantages of the firms' corporate culture and the marvel of having the company supply workout attire -- with logos of course -- in their executive gyms. Well if a place on the Forbes list really matters to you, the last place you should be is at a recruiting event for an investment bank or consulting firm. Not a single person on the list is a partner at a consulting firm or investment bank and only 49 of the 400 are financiers. This means that 88 percent of the Forbes list did not follow the sacred route of consulting or banking that Penn is so fond of paving for its graduates. For some unknown reason, this school is hell bent on sending a large part of every graduating class to New York for a two-year stint at some corporation or other. Career Services seems to have this down to a science -- everything leads to two years in the Big Apple. Why? The majority of those on the rich list spent no time in New York in some god-forsaken cookie-cutter two-year program. In reading the hundreds of profiles in the issue, it appears that a common trait exists among America's billionaires. Aside from those who inherited their place on the list, each charted his or her own course. This week, as you go over to see if one the "big firms" is calling you back for an interview, keep this in mind. Graduation, if you make it, does not have to lead to a job where you are worked like a dog for two years. Make what you want of it; thousands of companies are starting out, just like you. They won't be advertising in the DP, but they are out there and have room for you. Or if an existing company doesn't do it for you, start your own. This past week, Penn started its own incubator, P2B, and a partnership with the Philadelphia private sector to make your crazy business plan a reality and help bring your ideas to market. It seems that Penn, finally, is beginning to realize that there are other paths to success that don't go through banking or consulting. So if company presentations leave a foul taste in your mouth, don't wait until two years from now to do something meaningful. Leave Penn and stake out on your own. You'll be better off, even if you never grace the pages of Forbes.Comments powered by Disqus
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