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An Unforgiving Winter


kamurj

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Excerpted from
The Running of the Bulls: Inside the Cutthroat Race from Wharton to Wall Street
By Nicole Ridgway

Thanksgiving break is a short but much-needed respite between midterms and finals for students, a time to refresh, eat home-cooked meals and relax. Typically, students from America's colleges and universities head to their hometowns in order to see their parents for the first time in months and catch up with friends from high school. It's a four-day period where students can let go of their deadlines and return to the more carefree personalities of their youth.

For Wharton seniors, though. Thanksgiving break can be anythings but relaxing, especially if they haven't accepted a job offer yet. Grace was well aware of the fact that her "break" would be anything but, she would be running face-first into a week filled with final projects and time-consuming interviews upon her return. The only way to make sure she could pace herself that week and meet her deadlines was to work throughout her trip home to California. She managed to take intermittent breathers, visiting with her friends and her parents, but the time off almost seemed negated by the weight of her obligations.

Just two days after she returned from L.A. Grace had two papers and three group presentations due in Executive Leadership New Product Development and Marketing Research, all subjects Grace hadn't expected to be as demanding as they had become. And as if the amount of work due that day wasn't stressful enough Grace had three papers due two days later and interviews with three different companies at the end of the week

"(That) week probably moved me from an A to a E in most of my classes" guessed Grace. She was getting so little sleep that she wasn't quite sure how she even managed to function. "This is child abuse. It really is.'

In the midst of all of the demands of her first week hack, Grace would head up to New York for a third round of interviews with Federated Merchandising Group (FMG) the fashion merchandising company, for their buyers program. Grace also had a group paper for her marketing class due that day. Getting the work done and making the train to New York was already a concern when, by some sinister twist of fate, things managed to get worse. Grace's partner bailed out on the project at the last minute and she was forced to pick up the slack, pulling an all-nighter the night before to finish it. Without the satisfaction of a minutes sleep to ease the buzzing in her head, she got on the 6:30 A.M. train bound for Manhattan and KMG's offices.

"I felt horrible, and I thought I looked horrible as well" fretted Grace. "FMG is all about fashion. Everyone looked good and they were well-rested."

Close to twenty other recruits were already waiting nervously in the offices when Grace arrived at 8:30. Throughout the morning, Grace went through three interviews and listened to a handful of employee presentations, all the while trying to stay alert. When she had met with FMG the first time on campus, the interviewers' questions were more technical, their inquiries geared toward assessing whether Grace knew how to navigate Excel and was comfortable doing quick and complicated mental arithmetic. Now up in New York, they wanted to learn more about her personality and Grace was mustering up as much charm as possible given her exhaustion. Grace liked the people she met at FMG and was impressed that they treated her as though it were an honor to host her.

"I really like them. But when I walked out I wasn't sure that it was what I wanted to do," she said. "If they gave me an offer, I would definitely consider it."

After returning from New York, Grace barely had time to catch up on the sleep she so sorely craved. At 7:00 A.M. the next morning she was scheduled to meet with Towers Perrin at their Philadelphia office to interview for a position as an executive compensation analyst. When she arrived at their offices, Grace was met with a schedule of six different interviews. It was a long, exhausting morning, and she still had to get back to campus for an afternoon round of two thirty-minute interviews with a brand-management consulting company.

After getting through her morning with Towers Perrin virtually unscathed, Grace returned to campus with only a couple of hours to grab something to eat and regroup for the next onslaught of interview Questions. Somehow she was managing to get through this day without having a complete meltdown, but she couldn't help but feel that one was drawing near. As soon as Grace entered the room for her first interview with the management consulting company, she got the vibe that the recruiter sitting behind the table really had no interest in being there. At one point, he even perched his feet up on the desk. Clutched between his fingers was a metal cap from a Snapple bottle. With great regularity, his thumb pushed the indent in the center of the cap, making a loud clacking sound that cut through the awkward silences in the room, as well as Grace's responses.

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