Degree Arrives, Job Vanishes

A Michigan grad headed to Bear Stearns gets a hard lesson in the ways of the business worldeven before he's handed a diploma

As a graduating senior from the prestigious Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, I would say that I've made it a long way from growing up in a quiet neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. However, that journey is nothing compared to the roller-coaster ride I have been on over the past month.

At Ross, I learned how managers need to embrace and somehow control the chaos of business —the same kind of chaos that Bear Stearns faced (BSC) on that grim Friday in March, when there was a run on the country's fifth-largest investment bank. In a matter of days, a leading investment banking business disintegrated.

These unprecedented events affected me directly.

You see, I had already accepted a full-time offer to work at Bear Stearns. Naturally, when the company was sold to JPMorgan Chase (JPM), I wondered if I'd be wanted as an analyst when JPMorgan already had one of the best investment banking divisions in the world. I did not need a spreadsheet model or complex financial equation to figure that out. There was too much overlap, yet I couldn't rule out working there. How could I when an HR representative left a voicemail saying that JPMorgan would honor all of the Bear Stearns offers—subject to change.

"Subject to change." Yikes. With that statement, I was left in a murky mess, and so was everyone else in my shoes.

Not Looking to Hire

Finally, about three weeks ago, I received the call that JPMorgan would not honor my offer after all. Not a huge surprise, but reality had struck, and it was officially time to start looking for another job. But wait a minute, it was mid-April, recruiting season was over, and Wall Street wasn't looking to hire—it's looking to fire.

I am left in a bleak situation with little light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm not alone. There are hundreds of forlorn business school graduates, undergrad and MBAs, just like me, and thousands of former Bear Stearns employees out there walking up and down Wall Street with résumés in hand, looking for that next opportunity.

I, too, have been on the move, pacing up and down the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., talking to friends, professors, classmates, and contacts in hopes that anyone could help me out. I know it's the only way at this point, because when it comes down to it, so much of business is about who you know. I have learned about the "strength of weak ties" in one's social network and their importance in landing a job. I am confident that I can perform once I get in the door, but I need to get in—I have worked my butt off to get this job and I want to have a chance.

So whether it's that acquaintance you always give a head-nod to at the bar or your finance professor or even your best friend's sister's boyfriend's dad, it always helps to get your name out there. Like my finance professor told me as he was giving me advice on what to do: "The only thing that you have to worry about is the leather on your shoes; you have to hustle."

Now class is officially out of session and graduation is over. Only time can tell what the future will bring for the hundreds of graduates like me. I'm just glad I got laid off before I started my career instead of being fiftysomething with a family to provide for. You learn a lot in business school, and believe it or not, in times like these, your knowledge of business helps you understand a lot about current events. I know there will be even more to learn now that school is over.

For now, I am learning to be resilient and stand up when someone knocks you down, even as I am about to enter the doorway to Corporate America.

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