By Vivek Ramaswamy
In one of my favorite episodes of South Park, two sleazy salesmen try to sell shoddy vacation condos in the glitzy ski town of “Asspen” to the lower middle-class residents of South Park. Their sales pitch is simple: “Try saying it, ‘I’ve got a little place in Asspen.’ Rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?” Eventually, the residents open up their checkbooks.
This is exactly what happened when recruiters from Goldman Sachs used to show up on Ivy League campuses in the early 2000s. You didn’t join Goldman as a summer intern for the $1,500-per-week-paycheck, though that wasn’t bad. Or for the possibility of a $65,000-a-year full-time offer for a 100-plus-hour-a-week job. You did it for the privilege of saying: “I work at Goldman Sachs.” There was something intoxicating about working at the most elite financial institution in America. For analysts who worked for Goldman in its day, the rush you got from saying you worked there was the equivalent of how today’s graduates feel when they say they work for a “social impact fund” or a “cleantech startup in the Valley.”
In the spring of 2006, I was a 20-year-old junior at Harvard College, and I fell for the trick. I joined Goldman Sachs that summer as an intern.
By the end of June, I knew that I had made a terrible mistake.