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Wall Street is no longer in my dreams

Lauren Silverman

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

BOB MOON: It wasn't so long ago that a Wall Street career was the holy grail of a large proportion of college students. But that was before the fall of Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near ruin of the financial system. Which brings us to our series on young people and Wall Street. The first installment could be heard earlier today on the Marketplace Morning Report and it's on our Web site. Now, Youth Radio's Lauren Silverman describes why, for her, the towers of high finance no longer beckon.


Lauren Silverman: A few years ago, I secretly dreamed about working on Wall Street. I used to picture myself in a pinstripe business suit strutting past the Charging Bull before the opening bell. Working there seemed cool. It was like working for the company that makes the BlackBerry, before the iPhone; or working for Enron, before the bankruptcy.

I remember one day. It was August of [2008], right before the crash. I was interning for a big nonprofit. I went out to meet up with some friends who all worked in the same field as I did. And then I met a girl who was working in a whole other world -- she had an internship with Goldman Sachs.

I tried not to choke on my coffee. Goldman Sachs was my Lady Gaga. She was working on some big corporate buyout -- but of course, she couldn't say much; the information was "classified." She got to work at 7 a.m. each day, and from the way she talked about stock analysis, I imagined she knew how to use Bloomberg Analytics like an elementary school calculator. To me, she was the queen bee, and I was just one of her workers.

Then the bailouts happened. And I changed my mind about Wall Street like that. I remember watching the bailouts and bonuses fiasco from my desk with the other interns on TV and yelling at the screen. We were furious -- I mean, red in the face. Those companies seemed to throw around money like paper airplanes. Employees got their bonuses for losing big. And they didn't seem to care about the risks they took.

Now, I know things are getting a bit better for the finance industry. I know banks have paid back some of the government bailout money. I know some investment firms are hiring again. But there's a permanent cloud lurking over Wall Street and a bad taste that's still in my mouth. I don't feel envious about those queen bees anymore. Chasing the Wall Street dream left plenty of those workers without a hive. So you won't find me dreaming about a job on Wall Street, and most of my friends feel the same way. The big financial institutions need to work on their reputation before my generation signs over ours.

MOON: Lauren Silverman lives in Washington D.C. Youth Radio produced her commentary. You can hear the final part of our series this weekend on Marketplace Money.

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