Goldman Sachs CEO says summers are wasted on internships

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David Solomon Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon doesn’t seem to be much of a fan of the industry’s current internship system, where students spend at least their final summer in college toiling away in a cubicle in the hope of landing a permanent job the following year. In fact, he appeared to suggest that both students and Goldman Sachs would do just fine if society scrapped the now-institutionalized concept of summer internships altogether, though he acknowledged the implausibility of that reality.

Speaking Tuesday night at an event at his alma mater, Hamilton College, Solomon was asked if he thought he would need to have completed a financial internship in today’s world to make it to where he is now. Solomon was able to find a job on Wall Street after graduating from Hamilton in 1984 without previous industry experience as an intern.

“Unfortunately, the way society has evolved around internships, a lot of permanent hiring is done based on what you do during the summer between your junior and senior year,” he responded. “I see the benefit…but I’m not sure for the students that the tradeoff in the overall scheme of life is really worth it.”

Solomon went on to say that between 75% and 90% of summer interns at Goldman Sachs receive full-time offers for the following year, depending on the division. “What that tells me is that our interview selection process for the summers is pretty good, and it would be just as good if we were interviewing people when they were seniors.”

While admitting that interns do gain insight into the industry and the organization – and vice-versa – he thinks they would experience more personal growth if they never had to be interns in the first place. “I think their life would be pretty enriching if they could take those summers between years in college and really pursue things that are passionate for them, that can make them more well-rounded and more experiential. And then they can go pursue something professionally,” he said. “The problem is we couldn’t go back to that because the whole world has kind of evolved.”

Solomon’s overall point wasn’t to merely lament how he thinks the system is flawed and there isn’t anything he can do about it. Rather, he ended his remarks by providing some advice for students who need to operate in a world where summer internships are necessary to open many doors. Solomon suggested that students recognize their reality and squeeze the most out of their other summer breaks while enrolled in school.

“When you enter college after your freshman year and your sophomore year, go do something that you are really passionate about that will really broaden you,” he said. “And then the summer after your junior year, go do something that’s focused on how [you] want to get [your] first job.”

While he's been on the job for less than six months, Solomon has so far shown remarkable candor in public when other bank CEOs may have been more reserved.

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