Another year, another round of lies told to the wide eyed new students in Cambridge. ‘Relax’ they say. ‘Enjoy fresher’s week’ they tell Cantabs too young to know any better. ‘Just focus on making friends,’ they whisper.
Let this be a warning: ‘making friends’ and ‘being nice’ might have cut it at Sixth Form – but it won’t get you a job once you graduate. Welcome to the Jungle.
To get ahead at this elite institution, you must be ruthless, as has been the case for alumni throughout Cambridge’s history. Many think Darwin came up with his theory of natural selection studying wild animals. In a way they’re right. He came up with it in his time here, studying us. Natural selection will decide who will elevate out of Cambridge to the upper echelons of banking and consulting, and those who fade into the grim wasteland of public sector work.
Everyone you meet, whether on your course or not, is a threat. It is for you to decide whether they will be predators – or your prey. I recommend the latter. You should treat everyone you encounter like tourists – if they get in your way, run them down with your bike and ding your bell in celebration. Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t allow anyone close to you during your time here. The college family system is one of Cambridge’s greatest assets for settling in. Use them as you would your real family – for shameless nepotism and the hope of a lucrative inheritance.
The key to survival is to keep your eyes on the prize. Remember the corporate future your parents have always dreamed of and seize every opportunity to develop your skills. Start by going to as many swaps as you can. There is no better preparation for board meetings than weekly gatherings steeped in drunken misogyny. Outside of social activities, practising mindfulness in private is always a healthy idea – it makes it easier to spot if one starts you start developing a conscience, God forbid.
Beyond these simple steps, you must make corporate connections! Always bring an expensive, ornate knife to networking events; nothing makes a better first impression to potential employers than literally stabbing another attendee in the back. Just watch not to get blood on your tux. If you do have to ‘remove’ any of your opposition, the Cam is too shallow to properly dispose of a body. Try the investment banking section of the Marshall Library – the staff won’t notice another person who’s dead behind the eyes.
Doing a degree can sometimes feel silly; putting in all those hours over three years just for a piece of paper. Well, in Cambridge that piece of paper is your CV. Forget the law, forget the Bible, if you’ve been reading this carefully the only written text you should now care about is your CV. I’m not saying that during your time here you shouldn’t play sport, volunteer at a homeless shelter or collect thousands of pounds for charity. But I am saying that if you do do those things, ensure it is a calculated decision, solely for the benefit of your CV.
After all, your time at Cambridge will come and go, but a job at Goldman Sachs is for life.