Shiralkar: The questions we’re not asking about jobs


Kirstie Martin/Iowa State Daily

Columnist Parth Shiralkar believes students should ask a few important questions regarding morals before considering their first job. Shiralkar references company controversies tied to Goldman Sachs and Amazon to further establish his point.

Parth Shiralkar

It’s the day before the first career fair comes to campus. Like my batchmates, I look forward to the career fair, and I try to prep as much as I can in advance. This idea of prep may differ for everyone; mine is drinking a lot of water and practicing my smiles. Career fairs are supposed to be intense and fun — you play your cards right, you land a nice gig, you go home happy. “The companies are here to hire you,” everyone says. “You just need to find a company that’s the right fit.” And therein lies the rub.

Would you — in all consciousness — seek employment from a corporation whose ethics and principles do not gel completely with yours? As a student who will obviously be seeking employment sooner or later, it is a tad unnerving for me to accept that I shall inevitably be faced with such a dilemma.

I will not be naming names in this piece; rather, I shall attempt to argue why it is important for us — as the youth — to dare and peek beyond the paychecks, to ask questions, to examine our own choices. But to do that, it is important to take a brief look at an incident from the not-so-distant past.

In 2012, an executive at Goldman Sachs resigned for similar reasons, but not before he wrote a scathing op-ed in The New York Times. To paraphrase him, the company was not keen on helping their clients make better decisions in light of making more money for the company itself. Indeed, the company was more interested in redefining the concept of leadership, where it would be defined not by your actions, but your fiscal contributions to the company. And thus, people who brought in clients with deeper pockets got promoted, and those who stuck to company values and principles were, well, stuck. This — among other reasons — is a jarring outlook far different than what many of us think is in store for a full-time job opportunity.

Examining a more recent incident, almost 900 Amazon employees have threatened to walk out from the Seattle headquarters, starting at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sept. 20. The reason for this is Amazon’s absolute silence on climate change. Walkouts of this scale have been growing in frequency recently. Such acts bring with them a glimmer of hope, but notice that all these walkouts have huge numbers of employees acting in unison. As a singular employee, you might think, what good will one person do?

Again, as the youth, we carry — in part — the burden of choice. Should I choose to overlook the shortcomings of the corporations, or do I speak up against what I feel is wrong? Individual actions do contribute to the big picture, but the first step is always acting. You will find other, like-minded people around you. If you don’t, it’s time to hand in your two weeks’ notice.

At what point do you draw the line? Do you allow little lapses in judgement pass, or do you act like it’s okay to sacrifice the well-being of a client for a nice dinner and some expensive wine? Do you turn a blind eye to the actions and choose to stare wide-eyed instead at the paycheck? These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked.

It is but normal that these things are not given consideration when you desperately need a job, but if we don’t ask these questions now, when will we?