Department of non-leading indicators

Way back in 2000, when I was just a dewy young thing preparing to pluck herself out of the MBA cabbage patch and venture out into the world, there was one small thing that concerned us: the stock market seemed to be a little, well, uneasy. Indeed, I was at the orientation for my Merrill Lynch summer internship the day the NASDAQ collapsed; the HR person fussed ineffectively as all the yuppie larvae drifted out of the auditorium to stare in sick fascination at the CNBC ticker mounted on the foyer wall.

Oh, no, don't worry, we were assured. That sort of thing doesn't happen to MBA's--not to Chicago MBAs. Not to you, adorable you with your brilliant mind and firm (but not excessively so) handshake.

We make money in good times and bad, said the investment bankers; after all, when the market's down and IPOs are dead, that's the perfect time for a stock repurchase or a merger.

We make money in good times and bad, said the management consultants. After all, when things go wrong is when people need us most.

This was, of course, gilt-plated flapdoodle. By my count, a year after graduation, about a third of my class was unemployed, underemployed, or waiting for some never-never job to start. The management consulting firm that I was supposed to work for strung us along just long enough to dump us on the market at the same time as the next class of MBAs. In the year that followed, I experienced something perilously close to utter despair.

Nonetheless we believed these transparent lies with the anxious fervor of a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. There was no reason not to, really: what else were we going to do?

Pray harder, I suppose.

One look at DealBreaker this morning was enough to bring it all flooding back. The summer interns who just got shafted by the Bear collapse; the quieter announcement of layoffs from Goldman. Note to MBAs: if you haven't already, start looking around for a nice refrigerator box. The good ones tend to go quick.