Seniors Begin to Wonder: Where To Go From Here?

A. Jabbar Abdi '94, a government concentrator, some day hopes to attend business or law school. But for now, Abdi would like to find a job in consulting or investment banking.

"I'm hoping a couple of years in the real world will help me decide what I want to do," he says.

In the face of a job market that has been flat for the last few years, seniors such as Abdi are fretting about their short-and long-term job prospects. And most seniors are only just starting to look beyond graduation.

Last year seniors packed in 2,771 individual counseling sessions at the Office of Career Services (OCS)--more than a third of the 8,232 sessions held by the office last year. At OCS, students discuss their postgraduation concerns, evaluate their resumes, or participate in mock interviews with a counselor specializing in thier field of interest.

But if it's a job in the real world that they're looking for, some career advisors say, a job in investment banking or consulting may be a good bet this year. Recent graduates who participated in the OCS On-Campus Recruiting program say it is most effective in the areas of investment banking and management consulting.

Last year was the best year for Harvard students in the business job market since 1989, according to Business Counselor Marc Cosentino. More than 43 percent of the Class of 1993 participated in recruiting. Cosentino expects this year to be another success.

Cosentino says firms, which have cut back the number of schools they visit by as much as 50 to 60 percent, are still recruiting at Harvard. And in the last few years, with Wall Street's recovery, the firms have begun to increase the number of people they hire without increasing the number of campuses they visit.

"Harvard was a bigger part of a smaller pool," he says.

Even though the On-Campus Recruiting Program operates only come-first serve basis, says Coordinator Judy Murray, the schedule was filled last year by February and March.

"There were companies that wanted to come but we didn't have space," she says.

Abdi talked with recent graduates at the OCS Career Forum last month. "It helped a great deal being informal not having to meet people you didn't know and b.s. around," he says.

But unlike Abdi, most Harvard students tend to avoid the real world immediately after graduation. Only 54.6 percent of seniors last year said they were planning to start jobs; 32 percent planned graduate study. In contrast, 84 percent of college seniors nationwide started work in 1991--when job prospects were far worse.

And unlike Harvard seniors who enjoyed the 1980s boom in investment banking and consulting, many are applying this year to a wide-range of post-college opportunities ranging from fellowships to internships to time off.

Some Harvard career advisors warn that seniors may be polarizing their search instead of doing a quality job on a few carefully chosen applications. "Some students sort of target [opportunities] scattershot," says OCS Fellowships Director Lisa M. Muto '79, who meets with more than 400 seniors a year. "It's possible an applicantwill spread himself so thin that he won't do agood job on anything," she says.

She advises seniors to pick their targets earlyand go after them. "Put your best shot in thoseareas in which you most want to go and where youhave the best opportunity to go," Muto says.