We can only hope that nobody took the Office of Career Services (OCS) literally when they called their recent get-together a Career Forum. If any poor gullible souls did, they would find their career options pretty limited.
The info-fest held last Friday was really little more than an extension of the corporate recruiting process that is already in full swing. Consider: Of the 87 firms represented, over 60 were in either consulting, investment banking or financial services. Even Walt Disney, a seemingly refreshing face at the event, was offering positions in Strategic Planning and Treasury.
Stuck like afterthoughts in the corner were representatives from the Peace Corps, World Teach, and Teach for America. One lonely law firm showed up.
There were, moreover, no representatives from government, none from journalism or the media, very few from public service. Manufacturing was ill-represented, Procter and Gamble being the only representative. If you took the view of Life After College that the Career Forum presents, we'd all be moving people's money around and telling businesses how to do their jobs.
Now we would never argue that consultants or investment bankers shouldn't have a place at such an event. Students have good opportunities for jobs immediately after college with such firms. But as the event now stands, there's hardly room for anyone else. Students who attended the corporate smorgasbord seemed to share the sentiment. As one student put it, "we can't all work in the same job."
No doubt the myriad consulting and investment banking firms are more eager than many other professions to showcase their wares to eager young Harvard students. And admittedly, careers like law and medicine require graduate school and are thus less interested in undergraduates.
This does not, however, excuse the Office of Career Services. They labeled their event a Career Forum; and they should put in the effort to make it live up to its name. As another disgruntled student put it, "Advertising this as a career forum is a little misleading."
In fact, the effort that consulting and investment banking firms put in to attracting undergraduates is all the more reason OCS should emphasize the other opportunities available. We suspect that many about to leave for the working world are receiving a distorted picture of what's available; the Career Forum did not help to fix that image.
Martha P. Leape, the director of OCS, was far more satisfied. "We plan to do this again," she gushed. "We're very happy about how things have gone so far."
We also hope the Career Forum happens again. It's a valuable chance for students to see what awaits them in the real world (and also to collect some neat, free stuff: keychains, cameras, mousepads, frisbees and Mickey Mouse pencils). We just hope that next time it's a forum for many careers and for all students.