Slumping Economy Hits Job Recruiters

The number of on-campus recruiters at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences fell by nearly 20 percent this spring, leading to an ever-more competitive job market and the diversification of students’ career choices outside of the finance and consulting sectors.

According to Robin E. Mount, interim director of the Office of Career Services, recruiting at Harvard College fell 10 percent in the fall of 2008 and 19 percent this spring. Six thousand eRecruiting interviews were held on campus this year, she said.

“The economy’s sinking, and we weren’t surprised,” Mount said.

Students shared similar sentiments about the shrinking job market.

Tracy L. Meng ’10 said she secured an internship with a consulting firm this summer, but said that this year’s job process had been especially difficult.

“It’s been tough, and I’ve been grateful to have an offer,” she said. “I think that eRecruiting is one of the most stressful processes someone can do...It’s your life for the month of February.”

Meng said that she came up with several backup plans before the recruiting process, thinking of going back home to work for her dad’s business or entering the public sector this summer.

Many students have considered similar paths, leading to a more competitive applicant pool for fellowships and other non-finance-related internships.

The trend has allowed non-traditional companies to capitalize on the worsening financial job market.

Mount said that businesses that may have not traditionally recruited at Harvard are now planning to do so, such as Pepsi, Madison Square Garden, and smaller boutique investment banking firms.

“New companies feel like they now have the chance to get in front of Harvard students,” she said. “From the company’s perspective, it’s an evening of the playing field.”

She said students will also be able to take advantage of new opportunities in alternative energy and other 21st century industries.

Malcolm R. Rivers ’09 said he views the shift away from finance and consulting as a somewhat positive phenomenon, as it has forced people to expand their options and discover passions that they may not have otherwise realized.

Rivers will work for Teach for America next year, a path that an increasing number of Harvard students have taken.

“It’s interesting to see how the [culture of Harvard] has changed,” he said. “It’s good to see people who are directing their energy toward something based more on improving the lives of underprivileged youths.”

OCS is providing support for seniors who are still finding postgraduate opportunities.

The “Job Search Boot Camp,” a program that has seen an increase in demand this year, consists of personalized guidance and one-on-one consultations with OCS counselors.

—Staff writer Victor W. Yang can be reached at vyang@fas.harvard.edu.