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Harvard Bureau Helps Student to Find Career

Student Placement Bureau Provides Counselling Service, Interviews

By James W. B. benkard

The senior looked nervously across the small table as the man from New England Mutual looked carefully over the proffered questionnaire. If the interview was a successful one, the student might expect a bright future in the Insurance business; if not, at least he knew where he stood.

This year, in February and March, over 2000 interviews will be conducted by approximately 175 companies in a program which has proved over the last decade to be mutually beneficial to both student and prospective employer. These individual discussions have been set up by the Office of Student Placement, an organization which, according to its director, Thomas E. Crooks '49, "has not even begun to realize its potential as an aid to the career-seeking student."

"The Company Interview Program" is only one of the many services that this burgeoning organization has set up in the last few years. The Office's avowed creed is to "assist the student in reaching a decision as to what he will do after leaving Harvard, and in implementing that decision once it has been made." Crooks points out that he sees the Office working on what he calls a "laissez-faire" system, in that Student Placement puts no pressure on students to use its facilities in search of a job for later life.

"We have so much to offer the students," Crooks said, "that not even we know where to start. We do not want to pressure people but the average liberal arts student is just not giving enough thought to his future profession until his final year. That is what we are here for, to try and convince him to start thinking earlier and to help him make more constructive decisions."

The idea of Student placement was initiated by the College as far back as 1885 when the Secretary of the College "was active in this field," but for 60 years, the concept of a permanent office was little more than a whimsical procrastination. In 1945, however, the Office of Student Placement was finally organized with John W. Telle as Director. Since then, the Office has grown in facilities, but not in personnel as the present staff of Crooks, David P. Huntington, and four secretaries is approximately the same staff that held the office together 11 years ago.

On the now prominent thought of expansion, Crook commented, "Right now, we are working overtime, but if more and more students come in, we'll be only too happy to accommodate them." In this happy eventuality, he saw expansion as the only answer to what might become a serious overcrowding.

Career Conferences

One of the office's chief problems is that not enough people know what, where, or how it operates. Some students think of Student Placement as a place to pick up a job as a dishwasher at Leverett rather than a sober conference with Crooks or Huntington about a future vocation. For this and other reasons, the Office originated the Career Conferences in 1948 which have gone a long way to bring Student Placement before the eyes of the student.

These conferences bring to the University nationally prominent figures in different career fields who discuss and answer questions concerning their professions. Attendance at these meetings has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous; last year 300 students packed Kirkland House Junior Common Room to hear Robert Anderson '39 and other noted theatre personages discuss careers in entertainment and mass communications. On the other hand, only 25 came to the seminar on Chemical Industry. The large attendance at the theatre conference was attracted by the luminescence of the personalities invited and by the interest in a new theatre for Harvard, while the failure of the other discussion has led to a suspension this year of all scientific conferences by the Office.

"Groaning Shelves"

One room of the Student Placement's offices at 52 Dunster Street houses a unique library, which in Crooks' opinion "is the best of its kind offered by any college." This is the Vocational Library containing some 2,500 folders of material on companies and government agencies, collections of occupational studies, about 300 books and directories, and other information essential to the career hunter.

"Anyone who conscientiously uses this library," according to Crook, "and who traces up the leads found there, will have an excellent chance for finding both a summer job and helping him find something for after he has finished his education." Although the veritable avalanche of folders and catalogues often overwhelms students, nevertheless over 1,100 visits were made to the library last February and March by inquiring students. As to possible enlargement for the room's groaning shelves Crooks commented, "I just don't know, we're filled to bursting now."

The annual influx of timorous seniors for interviews with representatives of business, finance, and other fields is another one of Student Placement's most worthwhile and important jobs. Every year this program grows and the Office now utilizes six interview rooms instead of the four formerly used.

"This is just an initial go-around for both parties," Crooks pointed out. "Some do get hired right off the bat, while others just have to go look somewhere else." There are also similar interview programs for graduate students which have proven equally as successful. Crooks said that many of the interviewers have become increasingly "frustrated" for most of the Group I or II students go right to Graduate School. "In this case," he said, "the different companies just have to wait around until these exceptionally bright men finish graduate school and complete their military training."

The process of an interview is a relatively simple one: the student makes an appointment (or preferably several ones) with different companies through Student Placement. He then must fill out a questionnaire, giving his grades, military status, and previous employment data. Both parties then try to sell each other; the company explaining its virtues as a place for a successful career; and the student, by whatever his marks, personality, and interest, may offer. The companies put their first consideration on grades, according to Crooks, for this is their only real basis of judgment in the first meeting.

Taking office time as a basis of judgment, Student Placement's No. 1 job is that of counselling future job-holders. This is simply a process whereby Huntington and Crooks talk with any student who wishes to come into their office and discuss their future plans. These talks usually begin with a discussion of the student's desires, an evaluation of his talents, his immediate future (military service and graduate school), and finally, definite suggestions.

"Our first job in counselling is to sit back and let the student talk," Crooks said. "We aren't psychiatrists; what we want to do is to reduce areas of ignorance, both in the student's minds and in our own." He cited three main problems in the minds of those who want counselling: military service, graduate school, and a career. Concerning the first problem, Student Placement feels that it has the best collection of information about the armed services and the draft in the college. "People are just delaying their ideas about the military," Crooks said, "and we feel we can give them the advice they need."

The most important individual problem concerning graduate schools, according to Crooks, is whether the particular student can get in. "Almost everyone wants to go to some Harvard graduate school," he said; "the question is: is it the best thing and can he make it?" The Medical School supplies Student Placement every year "with lots of leftovers." Concerning future careers, Crooks said that "the first thing we have to do is to tell them about Jones & Larkin." After that the student is supposed to take over for himself, utilizing the multifarious folders and the Company Interview Program. Including alumni and returning service men, Crooks and Huntington counselled over 800 men last year.

Long Range Plans

Student Placement has other services, some more concrete than others. A student with some initiative can find a summer job in the office's voluminous files; there are some 315 alumni scattered all over the country who serve as "alumni counsellors" to all students who would like to personally speak to someone established in a career; and there is much information concerning any graduate scholarships a student might wish to try for. (Crooks himself handles the Fulbright scholarships.)

Student Placement then, as a comparatively infant organization, is only just beginning to learn of its potentialities and its limitations. Its ultimate Utopia is to serve as a kind of finish to the Harvard educative process, in that every graduating student will come to its doors in search of advice and information. There can be no doubt that its function is an important and a much-needed one, but until it undergoes some kind of expansion it can never really achieve its capabilities. Two administrator-counsellors, four secretaries, and a little building on Dunster Street will not support Student Placement's Utopia.Company Representatives interview prospective employees at 52 Dunster Street. This year 175 companies will conduct 2,000 interviews.

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