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Seniors Face Tightening Market for Finance Jobs

By June Shih

Seniors planning to seek financial glory on Wall Street after graduation are finding it tough to find a foot-hold in the real world this year, as a slumping economy leads to a tightening job market in the nation's most prestigious investment firms.

And with company after company announcing layoffs in the areas of high finance and investment banking, many Harvard seniors say they are beginning to rethink their career plans.

"It's going to be tougher--no doubt about it," said economics concentrator Carl T. Balbach '91. "I'm shifting away from investment banking and looking into consulting, and more traditional industries--consumer products--IBM, GM."

"The floor of the stock market is not a good place to weather a recession," Balbach said.

According to a salary survey released this fall by the College Placement Council, average starting salary offers for graduates in the fields of economics and finance rose only 1.9 percent last year--to $25,184.

In contrast, starting salaries in engineering jobs rose 4 to 7 percent and those in health care climbed 12 to 13.5 percent.

The lack of growth in salaries for finance jobs comes as the entire banking industry is experiencing an economic downturn. In recent weeks, a number of the country's largest investment firms have announced layoffs,fearing the consequences of a severe recession.

Most recently, the investment giant MorganStanley & Company revealed that it was eliminating50 of its 800 investment banking jobs. In pastweeks, similar announcements have been made byPaine Webber Inc. and Shearson Lehman, two of thenations largest investment firms.

"What we're learning this fall is that thecommercial banks will be having fewerpeople--investment banks the same," said Martha P.Leape, director of Harvard's Office of CareerServices (OCS).

But when asked if Harvard students were findingit difficult to secure jobs in financial fields,OCS recruiting coordinator Judy E. Murray saidthat few serious problems arose last year. "It wasthe same as before," Murray said, adding that shedid not want to make any predictions about theresults of this year's job hunt.

"We'll have to wait and see. As far as we know,recruiting will be the same," Murray said.

But while many students--economicsconcentrators in particular--say they are sittingup and taking notice of the slump on Wall Street,most say that they are not changing theirlong-term plans.

"I think it will deter people from going intobusiness, finance, and economically related fieldswho don't really have the intellectual ability tobenefit the fields," said Juan Betancourt '93."Therefore, in the long run there won't be so manypeople looking for a job in these fields,therefore starting incomes might rise."

Others say they are counting on the Harvardname to guarantee a measure of success that mightbe closed to their rivals from other schools.

"There's a lot of people still hiring--thefurther you are from Harvard, the more yourHarvard diploma is worth," said Carlos J. Menendez'91, an economics concentrator.

"You're talking to the upper echelon here. Imean, how many people are going to have aproblem--you drop the old H-bomb and you're in,"said Joshua F. Laff, a visiting undergraduate fromBrandeis University.

And for those students to whom career choicesremain a distant blur on the horizon, theimmediate problems in the finance and bankingindustries are often small cause for alarm.

"We didn't major in economics for the money,"said Bill Whang '93.

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