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As career week culminates today at the Career Forum, I have resigned myself to a future of unemployment. I might as well start collecting the checks. When the glossy, black Introduction to Career Week landed in our mailboxes last weekend, I already began to feel the dread.
For someone with no interest in business, there are apparently few
openings in today's job market. According to this book, this week's
panels, and in fact, Harvard's
entire vocational ideology, a job in media means serving as an analyst at
Walt Disney. A job in public service: Associate Analyst for a non-profit consulting firm. A job in entertainment: assistant analyst of a production company. A job in technology: e-commerce analyst for a local start-ups.
Let's cut the QRR bullshit and rename the new core department, Future Analyst Reasoning Requirement. Even the book itself allows gimmicky advertisements from Mckinsey, Trilogy and Credit Suisse more than half its pages (earning HSA a pretty penny), creating a future business person's "little green book." (This is the Harvard student's
equivalent to Mao's "little red book").
By now, seniors have stopped defending their capitalist proclivities. We have cut out the standard qualifier, " I know it is a sell-out but..." from descriptions of our future career plans. It has become an accepted fact--money, which will wine, dine and allure us in the coming recruiting season, talks. The week's slogan: show me the money.
The problem lies less in the attractiveness of the business world and more in the disingenuity with which OCS, HSA and PHBA (the sponsors of Career Week) have presented "Careers."
Obviously, the fair today, despite the token participation of Teach for
America, the Peace Corps and a handful of other name brand non-profits, is mainly a vehicle of the recruiting process. Students will come to pick up free balls and water bottles, see their friends from previous years in suits and positions of prominence. Then, they will rush back to their computers to eagerly hone their resumes and begin deliberating what bars they will frequent next year on Wall Street.
The business world is obviously desperate to milk our minds, youth, creativity and work ethic. And they have correctly assessed what it takes to attract us: appear competitive, prestigious and upwardly mobile. That's fine. They know that four years
ago, we wanted the absolute best. We did not settle for number three or four on the college rankings.
They prey on our desire to find the "Harvard" of everything: activities,
summer jobs, relationships and now careers.
But to present the recruiting process as the "career process" reflects
Harvard's subtle and not so subtle attempts to challenge our values,
delude our personal goals and to generally morph our diverse interests and talents into its ideal type of a respectable alum.
Three years ago, we sat together in Annenberg, learning about each others successes in viola and hockey, in public service and debate. Now, History and Literature and Folk and Myth students will crowd together with Economics concentrators to hear about the Boston Consulting Group. Harvard has a stake in producing as many of these types as possible; consultant/banker/technology whizzes will chair the alumni campaign of 2030 or maybe donate a computer lab when the brand new Maxwell Dworkin is outdated.
To be fair, the impetus comes mostly from the firms that are recruiting. Local non-profits, magazines, school districts and Congress have few built-in mechanisms or resources to come here and woo us. OCS does attempt to present a variety of other options (or at least, direct us to the ubiquitous "binders in the downstairs reading room"). We should expect more of OCS, though. Compared to the convenience of the recruiting process, finding information about other fields is a much more arduous a task. Students who pursue other fields must be largely selfguided.
Together, OCS and the recruiters have collaborated so that procuring a job as a consultant or investment banker is easier then applying for a Freshman seminar. OCS should compensate, helping ease the research, interview and placement process in other fields. Why not publish a list on the OCS website of names and addresses of contacts in schools, museums, magazines and newspapers, religious organizations and government jobs?
Thankfully, Phillip Brooks House has stepped up its involvement in the
career counseling process. Disappointingly, however, two of the three representatives on the social enterprise panel this week had started off in big bucks consulting.
The first step in resisting the conformism of the job process
boils down to an issue of semantics. White out the title of this week's
handbook. Let's fess up; this is business week, not career week.
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