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Every winter, juniors who are interested in summer internships in the finance industry can be seen hurrying in suits from interview to information session to yet another interview. E-recruiting makes the process of landing a lucrative financial internship easier, streamlining the process by which interested students find out about and apply for the positions. The same students then generally use e-recruiting their senior fall to apply for full-time jobs at the same list of banks and firms.
For students uninterested in finance, the path to an internship or job is more uncertain. Though the Office of Career Services has a database with hundreds of jobs that are not in the financial arena, the onus is still mostly on students to learn about opportunities on their own and go through the application process with less guidance than that which e-recruiting provides for its counterparts in finance. Laudably, the college has developed many programs that focus on helping students obtain jobs in alternative careers, such as public service. This new emphasis is in students’ best interests, and the college should continue to expand such programs.
One of the key aspects of e-recruiting is the practice of having on-campus visits for participating companies. Merrill Lynch, Bain and Company, Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, and the Boston Consulting Group were just some of the financial firms to pay a visit to fair Harvard this winter, and their information sessions were packed with students eager to impress their potential interviewers. Also visiting campus, however, were the Peace Corps, which places volunteers in developing countries to promote growth and peace; Education Services Overseas Ltd., which places American and British teachers in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and South Asia regions; and WorldTeach, which offers students a two-month opportunity to teach English in a developing country. That these service organizations were promoted alongside the more traditional e-recruiting companies merits praise.
It is understandable that not every public-service organization can afford to participate in processes similar to e-recruiting. In light of this problem, the college can be instrumental in helping students learn about them anyway. The Center for Public Interest Careers at Harvard does just that. CPIC offers students the opportunity to secure internships at a broad spectrum of nonprofit and public-service organizations in many major cities throughout America. Many of the organizations with which CPIC is involved are small, and students would not hear of them otherwise. Last year, 76 Harvard students found summer internships through CPIC, and there is no sign that interest in CPIC’s program is decreasing.
Another service at Harvard that deserves praise is the Institute of Politics’s Director’s Internship Program. Through the IOP, students can apply for internships in politics or public service, ranging from interning at a congressman’s offices to working for Politico. This year, a record 375 students applied for a Director’s Internship. Students clearly have an interest in working for such organizations, and the opportunities afforded to them by the IOP are commendable.
Beyond merely offering opportunities for students to be employed in the public sector, the college’s emphasis on providing financial incentives for students who choose that career path deserves attention. According to a survey conducted by The Harvard Crimson, two out of every five members of Harvard’s 2008 graduating class headed to a job in business, consulting, or finance. Many of these students were lured to the business world because of the lucrative financial benefits associated with such jobs. Unfortunately, many public-sector jobs require students to sacrifice the opportunity to make a great deal of money. A student with a summer internship at Goldman Sachs, for example, will receive a much higher salary than a student working for his local congressman. Commendably, Harvard has taken great steps to address this inequality. The IOP’s Summer Stipend Program offers a stipend to students working in low- or non-paying summer jobs in government, public interest groups, non-governmental organizations, political organizations, campaigns, and nonprofit groups. In addition, CPIC pays the students for whom it finds employment. Such financial assistance means that students are able to work where they want, and they need not feel they have to take a higher-paying job in which they are less interested.
Admittedly, due to the far more abundant resources of financial firms, there will probably always be more information at Harvard about jobs in the business world than the public-service arena. Nevertheless, OCS and other programs can still work to both expand their support for and increase their emphasis on non-financial careers. It is imperative that students continue to receive directions from OCS’s office at 54 Dunster Street not only to Wall Street but also to Pennsylvania Avenue and other locations around the world.
Alix M. Olian ’11, a Crimson associate editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Lowell House.
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