It’s that time of year again—the one in which a third of campus dresses to the nines, puts on its best networking faces, and always seems as though it has more important people to whom it should be speaking. While this may sound like the beginning of final club punch, it actually marks the transition to “recruiting season,” the hypercompetitive process in which Harvard juniors and seniors scuffle between on-campus interviews with their dream employers in the fields of consulting and finance. Or at least that’s what any outside observer must think simply by viewing the urgency with which some of the school’s most dedicated students devote themselves to landing some of America’s most lucrative entry-level positions.
Obviously, the notion that so many students arrive at this liberal arts college with a passion for finance or consulting is a dubious one. But this does not stop a full 39 percent of the senior class from participating in the On-Campus Interview Program offered by Harvard’s Office of Career Services. When the implications of the current job market are taken into consideration in tandem with the exigencies held by holders of liberal arts degrees, it is not difficult to understand why recruiting is so popular among those facing imminent graduation. Money, status, and the potential for attractive future opportunities are all strong reasons to participate in the program, and Harvard’s complete lack of any pre-professional finance curriculum enables students from all academic disciplines to participate on a relatively level playing field. And it certainly helps that, during recruiting season, prospective employers come here, providing Harvard students with the privilege to limit the geographic scope of their job hunt to their own backyard.
We applaud OCS for its success at linking students to these specific career opportunities. The primary concern of most upperclassmen here is securing employment post-graduation, and it is impressive that 18 to 22 percent of the student body manage to consistently land jobs in consulting and finance.
Every student undoubtedly knows too many classmates who succumb to what OCS Director Robin Mount terms the “lemming effect,” in which students feel compelled to join the recruiting program because of outside pressure—either social or institutional in nature. While it is a shame to think that students may pursue career opportunities in which they are truly not interested, culpability in this regard ultimately lies with students themselves on not with OCS.
OCS’s efforts are admirable. The office works diligently to present students with a wide array of opportunities in a diverse sampling of fields that appeal to a broad range of interests. In attempting to combat the potential for institutional pressure to go into finance or consulting, OCS cautions visitors to its website that “Although students often report that it feels like ‘everyone’ is using OCI to find their job or internship, that is not statistically the case.” Somewhat ironically, some students have even complained that OCS deemphasizes finance and consulting recruiting in favor of alternative programming. We wholeheartedly disagree and believe the office has taken significant steps toward fostering the mindset that—despite the inescapability of friends in suits—there are plenty of options. We implore OCS to keep up the good work.
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