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Beyond Finance and Consulting

The College must promote the relative standing of public service

By The Crimson Editorial Board

A troubling trend is emerging for consulting and financial firms’ recruiting efforts at Harvard. Recently, these companies have been shifting their recruitment schedules earlier and earlier in what has become a competition to attract talented students before other corporations can snap them up.

This trend parallels an even larger one: increasing student interest in finance and consulting jobs. Indeed, the culture that has incentivized finance and consulting businesses to start recruiting earlier is made possible by more students fighting for jobs in these fields. According to the Office of Career Services’ senior survey data, currently around a quarter of Harvard students choose to work in consulting and finance after graduation, a figure that ignores the percentage of alumni who come to those fields later.

Both of these developments are saddening, as they come at the expense of jobs in other fields such as public service. These careers, while not as financially lucrative, can greatly benefit society, which needs talented individuals who decide to pursue callings that fulfill both themselves and the public, even if these careers come with a smaller paycheck.

Ultimately, the job market is just that—a market. People weigh a variety of factors in their decision, but often choose the jobs that provide the greatest material incentives. We thus urge the University to make jobs that provide a direct service to society more enticing to students. Harvard offers a plethora of resources for students interested in finance or consulting, including on-campus interviews, an abundance of job postings on Crimson Careers, and targeted OCS advising. It should similarly offer more partnerships with outside public service groups such as non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and governments around the world.

This course of action will ameliorate the trend of students pursuing financial and consulting jobs, and it will combat the stigma that surrounds working in public service at Harvard. We have previously opined that this culture is a serious problem on Harvard’s campus, and support any measure that could mitigate this stigma’s damaging effects.

That the recruiting processes for finance and consulting firms is moving earlier also places an additional hurdle for low-income students. The finance and consulting industries already lack diversity, reflecting deeper systemic issues of privilege and bias. When Harvard’s culture overemphasizes the accessibility of finance jobs, and when Harvard allows financial and consulting firms to move their events earlier and earlier, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may feel increased pressure to enter these fields, while also having less resources available to them. They may lack the same family connections of their peers, and they may not yet have had time to develop close relationships with professors and other mentors. Additionally, they will not be given an opportunity to compare these jobs to public service opportunities, given the different time-frames. These students may feel more compelled to find a high-paying job, given their own families may not have as many financial resources.

The decision to pursue finance or consulting should never feel like students’ only, or default, option. This unfortunate scenario will occur if Harvard does not expand its support of students who are taking the road increasingly less traveled by pursuing public service after graduation.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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