Every year, a debate rages around the on-campus recruiting process and the degree to which Williams students are turning increasingly to jobs in finance, consulting and investment management. Unfortunately, I feel that most of these arguments become pulpits upon which students either equate business with selling out, or else defend the “right” to make money and the importance of capitalism.
I’m not proposing to make any judgments about the inherent value or worthiness of business jobs, but rather to lament the reasons for why people pursue them in the first place. In essence, I believe that the popularity of consulting and banking is increasingly becoming a product of ignorance; that is, that people apply for and accept jobs in this field because they are not given enough options and perceive it to be the only path available to them. I do not find fault with students for going into these fields, but I do object to the process of indoctrination by which students are made to feel as if business jobs are king and to the egregiously disproportionate priority given to them in the Williams recruiting process.
I hold the Office of Career Counseling responsible for much of students’ false attraction to business (exacerbated by the on-campus recruiting process) and its apathetic attitude toward providing students with a truly diverse and complete range of career options. Even at first glance, there are insufficient structures or mechanisms by which students can even learn about different career fields, or what people in those jobs do on a daily basis. I feel that the OCC has not tapped its extensive alumni network to its greatest potential. The resources available to students interested in non-business fields such as healthcare, the outdoors, entertainment, media, the arts, graduate schools and research are hidden away amongst shelves of books that are oftentimes outdated and merely filled with names. I do not feel that the OCC is responsive toward trends in employment markets or conscious about educating students about “hot” or emerging fields.
Upon reflection, one can see how easy it is to fall into the “trap” of on-campus recruiting; the following factors shed light on how the OCC’s emphasis on business recruiting induces students to interview for positions they may not truly desire and ultimately limits students’ career options:
The business image. Williams is hit – rather, bombarded – with information sessions during the fall. Invariably, consulting, banking and investment firms occupy almost all of these dates. While noteworthy in itself, this trend is made worse by the uniform image of business that is pounded into us: business is glamour, prestige, high responsibility, and the jobs are hard to get.
Never mind the fact that this image has been carefully constructed by firms; the real problem is that the OCC does not allow us to compare these consciously constructed images with those of other types of organizations. It does not even make information packets readily available for organizations that do not visit campus. This leads students to feel that business jobs are the only ones that are prestigious, selective or affording students the opportunity to take on a high degree of responsibility.
The Jobtrak trap. The structure of the Jobtrak application process encourages students to apply indiscriminately to any and all firms. Instead of having to mail out resumes and cover letters, students can simply blast their information out to as many companies as they want and wait for a response. Making the process that much easier (and requiring that much less thought and contemplation about “Do I actually want this job?”) gives people an incentive to interview with organizations that they have little to no interest in.
No time for other searches. The on-campus recruiting period is literally like a full-time job; students are able to interview with more places than ever. The problem, however, is that they are left with less and less time to pursue other avenues of potential interest. All of their energy is devoted toward businesses and companies that come right to their doorstep.
The value of Winter Study is that it gives us the opportunity to really explore all of our options. However, because it is so easy to apply for interviews, and the enormous amount of time that the actual on-campus interviewing process takes, these options are too often ignored. Perhaps this reflects the real cost of Jobtrak, for the recruiting process makes people subsume all of their other interests until after the process is over, by which time, of course, it may be too late.
This situation seems very similar to the pre-med situation that many of us found ourselves in at the end of high school. It seemed as if over 50 percent of the freshman class came to Williams interested in medicine. It was only after we were exposed to different departments, courses and people that we branched out and developed other interests.
At the end of our careers, it is a shame that we should be suddenly pigeonholing ourselves in much the same way as we did at the beginning of college. Ultimately, this may lead seniors to choose business not because they are truly attracted to it, but because they were unable to see the forest for the trees.
So the question remains: what is to be done? Simply put, what I would like to see is a thorough and extensive revamping of the OCC’s treatment of seniors. First and foremost, the OCC should work to strike a balance in terms of the groups that provide information sessions and recruit on-campus in January. The OCC is likely to claim that the problem is one of supply and that business firms are the only ones willing to come, make presentations and give interviews on-campus. Still, I do not believe that the OCC has done all it can to create greater parity in terms of a diverse range of organizations.
Like an admissions office thatt crafts a class and attempts to create a diverse population, the OCC should do the same, working to attract and schedule a diverse group of industries and organizations, instead of taking whatever happens to fall in its lap.
The OCC should realize that it does not have to accommodate every single business that offers to come and interview. Even if it were not possible to attract a single non-business firm to recruit, I think that the OCC should reduce the number of organizations that come to campus. Who says that it needs to pack as many firms as possible into a single day? If there were fewer firms, perhaps students would be induced to spend their newfound time looking at other opportunities instead of going through the interviewing motions.
The OCC could look into the possibility of soliciting or even paying non-profits, Internet startups, government agencies or arts organizations to give talks. Limiting the media and entertainment industry and the non-profit sector to one-day “fairs” is absurd, given the incredible diversity that exists within both of these fields. Furthermore, these sessions should be publicized more widely to campus, both seniors and underclassmen.
The OCC should completely revamp and update all of its alumni lists and stop using them as the primary way for students to educate themselves about career opportunities. Too often, students who are ambivalent about their careers are simply pointed toward a stack of shelves and binders and told to look through piles of outdated names and companies.
This is not the way to educate students about a field. The OCC crows about its “vast alumni network;” I challenge it to better utilize those alumni, perhaps by initiating more panels of speakers who are involved in social work, education and the sciences. At the very least, the OCC should be the one who sets up structures to solicit informational brochures and packets from these alumni, and not simply accept the ones that are sent to them.
Over the course of four years, liberal arts students are the ones who experience the widest range of disciplines and potential fields of employment. We are also the most likely to be ambivalent about our futures. As a result, we need to learn about a wider range of jobs to accommodate such interests. But in order to do so, students of all classes need an OCC that is more committed to educating us about those jobs, and creating a more realistic balance between business and the rest of the world.