Personal initiative necessary

So you’re a senior and you didn’t have time to get yourself into Harvard’s graduate physics program. If you have a decent sense of direction in your life, you might want to think about going down to see the people at the Office of Career Counseling (OCC). I mention a decent sense of direction only because there seem to be two keys to successfully navigating the OCC: having a fair idea of what you want to do and figuring out where the bloody place actually is. Surprisingly, it is hidden in the depths of Stetson, almost as an afterthought. There you will find people whose job it is to keep abreast of employment opportunities, which as you will soon find out is tantamount to keeping in touch with as many Williams alumni as possible.

The problem is not that there are too few job opportunities out there, but that even in a recession economy there are many different things out there to do after college. You don’t go to the OCC to figure out what you want to do. You can, and its staff will try to be helpful, but they can’t begin to get a sense of you through a resume (assuming you’ve even thought about writing one) and a few minutes of an interview. Its business is to get you a job, not to make you happy. If you don’t care, then you will be shuffled you into something that looks good based on your resume. Something that sounds good, like banking, insurance, advertising and the like. While it strikes me that this is fine if you’re just looking for “a job” as in “any job” to pay off your loans or take a break before you go to grad school, it still seems that doing something that is somehow rewarding will make the experience much more bearable. College counselors don’t necessarily make good choices for you. For example, the counselor I visited saw that I had an interest in public policy and an international background and tried to direct me towards the Brookings Institute and the Woodrow Wilson Center – places that have an intolerable political bent for me. If I didn’t know better, I might be wasting my time writing cover letters to places I wouldn’t set foot in in a million years.

Arranging an appointment with a counselor is relatively easy, just phone them and they’ll likely as not see you within a few days. The earlier you try the better. As spring rolls around and more and more seniors start panicking, those dark offices become busy places indeed. The great majority of what you do there is reworking your resumes and cover letters. This is, of course, rather important, but not rocket science either. You can also attend the OCC’s conferences on specific job fields. These are useful mainly if there’s someone there you want to make contact with or if you have no clue what people in that field do. If you have a good idea what, for example, public policy is about and you don’t have much interest in the person coming to talk to you about the field, don’t waste your time.

Once you know what you want to do, you can ask the OCC to keep you informed, but I suggest that you do your own research.

The OCC is more connected to some fields than others. Investment banking, insurance, teaching, and left-wing non-profits are all areas well traveled by Williams alums. Unless you’re interested in these options or one of a few select others, it’s a good idea to look around online. OCC is good for what it does, but don’t expect too much. It won’t get you a job and it won’t tell you what you should be doing with your life. And because it’s in Stetson, don’t expect to walk in and just find it.