OCC: Seniors’ plans for next year still up in the air

As the job search process continues, seniors are doing reasonably well in spite of the sputtering economy, according to Fatma Kassamali, director of the Office of Career Counseling (OCC).

At this point, many seniors have yet to finalize plans for next year. Because many industries, such as communications, teaching and the non-profit sector do not make selections until later in the year, the OCC has little concrete data to report at this point.

The OCC is also relatively uninformed as to the future of the Class of 2003 because students often neglect to notify the OCC when they do find a job.

“Statistics are hard to come by because seniors get their jobs and then just do their thing. They don’t come to the OCC to tell us, so that’s very difficult for us,” Kassamali said.

Kassamali indicated that the OCC will send a formal survey to seniors in mid-May, but that the typical response level to this survey is so low that it is hard to draw any specific conclusions from it.

Despite the lack of hard data, Kassamali is confident that the seniors have been doing well, given the struggling economy. Of the 350 students who have taken advantage of the OCC’s services, Kassamali said that she was confident that 90 to 100 of them have found jobs.

Still, she conceded that the down economy is having an adverse effect on the job market for graduating seniors: “The economy is still bad. It’s odd, because in the past when we had bad economies, like ’83, ’87 or ’92, though the economy was really bad, our students were not affected at all. This economy is affecting liberal-arts institutions much more.”

Kassamali speculated that because businesses are trying to cut costs in creative ways, a common target has been training programs that would typically prepare a liberal-arts student to work in business. Now, she postulated, businesses prefer to hire a student with a business degree.

“They’ll find out in the long run that that’s not a good idea,” Kassamali added.

In part because of the economy, and also in part because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kassamali indicated that graduate-level study in international relations and political science has become increasingly popular: “I feel that since Sept. 11, the trend has been to graduate school, international relations, or political science. Government has definitely become a popular place,” she said.

Because the economy has made it difficult to find consulting or investment banking jobs in New York and Boston, Kassamali said that students need to be receptive to working in other fields in other places. “Boston seems to be the place that people want to go to. That is a tough city, because it already has so many schools, so it becomes really tough when the economy is bad.

“Student need to open their horizons. There are many jobs in the Midwest, but nobody wants to go,” she said.

Kassamali said, however, that in her opinion the economy is again beginning to show signs of life: “I feel a little bit already that the economy is picking up now. Recently, four or five investment banks have called expressing interest in students.”

Kassamali is adamant that students who work with her office can find help there, but not all students report a positive experience working with the OCC. Anjuli Lebowitz ’03, who is hoping to find curatorial work after completing a Ph.D. in the History of Art at the University of Chicago, said, “Museum job listings at the OCC were scarce and outdated. The best place to find museum jobs is in museum publications, which WCMA subscribes to, and the OCC should subscribe to.”

Not all students, however, are working through the OCC at all. After a successful summer internship at JP Morgan, David Brenninkmeyer ’03 will be returning there full time as an Investment Banking Analyst next year. Although two Williams alumni were instrumental in helping him get the job, the OCC was not involved.

And of course, not all students are looking to get a job or go to graduate school in the first place. Rebecca Krass ’03 has decided to take a year off traveling in New Zealand: “After being in school for I don’t even want to think how long, I felt like it was time to do something radically different. Besides, I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I’ve always wanted to go,” she said.

But because most students want to either find a job or continue their education after the completion of their Williams careers, Kassamali stressed the importance of beginning the process early and taking advantage of the OCC’s resources.

Kassamali added,“Juniors, make an appointment now or in the summertime. Get things started early, because there’s a lot of work, research and soul-searching to get done.”