"It's Time For On-Campus Recruiting! (Well, sort of...)"
Ah, the weather outside has finally started cooperating. No more snow, lots of sun. It's finally fall. I mean spring. Sorry about that. I'm just a little confused, since the Office of Career Services has already started the fall recruiting process. So it can't possibly still be spring. That wouldn't make any sense.
I went to the OCS fall recruiting orientation kickoff meeting this past week. Couldn't tell if it was mandatory or not from the e-mail: "If you plan to participate in fall on-campus interviewing, please attend the orientation, or we will sabotage your bid lottery number, burn your resume, and make you work in Omaha." Guess it's mandatory.
The career services representatives began the meeting by congratulating themselves at how lucky they are to have ended up working here and not at Thomas Cooley Law School. Over 700 employers come here to interview students in the fall. This is entirely because of the competence of our career services office and has nothing at all to do with the fact that this is Harvard. Nothing. It actually is a bit amazing that 700 employers come for probably a total of 500 students looking for jobs, and given that the biggest ones take a bunch each, a lot of these firms must be literally competing to even have a possibility of getting one student (and how lucky they would be...). It sort of sounds like the opposite of the college admissions process. Lots of spots, limited number of students. And, apparently, plenty of "financial aid" to go around. But, unfortunately, no time for any extracurriculars.
They told us firms come from cities big and large, over 100 cities in all. Big cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago, and "small cities like Philadelphia, Miami, Houston...." On what scale are Philadelphia and Houston small cities? Oh, I forgot. The Harvard Law School recruiting scale. Philadelphia and Houston are small cities in the same way that $100,000 is a small starting salary, and 80 is a small number of billable hours per week. Another small city they mentioned was Michigan. I think it's somewhere in New Jersey. Perhaps the students at Colombia Law School in South America have heard of it.
The real key to the meeting was finding out the list of things we must do over the summer. Impossible to explain without an in-person meeting, the list includes updating our resume, lining up three references, ordering our transcript, developing a writing sample, and choosing which firms we want to bid on. Whew, that was complicated. But things may change - "be sure to check the OCS website throughout the summer," the handout says in bold letters, "for critical OCI updates." Like this one I'm projecting to see sometime in the middle of July: "Attention, students. All law firms in the universe have decided that resumes must be written in Greek. Please update yours accordingly." Or this one, from early August: "Transcripts now come in three flavors: cherry, honey-lemon, and traditional menthol. Please check with your top firm choices to see which they prefer." Or, the day after the end of the world: "Due to recent events, three of the seven hundred firms scheduled to come to campus have cancelled their visits. For the six hundred and ninety-seven others, on-campus interviewing will proceed as normal, except that the interviews will be held somewhere in the atmosphere (to be announced), since the planet has vaporized. Not even the end of the world can stop our graduates from securing high-paid employment upon graduation."
The big key to the recruiting process is research. Research, research, research. Gotta learn the difference between the cities and states (I know, I'm beating that one to death). "It's hard to tell the difference between firms A, B, and C," they said. "They tell you what you want to hear. They'll all tell you can have a rewarding career as well as a life. It's all marketing." They really said that. I took careful notes.
They told us about the hypothetical "Joe Bloggs," the worst-case-scenario icon of what happens when you don't do any research. He misses the OCS orientation, logs onto the Vault list the last day of the bidding lottery and just picks the firms he's heard of, ends up with 8 callbacks, but realizes they all do corporate transactional work, while he wants to do litigation. Worst-case-scenario, they tell us. The homeless guy outside of CVS in Harvard Square is crying for you, Joe Bloggs. "Corporate transactional work instead of litigation?" "Only 8 callbacks?" "How will you ever survive?"
You want an on-campus interviewing worst-case-scenario? Here's one. You submit your resume on time but OCS loses it, your lottery bid choices vanish into cyberspace, you end up interviewing only with firms in "small cities" like San Francisco, Tokyo, and Calcutta, your fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant you eat in the night before your first interview reads "You Will Get SARS" (I've been waiting all column to make that line... without a doubt a current best-seller in the novelty fortune-cookie market... make a tiny bit of sense somewhere... anywhere...), and on the way to the Charles Hotel you fall into a well. Although even in a coma, you can probably get a job with a firm in a small rural farming community like Nashville or Cleveland, so you're still probably good. But that's certainly a more realistic "worst-case scenario."
My favorite part of the OCS orientation was the question-and-answer session. "I'll take any questions you might have that you think might be relevant to the 500 other students in the room eyes glued to their watches and perched on the edges of their seats just waiting to escape." "Yes, here's a quick question I'm sure everyone else wants to hear the answer to. I, personally, me and only me, want to split my summer between a litigation firm in Atlanta and a greenhouse in the city of Canada. I was wondering how the following seventeen firms on this list I've got in my pocket would feel about that, just off the top of your head. Also, I'm lactose-intolerant." Yes, general questions like that.
On the way out, they noted that we could find the handouts they'd given us on their web page, "which can be found in a number of different locations." (I think I'll just look for it on the Law School web site, if that's okay.) You mean we could've gotten the handouts without going to the meeting? Really? Thanks for the meeting, career services. Good thing I went, since I'm sure there won't be any more in the fall.
Outtakes from OCS
I've somehow gotten my hands on a super-secret videotape of the OCS practice session, held the morning of the orientation meeting, where the staff members rehearsed their lines and did some last-minute preparation. Some of the lines that didn't make it into the real meeting:
"Welcome to the OCS orientation session for fall recruiting 2007. We're trying to get an early head start here..."
"Even though there are seven hundred firms, only a small handful of students in most years interview with all of them. You may want to trim your list to only four or five hundred of your top choices."
"...or small cities like Shanghai, Mexico City, and Neptune."
"You might try this tactic for finding out the real truth about life at your top-choice firm: find an associate who looks somewhat similar to you. Club him with a crow bar on his way out of the office one morning at four a.m., steal his access badge and brand-new suit, and go into work the next morning at six pretending to be him. You'll get a first-hand look at the life of an associate, and be all the more prepared to do your bidding."
"While most of your resume should be in 10- or 12-point font, the word "Harvard" should appear in 64-point type, and preferably be accompanied by blinking Christmas tree lights."
"...appropriate references can be law school professors, former employers, or Saturday Night Live actor Chris Parnell, pretending to be President Bush calling Skadden on your behalf."
"You should choose 8 cities to visit for firm callbacks. This will enable you to earn frequent flyer miles out the wazoo, and keep you well-rested for the interviews."
"If you would like OCS to review your resume... tough luck."
"It is critical that you check the OCS website frequently over the summer. We get paid by the hit."
"Make sure your cover letters... aw, screw it. I'm sick of this crap, year after year, watching these 24-year-old bastards getting jobs with a starting salary thirty-three times higher than the $8/hour Harvard pays us, without so much as lifting a finger. Let's see if they can hack it if we cancel the interviewing process, refuse to release their transcripts, and spray the campus with a highly contagious fungus. Then we'll see how smart they are. That'll show them!"