HarvardOCS

Harvard FAS Office of Career Services

Careers in Sexual Health

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Nearly concluding a busy and exciting week for the first annual Sex Week at Harvard was a panel on sexual health careers co-sponsored by the Peer Contraceptive Counselors and the Office of Career Services. Other co-sponsors included the International Women’s Rights Collective, Response Peer Counseling, ECHO Peer Counseling, Contact Peer Counseling, and SHEATH. The panel included a diverse array of experiences and opportunities for entering the field.

Lydia Shrier, a senior associate in medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, “fell into” sexual health by way of her early interest in pediatrics. After taking care of babies, Shrier became interested in adolescent health and was exposed to sexual health work. Kendra Moore, the women’s health outreach coordinator for Fenway Health, was always interested in non-profit work, especially in women’s health and LGBTQ rights. Through an AmeriCorps fellowship, Moore was introduced to sexual health. Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard University, described his career as “accidental, and certainly nothing my parents planned.” Having attended a small Catholic college with little exposure to such issues, Lehmiller’s eyes were opened after serving as a teaching assistant for a human sexuality course while earning his doctorate. And Karyn Evlog-Lewis, a nurse with the Massachusetts SANE program, came from law enforcement. In the course of her work, Evlog-Lewis learned about SANE and found it nicely combined her diverse interests.

“I’ve got the best job,” Shrier declared with a smile. “I get to talk about sex and drugs with students! We have fun and humorous conversations about uncomfortable topics.” Moore cherishes the one-on-one time she spends with patients. “I learn from the people I talk to every day,” she said. “I feel like I’m fighting for things that are important.” Like Moore, Evlog-Lewis values the one-on-one care of SANE nursing compared to the more impersonal task of floor nursing. “I like being able to take care of someone and feel like I’m doing something important,” she explained. And buried under a heavy – and admittedly self-imposed – workload, Lehmiller notes that “what I like is what is difficult,” yet says he still finds the motivation to get it done.

Why is sexual health important to these panelists? “Historically, women have been treated poorly in emergency rooms,” explained Evlog-Lewis. “I feel a great sense of satisfaction and hope when helping these women.” Moore observes a great deal of misinformation and shame surrounding conversations about sex, and wants to do something about it. “Sex is a part of everyone’s lives,” she said. “It’s important to make an impact and bring up the conversation among all walks of life.” Lehmiller initially became interested in sexual health because it was “fun and interesting,” but now “it’s very personally meaningful” and fulfilling to work on. And Shrier calls her a job a “real privilege,” saying that she “feels appreciated” and is able to “influence people in a tangible way.”

Did the panelists imagine they’d be where they are now while in college? “My parents picked my first major,” admitted Lehmiller with a chuckle. “I never imagined this career until I began exploring other options.” Likewise, Shrier initially focused her efforts on medical school and pediatrics. “I had no idea I’d end up here,” she said. “But after some experience with adolescent health, I realized I loved it because I could work on so many different aspects of medicine.” Evlog-Lewis earned a psychology degree because back then, the common sense was that “if you got a piece of paper, you’d get a job.” Yet she never imagined her current job, and neither did Moore. “I knew some things I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure,” she said. “For me, it was all about different and enriching work experiences.” Certainly, she has that now.

So what advice would the panelists give to interested students? “You can go at it in any number of ways,” explained Shrier. “Decide what you’re interested in and put a path together.” Echoing the point, Moore urged the audience to “think about what skills and areas are interesting to you, and then learn as much as you can.” Lehmiller put it nicely: “what will you wake up excited to do every single day?” Answering him in the affirmative, Evlog-Lewis traced a personal history featuring several careers and ended with a simple declaration: “You have to really want to do this.” If you want it, you can do it – these panelists are living proof of this truth.

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

Social Change & NGOs

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In an ever-changing world filled with colossal and puzzling problems, what exactly is the most effective way to initiate social change? Four panelists grappled with this pressing issue last Tuesday afternoon. In a discussion led by Smitha Ramakrishna ’13, students from all areas of expertise and experience heard first-hand accounts of what it is like to work in this career industry, and gained wisdom on how to succeed in the field.

Some might consider some sectors for NGOs as an act of “tough love” at times, but these panelists stressed the importance of a personal passion for this career space. “Working in the field you’re passionate about is an incredible thing,” explained Katherine Conway, a manager at Amigos de las Americas and first-year student at the Fletcher School. Katherine emphasized the excitement she had for her work out of college that allowed her to travel to a wide variety of villages and countries dealing with issues such as anti-poverty and international development. Joshua Rubenstein, a director at Amnesty International, also spoke to the aspect of travel involved in this career field. He encouraged his audience to get experience working abroad in various cultures, as well as to study foreign languages at a college level. “Learning the language of the place you are working makes it a way more impactful experience,” he said.

Another topic raised during the panel (one that is addressed frequently in this field on the whole) is the difference experiences that come from working in a smaller office versus a larger one. Katherine explained that she tried to stay in smaller NGOs because she wanted to get a heavier hand in the inner workings of the organization. “I want to be at the table when decisions are being made,” she said. “That’s the only way you get leadership and management experience.” Contrarily, Ilana Nelson-Greenberg, who works for Partners In Health, recognized that there is certainly a lot to learn in a small organization, but she personally preferred a larger office. “The mentorship I’ve found in bigger corporations has been really key for my experience,” she explained. “There are people I can learn from who have been thinking about these topics for 25 years.”

Though the panelists’ conversation took its audience through an inside tour of careers in NGOs, there was one comment that surprised many in the audience: recognizing that not all positions for social change are rooted in a drastic reworking of the current framework. Ilana spoke to this view from her experience in global health. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” she put it plainly. “There’s a tendency among our generation to think that global health is impenetrable, and that there are simply too many pieces of the puzzle. But there’s nothing wrong with plugging into the large groups who have already tried to deal with these issues. That’s a perfect way that you can help, and you don’t need to reinvent that.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

How Important Is Your GPA?

So you’re a student at Harvard. You’ve made it to the big time. Time after time, you’ve proven your ability, and now – finally – you can relax in a fun community of scholars. Right?

Unfortunately, that’s just not the experience of the average Harvard student. For any number of reasons, students regularly experience a great deal of stress, most notably in the academic sphere. The question becomes, then, a simple one: how important, really, is the GPA?

With an audience filled to capacity, the Office of Career Services recently hosted a panel of students and scholars, advisers and professionals. Moderated by Dr. Ariel Phillips from the Bureau of Study Counsel, the group’s collective record boasted numerous successes and failures. Together, the panel represented:

  • 5 graduate degrees, 10 teaching appointments, 3 books, 5 grants/fellowships, 1 cable show host, 1 deanship; but also,
  • 12 failed grant applications, 2 aborted grants, several “C” grades, 1 rejected dissertation, 1 final exam slept through, and 1 incomplete high school degree.

What, then, can be said about the GPA and the college experience?

“Don’t necessarily listen to your mom,” suggested Rory Michelle Sullivan ‘09, a first-year proctor at the College and the Director for Residential Education and Arts Initiatives at the Freshman Dean’s Office. As an undergraduate, Sullivan wished to concentrate in folklore & mythology but chose a more conventional department at the behest of her family. Though she found some success in her classes – including a statistics project published in The Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal (THURJ) – Sullivan ultimately felt out of place, even once having to meet with her resident dean after almost failing a course. It wasn’t until she took some classes in folklore & mythology that she felt successful. “When you do the things you’re passionate about, you’ll want to put in the time and it won’t feel like work,” she explained. “So trust yourself.”

For Taras Dreszer ’14, the message was similar: “Do what you feel you want to be doing.” In the last two years, grades were not a priority for Dreszer, who decided to pursue piano lessons and other interesting opportunities with the flexibility of a healthier schedule. “If you can accept a B+ in a class, you’ll experience an exponential reduction in stress,” he explained. Though he initially felt inadequate and miserable at times, finding few others who shared his attitude, Dreszer has since adjusted well and even plans to take a semester or year off in the coming months. “Don’t be afraid not to be the norm here,” he urged the eager crowd.

Taking the long view, Dr. Oona Ceder ’90 – the Assistant Director for Premedical and Health Careers Advising at OCS – emphasized strength of attitude. “The academic experience is a process,” she said. “Don’t let perceived ‘failures’ take hold of you.” Growing up with an organic chemist for a father, Ceder was certain she would also study chemistry at Harvard…only to score much lower on the chemistry placement test than she expected. Luckily, she was accepted into a competitive freshman seminar with renowned political science professor Joseph Nye. It wasn’t until graduate school applications that Ceder realized her blessing in disguise. “I realized I had done really well in the courses I loved,” she explained. Thanks to good mentors – who weren’t always obviously supportive – and in spite of a “C” on her transcript, Ceder forged a successful path.

Echoing the sentiments of her colleagues, Dr. Elizabeth Pegg Frates ’90 – assistant clinical professor and Director of Medical Student Education in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School – encouraged students to follow their passion; to be open to challenges, even if they don’t lead to “the best” grade; and to cultivate a “growth mindset.” Though she originally planned to concentrate in economics and take over her family’s business, Frates found that she didn’t like economics as much as she thought. (Wondering if it was only her who fell asleep in Economics 10, one student replied without missing a beat, “No, the lectures are boring, I fall asleep, too!”) Faced with her father’s paralyzation in her sophomore year, Frates was introduced to medicine and eventually pursued that career instead. And despite receiving a C+ in one course, she followed her father’s advice and moved on from the failure. “Constantly be looking for opportunities to grow,” she emphasized. “If you fail, recognize that it happened and figure out why so you can do things differently in the future.”

Other helpful advice from the panel:

  • Most employers who come to campus look at academic performance, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Even if you don’t make a “GPA cutoff,” apply anyway!
  • Employers and admissions committees are often interested in the content of the courses you take, so don’t be afraid to take a challenging course that interests you.
  • As always, when applying for jobs, know something about the industry you want to work for and be cautious of etiquette. In reality, almost no one asks about your GPA in the professional world!

So be yourself and pursue your passion. The GPA is really just an afterthought.

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

Harvard Welcomes ROTC

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This past fall, Harvard University welcomed the return of the U.S. Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), thus offering new opportunities for growth, service and leadership. To help students explore how a Harvard education might apply to a military career, the Office of Career Services hosted a panel featuring several Harvard alumni (and one MIT alumnus) who found themselves, at one point or another, serving their country in the line of duty. Subdued yet dignified, the participants shared a wide range of experiences and wisdom drawn from their time in and out of the U.S. military.

Moderating the panel, and representing the U.S. Army, was Robert Wheeler, a Fellow at the Harvard Business School Forum for Growth and Innovation, and now a consultant for Bain & Company. Also representing the Army was Erik Malmstrom, a joint M.P.P.-M.B.A. candidate at Harvard Kennedy and Business Schools. Peter Brooks (COL ’06) stood in for the U.S. Marine Corps, also a joint M.P.P-M.B.A. candidate. Now a civilian employee for an energy software and consulting firm in Boston, Stephanie Hendricks (COL ’05) was present for the U.S. Navy. Finally, current HBS student and MIT alumnus Ashley Claybourne spoke for the U.S. Air Force. Together, the panelists displayed the diversity of paths available to Harvard students interested in military service, as well as expressing the concerns and realities of such a career.

Though careful not to paint too pretty a picture of life in the military, the panelists glowed with praise for their experience and the men and women with whom they served. “Everything is geared toward a goal, toward making good decisions and taking action,” said Robert Wheeler, emphasizing the “heavy responsibility” military officers carried. “Learn from them, but also share your college experience,” he encouraged. Peter Brooks echoed Wheeler, saying, “The people you work with will be your greatest reward and your hardest challenge.”

In this vein, panelists noted what they observed to be a “change in personality” of military recruits over the last decade. Before 9/11, they explained, the military was more of a “club.” Now, the quality of the recruits is the same, but the “passion” is different – those joining the military now “know what they are joining – we’re in a war, and will be for decades more,” said a visiting National Security Fellow at Harvard present in the audience. “The work is now largely peacekeeping and rebuilding, expeditionary and austere,” he explained. “There will be no ‘welcome back’ parades.”

In considering a military career, the panelists highlight significant facets of the job. “Keep in mind that you will move every two to three years,” said Ashley Claybourne. In his reflections, Erik Malmstrom discussed other challenges of a military life, including the “reintegration process” upon returning from service as well as the “quality of life” you may experience. Having served in Afghanistan, Malmstrom also addressed the issue of morale, saying “It’s hard if you lose faith in what you’re doing.”

Despite their range of experience and opinion, the panelists were sure to express their desire to help any and all interested students determine whether this type of work is a good fit for them. “We’re not here to recruit anyone,” said another National Security Fellow present. “[Life in the military] isn’t for the majority of people, but for the right person there’s no better step.” Interested students are encouraged to reach out to former service members in the Harvard community, independently or through Crimson Serves.

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

For additional coverage of the Army ROTC’s return to Harvard, read the recent Gazette article here. Visit OCS to obtain a copy of “After Harvard: Considering Military Service,” a publication written by Crimson Serves. Excerpts follow:

imageCaptain Robert Wheeler
Harvard College 2005, Harvard Business School 2011. Formerly: US Army Air and Missile Defense Officer. Currently: Consultant at Bain & Company
“I joined the military knowing I wanted to serve my country for four years and then return to the private sector for my career. In the military, I received an awesome amount of responsibility planning and managing America’s air and missile defense system for current and future conflicts. I know that I made a difference, contributed to American security, and made a difference in lives of the men and women I led. And now that I’m back in the civilian sector, I realize that the military prepared me incredibly well for a career in business and management. In fact, sometimes my tasks seem downright easy compared to what my fellow soldiers and I were asked to do in the Army.”

Web Resources

www.military.com – This website is a must-visit for answers to any questions you have regarding military life, benefits, and any type of information you are looking for regarding the services.

www.airforce.com; www.goarmy.com; www.gocoastguard.com; www.navy.com;www.marines.com These are the official recruiting websites for the five US military services. These sites will give you a good idea of the types of jobs available, answer common questions that new recruits often have, and point you in the direction of resources and recruiters who can help you go through the process of joining the military.

http://www.craigmmullaney.com/content/behind.asp?id=list – Provides a great reading list of books relevant to the military profession. Whether you are trying to figure out what combat in Afghanistan is like, what training is like, or how service fits in with your personal ethics, you will find a book to help you here.

http://www.afoats.af.mil/ots/; http://www.goarmy.com/ocs.html; http://www.gocoastguard.com/find-your-career/officer-opportunities/programs/officer-candidate-school; http://www.ocs.usmc.mil/; http://www.ocs.navy.mil/ – For most of those reading this, the most common path to commissioning will be through one of the services’ Officer Candidate Schools. These websites provide extensive information on what to expect, how to prepare, and what life is like at the various courses.

http://web.mit.edu/navyrotc/; http://www.mit.edu/~afrotc/; http://web.mit.edu/armyrotc/These are the websites for the MIT Navy, Air Force, and Army ROTC units. If you are interested in ROTC or learning more about the military, they are a great place to start.

http://www.crimsonserves.comCrimson Serves is a non-profit organization that seeks to maintain and improve upon the bond between Harvard and the military. Crimson Serves includes many Harvard graduates who chose to pursue military service after their education. At CrimsonServes.com, you can find Harvard graduates who will be happy to speak with you and answer any of the questions you have about service after Harvard.

The Inside Scoop on Who Gets Hired in International Development

“The world is flat,” wrote New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman in 2005. Now, more than ever, his tales of rapid globalization ring true for students – and prospective employees – around the world. Indeed, students interested in international development are more empowered than their historical counterparts to access all corners of the globe and to aid communities in rebuilding and renewing their strength.

To help Harvard students take advantage of the opportunities available to them, the Office of Career Services invited Laura Retzler, director of recruitment for FHI 360, to give “the inside scoop” on who, in fact, does get hired in the field of international development. With a budget of $735 million, offices in 60 developing countries, and a workforce of 6,600, Retzler knows quite well what recruiters and search committees look for in potential applicants. Certainly, applicants must be familiar with a wide range of fields and challenges. FHI 360 alone addresses all aspects of development, from education and civil society to the environment and food/water security.

Moreover, Retzler outlined five steps to a success application:

1.      Articulate your accomplishments. “People remember your stories, not your platitudes,” quipped Retzler. “Tell stories that illustrate your best qualities.” To do this, of course, you need to know those qualities and the strengths and skills that define them.

2.      Identify what you want. “Demonstrate a match between you want and what THEY want,” Retlzer emphasized. In making a match, you may want to consider the mission of the organization, the people who work there, and the organizational culture. Not sure how to begin? Try analyzing your past jobs, enumerating what you liked and didn’t like. Or, draw up your “dream” (or “nightmare”) job ad!

3.      Build your network. Retzler admits that this step “might be counterintuitive,” but it is arguably the most important. Begin by identifying your top 20 organizations, and learn about them: history, size, scope, and niche. Informational interviews can be very important in this process by bringing organizations to life and helping you discover job opportunities, among other things.

4.      Tailor your resume.

5.      Volunteer strategically. “It has to be related to the job search,” Retzler explained. Look for volunteer opportunities with your top 20 organizations, or with an organization that deals specifically with your interests.

The following organizations will also be helpful for students in the field:

·         American Public Health Association (www.apha.org)

·         American Society for Tropical Medicine & Health (www.astmh.org)

·         International AIDS Society (www.iasociety.org)

·         Development Executive Group (www.devex.com)

·         Global Health Council (www.globalhealth.org)

·         Society for International Development (www.sidw.org)

And be sure to create a LinkedIn profile! Visit OCS for assistance.

Happy hunting!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

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Made popular by the novels of Isaac Asimov and the film I, Robot, among others, the field of robotics offers an intellectually stimulating and exciting environment for those who pursue it. And like other technological industries in the twenty-first century, the field continues to evolve with impressive speed, leaving the complacent and stagnant behind.

The Office of Career Services recently invited two representatives from iRobot to visit Harvard’s campus and share an “insider’s perspective” on the robotics industry. Presenting on the second floor of Maxwell Dworkin, the heart of Harvard’s computer science studies, the representatives explained the internal structure and current initiatives of iRobot while using their experience to share more general thoughts on the industry at-large.

Founded in 1990, iRobot is the only company in the world with an exclusive focus on robots. It claims $1.5 billion annually in revenue and boasts an employee pool of over 750 members. Their robots span all kinds of uses and environments, from national defense and law enforcement to home and office support. Among its more well-known products is the Roomba, now several generations into development.

Employees develop robots on three “horizons”: horizon 1, supporting what’s on shelves today and making incremental changes as necessary; horizon 3, research and development into the robots we’ll see 5-10 years from now; and horizon 2, product development providing a bridge between the other two. iRobot particularly prides itself on designing robots “that make a difference” – for example, the company provided robots to repair the recently damaged nuclear sites in Japan.

Other projects include: 

AwareHead Autonomy Payload:
A sensor that enables operations in crazy environments.

General Object Recognition:
Ability to differentiate objects (e.g. a car versus a horse versus a plane).

Compliant End Effectors:
Robotic arms and fingers that are flexible and robust.

Transhibian:
A “robotic turtle.”

Modular Compliant Suspension Package:
A robot that can travel smoothly over rough terrain.

Compact Untethered Flexure Robot:
A robot that “slides” and can move under doors.

Where do these ideas come from? “Sometimes it starts as a joke,” the engineers explained with a chuckle. The joke leads to a sit-down brainstorming session, where team members make rolling pitches and together determine what is needed for the project. “Turns out, you can do a lot of things,” they declared. “It just takes a little innovation.”

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Now, a career in robotics typically begins with an internship, explained the iRobot representatives. During this time, “a company tries you out, and you decide whether you like it,” with a great deal of hiring potential. Entry-level employees then begin as junior level engineers of all types, either in product development or research. How do you grow in the company? Just like most careers, you need to “execute well,” debugging prototypes and proving your skill. Depending on your demonstrated passion and skill, there is limited flexibility in the projects you can take on, though ultimately your work depends on the contracts you secure. You may also have opportunities to see a project through to completion, though this is not the default scenario.

Companies in robotics understand that most colleges provided little or no opportunity to gain experience in the field. Thus, they’re looking for interest and drive, and a demonstration that you know and understand basic technologies. Of course, if possible, you should seek employment in a university robotics lab. As the representatives explained, knowing the “nitty gritty details of robotics” will make you a “bright star” in any application pool.

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"Knowing the “nitty gritty details of robotics” will make you a “bright star” in any application pool."

Ultimately, what makes robotics a field? The need to incorporate multiple scientific disciplines, since “everything affects everything,” and the challenge of weighing so many different variables in an industry still in its infancy. Understand these challenges, and develop the skills to address them, and you will lead a successful career. Good luck! 

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

Reality is Broken: The Future is in Gaming!

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Reality is broken,” recently declared game designer Jane McGonigal. Instead, humans are fashioning their own realities in a rapidly evolving video game industry that waits for no one. The future, she believes, belongs to those who understand and harness the power of gaming.

To help students launch a career in this important field, the Office of Career Services welcomed an engaging panel straddling both national coasts. Present in the Dunster Street office was Jason Booth of Harmonix; present via Skype, streaming from a game developers conference in California, were Caroline Murphy of Brass Monkey and Lea Hyke of Granite Ventures. Together, the panelists laid out a bird’s eye view of the industry while offering tips and strategies for finding jobs and eventually maintaining a successful career.

By mere virtue of their respective jobs, the panelists represented a diversity of opportunities in video gaming. Jason, now a senior technical designer with Harmonix, began his education at the Berklee School of Music. While at Berklee, Jason taught himself 3D animation and ended up at a couple different gaming firms – one of which he helped to start – before ending at Harmonix. Caroline is the director of operations for Brass Monkey, handling everything “that isn’t art or code,” and Lea is a recruiter for Granite Ventures, currently working with GREE – a Japanese mobile gaming company – to recruit new designers.

The video game industry today shakes out into two major fields, known as console and social gaming. The more traditional of the two, console gaming is familiar to us as PlayStation, GameBoy, etc., and revolves around dealing with publishers and internally developing new games. With the rise of Internet technology and platforms like Facebook and the mobile phone, however, social gaming has grown to prominence. Here, developers frequently push out new games and rely on user metrics to make adjustments.

How do you get into this dynamic industry? Begin by developing your interests and skills. “Companies are interested in investing in new talent,” said Lea. “Be open and flexible about what you do.” Don’t stop there – be a gamer, too! And make yourself known. “Be interested in all types of games,” suggested Caroline. “And go to networking events! Hang out, be nice, get to know people.” As a technical designer, Jason also had some frank advice. “If you want to make games, make games!” he declared. While acknowledging the lack of formal opportunities to design games, Jason explained, “right now, you have the most free time you’ll ever have,” leaving you with plenty of risk-free opportunities to develop your skills.

The panelists weren’t without suggestions for developing said skills, either. Jason suggested Flash portals, Unreel, StarCraft, and other games with editing programs as tools for personal development. “The point is to understand the process and the challenges associated with it,” he explained. “Don’t worry if you’re not the best – just make something and finish it, even if it’s crap.” Lea, on the other hand, emphasized the important of diversifying your skill set, especially in such a rapidly changing industry. “Don’t get stuck on one thing, or you’ll become obsolete and stagnant,” she warned. “Keep adding to your professional toolkit” by learning something new every six months and by keeping up with news across the country and around the world.

Without a doubt, talent of all stripes is needed in this growing industry. “When developing games, it’s about the team dynamic, not needing this or that kind of person,” explained Jason. Techies of diverse expertise will each be valuable as members of a creative team. On the other hand, those with a less technical background should look to game testing and marketing or producing roles shortly out of college. Lea suggested going for the “McDonald’s job,” the kind of job you’re willing to take now to gain the knowledge and expertise you’ll need later in your career. Ultimately, it’s important to follow your interests and to get started early and often. The future awaits!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

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“Trust me, this job search will be very different from any other search you ever do,” OCS adviser Benny Belvin said last Thursday in regard to finding a job in the government. At this OCS program entitled “Working for the Federal Government: Resources and Strategies for Finding Jobs and Internships,” Benny laid out the facts about this sometimes-nebulous career field.

First, Benny explained the application process and highlighted some of its idiosyncrasies. “You definitely won’t see expediency in this hiring process,” he warned students. This can be frustrating because there are “only so many ways into the field” of this meritocratic system. However, Benny encouraged students to plan ahead in applying and to prepare for a wait after submitting their application because this process simply entails many more steps than that of the private sector. Relatedly, Benny mentioned that the on-campus recruiting programs for government jobs do not serve the purpose one might expect: they exist more for informational purposes for potential employers, not for actual job recruiting.

One of the major differences between these applications and those of private corporations is the resume format: for government jobs, the required resumes are 4-5 pages that include much more information and detail. While creating such a long resume seems a daunting and burdensome task, it actually benefits both the hirers and the applicants: the depth and detail of this longer resume format ensures the compatibility of employee and position. “They want to make sure you are perfectly matched,” Benny clarified.

Despite these potential application drawbacks, Benny assured his audience that this field is definitely a rewarding one. “The government is the most stable employer that will continue to hire despite an ever-shifting economy,” he explained. The benefits are intense, salaries are very good, and opportunities to work one’s way up through the office are plenty. The salaries are based on a federal salary scale that ensures relatively good pay for all; this scale is based on qualifying education – so the more education one has, the more he or she is paid. Furthermore, careers within the federal government offer a range of geographic flexibility. According to Benny, “only 16% of federal jobs are located in Washington, D.C., and there are more than 50,000 federal jobs overseas.”

As these government jobs come with so many perks, the popular agencies will undoubtedly have an extremely high volume of applications. Benny recommended that students wishing to apply for these positions highlight their relevant skills in their application. “Those candidates that can exhibit their knowledge, skills and abilities in relation to the position they apply for will have the best chance of moving forward in the process,” he said. “Be sure to connect your skills to the position you are interested in.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

For more information, visit http://www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/students/careers/government.htm

Working in the White House: Harvard Interns

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Have you ever watched The West Wing and imagined yourself as a cast member? You’re not the only one. Harvard students Victoria Wenger ’14 and John Chen ’12 had a similar dream when they applied for the White House Internship Program, a program for undergraduate students in Washington, D.C (specifically, for U.S. citizens who are 18 years old and currently enrolled in college). On Wednesday, February 29, these two Harvard students spoke at OCS to describe their experiences as interns and impart wisdom about the application process for this prestigious program.

Both Victoria and John described this unpaid internship as one of “public service in every sense of the word.” Their semester-long experiences working in a government office was more rewarding and influential than either of them had ever expected. First, they listed the different departments that accept interns through the program, ranging from the Office of Cabinet Affairs to the Office of the Vice President. While John explained that some are more competitive to score an internship with than others, he acknowledged that the work in any of the offices varies greatly day-to-day. For example, Victoria’s position working in the Office of the Vice President tagged her as a “correspondence” intern, which consisted of typical intern tasks like reading constituent mail, using excel, and doing projects for the Vice President. Although she recognized this work as “not glamorous or intellectually stimulating” it was rewarding because of the politically charged environment in which she was working. One image Victoria repeatedly emphasized was the incredible feeling of walking through the Northwest Gate of the White House grounds every morning and passing by Secret Service and thousands of people peering in from outside the gates. “It is an amazing feeling to see all of those people walking by and remember you are the one walking through the gates,” she gushed.

Coincidentally, John and Victoria both happened to work in the same Office of the Vice President during different semesters – but John made a plug for the great experience he had working in this office as well. “It’s one of the best kept secrets of the White House, because nobody thinks to apply to it,” he said, encouraging students especially interested in policy to apply to it. “The Office of the Vice President is a microcosm of what goes on in the Office of the President. There are fewer people in the office, so you get a lot more access to the senior staff.”

However, office work is not the only component of this internship. As part of the White House staff, interns are called upon to lead tours and volunteer at White House events like dinners or seasonal activities like staff trick-or-treating (“Dr. Biden showed up in a bear costume,” laughed Victoria). White House interns also have a weekly speaker series, that is “so interesting and cool” because a variety of high profile people lead candid talks about life or job advice. Additionally, Victoria volunteered regularly in D.C. public schools.

Though the application process for this internship is extensive, Victoria explained that it weeds out any applicants only half-heartedly interested in the program: “You know all of the interns in the program are really, really committed.” She advised applicants to emphasize a commitment to service in their application, as well as to demonstrate an awareness of what goes on in the department for which they are applying.

“This program is not looking for superstar applicants, or people who are going to revolutionize the way the White House works,” she said. “They want people who are going to work tirelessly and humbly to serve their country.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

The Round Robin of Marketing & Advertising

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Students gathered last Thursday to have their marketing and advertising questions answered by experts in the field. This event – coined “The Round Robin of Advertising and Marketing” – featured David Carroll, the Marketing Director at Hungry Fish Media; Courtney Hadden, Accounting Executive in Marketing and Sales at Walt Disney; and Dan Ruben-Willis ’08, an account strategist at Google.

The panelists first attempted to define “marketing and advertising,” which all acknowledged were terms often thrown around without a clear attached definition. Courtney distinguished between marketing and sales by viewing marketing as the “pull.” “It is what you do to engage the consumer with your company, brand, mission, or corporate social responsibility efforts,” she explained, whereas sales are the “push” of the operation. In parallel, Patrick distinguished marketing from advertising in saying that marketing is the broader attempt to encourage consumers to buy a product, where advertising is simply one way to market a product.

In describing the roads that led them to a career in marketing, all three panelists emphasized the fact that they actually did not initially – or at least knowingly – set out for this field. For example, Patrick spoke about his incredible experience working at Harvard Student Agencies as an undergraduate, where he learned how to manage their website and strategize with e-commerce and marketing. Upon graduating, he did not know that “marketing” was the term he was looking for in a career, but ultimately realized that digital e-commerce was a part of the vast definition of marketing that people often misunderstand.

As with any career, all three panelists recognized the importance of networking in the marketing field. “There is always someone who has gone before you and done better than you. Don’t be afraid to figure out who those people are, and get in touch with them. Most people are really excited to help out and share their stories,” Courtney said. Dan, on the other hand, expressed his regret at not reaching out to his friends who were already in the business he was interested in. “They could have really expedited my job search,” he said.

One unique aspect of the marketing world that panelists discussed was the increasing of a familiarity with social media. “An interesting way to break into marketing is actually through the social media realm, especially because the youth is so connected with what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter. Companies need social media gurus to help,” Courtney explained. At the same time, the panelists agreed that because everyone in this generation does know how to use social media, it is important for candidates to have specific ideas on how to move the brand or product further through social media efforts.

All three panelists expressed their appreciation for the time they spend working with other individuals in this fast-paced industry. “I love this career because I’m always learning how to work with any and all kinds of people,” Dan said. “My position has helped me learn skills to help with any job and, really, with life in general.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

Always in Fashion: Internships in the Industry!

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Is the fashion industry all glitz and glamour? What’s it really like to work for such high-profile names as Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Polo Ralph Lauren? The Office of Career Services hosted a panel of four current undergraduates with internship experience in this exciting business. Speaking candidly to an audience that spanned four classes, the panel collectively represented a diversity of experience and opportunities available to any fashion seeker.

Cara Aiello, an Eliot House senior concentrating in linguistics and romance languages, first became interested in fashion during her sophomore year. After studying retail analysis with Jimmy Choo, Aiello spent a summer with the merchandise buying team at Bloomingdale’s with a special focus on women’s shoes. Buying teams “go to market” three or four times a year while constantly tracking sales and readjusting price as appropriate. “I really liked my experience,” she reflected. “You get the fun of business combined with the pleasure of a tangible product.” Aiello will return to Bloomingdale’s following graduation.

Alexandra Rose, a Mather House senior concentrating in government with a French citation, declared herself a “shopping addict” for most of her life. Though she had limited experience with White House Black Market before college, Rose didn’t aggressively pursue fashion until her junior year at which time she held an internship with Saks Fifth Avenue. At Saks, Rose worked with the planning team, the “flip side” to buying in retail. These planning teams direct readjustment of supply in response to sales, and give feedback to specific retail locations on budget and other practices. “I spent most of my time in front a computer with an Excel spreadsheet,” she admitted. “I didn’t expect that, but I really enjoyed it. You get a very high level view of things are sold.” Like Aiello, Rose will return to Saks following graduation.

Jane Chun, an Adams House senior concentrating in visual and environmental studies, entered the fashion industry at age sixteen, working at both the GAP and American Apparel through high school. While at Harvard, Chun sought corporate experience in beauty and fashion, first spending a summer with Shiseido in Toyko before holding an internship at Polo Ralph Lauren. At Polo, Chun worked in marketing and branding – a very important task, she quickly discovered, noting “Polo represents America to many people around the world.” She took her direction from the company’s creative team, who thought up a story for marketing to communicate. In particular, Chun supported online marketing by analyzing how companies used social media for collaborations with particular designers.

Thomas Dai, a Winthrop House sophomore, had no fashion experience prior to college but decided to give it a shot anyway. Interested in fashion media, Dai landed a term-time internship with OliviaPalermo.com where he writes regularly on topics of the day. Don’t let this description fool you, however – fashion writing is harder than it first appears. “There’s an excess of young people willing to write about fashion, so most places won’t pay you anything as an intern,” he explained. “If you really want it, you have to accept low pay and find ways to work your way up.” Futhermore, both he and Chun are recipients of the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, which will fund and support work in fashion this year.

Looking for an internship? You can go through formal application programs, or you can use resources like Crimson Compass to contact individuals directly. Both methods can be successful. Regardless of the path, remember to be professional – arrive to your interview early, bring writing samples, and err on the side of professional dress according to the culture of the organization to which you are applying. Most importantly, know what you want and be believable! Otherwise, as Rose noted, “you’ll be seen as a Harvard student just casting your net wide” without a strong commitment to the industry. Don’t be afraid to include “unusual” experiences and to connect the dots between experiences to create a powerful narrative.

Ultimately, as Aiello said, it’s important to “know the world you’re getting into” when you apply for these internships. Recognize that intro-level positions occupy a clutter landscape of opportunities and may be more grueling than you expect. Look up the career ladder and see if those people could be your mentors. And pay careful attention to the “center of the universe,” that is, the successful and growing parts of companies in the industry. Be mindful of your strategy, and you will find success.

Good luck!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

Reminder: If you’re researching job and internship possibilities, don’t forget to talk to your peers! OCS hosts a database of over 1,500 Harvard undergraduates willing to share their summer experiences. Learn more.

Revisited: Harvard Start-Up Career Fair

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Over the river and through the woods, you won’t find Grandma. Instead, you’ll hit the doors of the Harvard Innovation Lab, a $20 million project designed to “foster entrepreneurship in the Harvard and Boston community,” according to The Harvard Crimson. In line with its mission, the Lab recently played host to the Harvard Start-Up Fair organized by OCS. Over 80 unique organizations set up shop to welcome students across the University seeking exciting opportunities in technology and entrepreneurship.

To categorize the Fair participants uniformly under these two broad ideas, however, doesn’t do justice to the breadth of disciplines and industries represented in the collective. Indeed, students of all backgrounds – program developers and non-developers alike – could find work applicable to their studies and interests. For example, the tech start-up Breadcrumb intersects with the restaurant industry at the “point of sale,” namely, the point at which customers make purchases. Looking at the old model of business, the company decided they could do it better. Employees went on to design a program for iOS that enables subscribers to more efficiently and smartly track trends and make good decisions.

Those students with scientific inclinations could find several homes. NeuroScouting is combining technology and neuroscience to measure the performance of professional sports teams and individual athletes. They seek both developers and “sell-side” agents to aid their growing business. BioRaft is a web-based application used by universities and pharmaceutical companies across the country to help track safety hazards and thereby minimize lab risks. The start-up seeks both interns and full-time employers to help develop their web application. VoltDB is a MA-based start-up building a NewSQL database as a platform for clinical trials. The growing company seeks developer interns to help build the database that will increase efficiency, transparency, and safety.

Other start-ups engaged with the academic and business communities. Hadapt and Incentive Targeting both make use of “click-stream analysis” to supply retailers with better information about the habits of their customers and the practices that serve them. Pubget simplifies the search for scientific scholarship with a search engine that sorts through results according to where an article is found and whether or not the user can access it. Rock the Post pitches itself both as a “Craigslist for business people” and a better version of Kickstarter by not charging users to look for both money and services (time, skills, etc.) to aid a business venture.

Of course, these start-ups represent only a small fraction of the experiences and opportunities available to interested Harvard students. (The full list of organizations, along with other relevant information, can be found HERE.) Even if you missed the Fair, don’t hesitate to reach out to organizations that interest you! Judging by my pleasant and fun experience browsing the field, I’d say they’re happy to chat.

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

For more Start-Up Fair coverage, read Nicandro’s pre-fair blog entry.

Revisited: Harvard Energy & Environment Expo

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The Energy and Environment Expo this past Friday was an enormous success. Held at Harvard’s newly opened Innovation Lab, the Expo featured 16 energy programs—comprised of 3 schools and 13 companies—and was crowded with interested students throughout the entire afternoon. 

One browsing sophomore at the College, Alexandra, expressed her interest in SolSolution because of its dedication to social outreach as well as clean energy. “Their mission is incredible—taking the money usually used for electricity and putting it back into the funding of schools,” she wowed. SolSolution advertised the “family” style nature of their small team, which is currently looking for graduating seniors to fill spots in a variety of fields including marketing, fundraising and communications. This kind of small team dynamic appeals to students because it guarantees hands-on work in which everyone gets to contribute, even the least experienced employees.

Alexandra—an Earth and Planetary Sciences concentrator—was impressed by the fair as a whole because of its particular emphasis on this sometimes unrepresented job field. “I definitely want to get an internship working with energy or environmental causes this summer,” she explained. “Which is why I’m so happy that Harvard is focusing this event on energy companies – not only because I personally am interested, but because I think it is an area that more Harvard students should look into.” Many students, including Alexandra, were especially pleased at the range of environmental organizations present at the fair, which spanned from graduate schools to environmental consulting firms.

CleanTech was another company very popular among students. CleanTech is an organization run entirely by volunteers that work on five-month projects in regions across the country. Representatives from CleanTech present at the fair boasted the benefits of volunteers working in small teams, and the satisfaction from getting to visibly help move the program along. Representatives also promised the benefits of getting to know investors and technology people outside of the company through CleanTech’s projects. “It is a very effective and fun group of people to work with,” they said. “As an intern, it will give you opportunities to interact with experts in all areas, like legal services and investors.”

SolSolution and CleanTech certainly were not the only companies to impress the curious students visiting this fair. The excitement was tangible: students left the iLab buzzing with an eagerness to look deeper into the positions offered by the companies from the fair, as well as an eagerness to look more closely at other positions available in this intriguing career field.

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Julia Eger, ’14

The Harvard Energy & Environment Expo was sponsored by the FAS Office of Career Services and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and cosponsored by the New England Clean Energy Council. Looking for additional opportunities in Energy and the Environment? Check out the companion student blog: “Explore Careers in Energy & the Environment." And for further fair coverage, check out Julia’s "Top Ten Organizations" she was excited to see at the fair.

Careers in Energy & the Environment

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It doesn’t take much effort to notice the impact of energy and environmental concerns on American life. Debates over climate change are coupled with a growing urgency to “free ourselves from foreign oil,” as the saying goes. Moreover, geopolitics are subject to serious disruption by fluctuations in energy supply and environmental policy. The future holds great opportunity for these industries, who will play a critical role in determining the fate of our world.

Excited yet? To help you determine if a career in these industries is right for you, and to assist your job and internship search, the Office of Career Services hosted an advisory panel featuring experienced actors in the field, including three Harvard College alumni. Collectively, the panelists represent a variety of fields and perspectives on these growing sectors.

For example, current HBS student Olivia Leskinen ‘03 comes from four years with ShellOil, a traditional power player in oil and energy more broadly. Her work included various supply chain roles, including sales and inventory, as well as production planner and supervisor. After graduation, she will return to McKinsey, where she will focus on energy clients. “For those looking for an international experience, know that energy is truly a global industry with interesting geopolitics” she said. “Plus, oil and gas companies provide great training and experience!”

Jeremy Doochin, a Kirkland non-resident Public Service tutor, looks elsewhere for opportunity. His career thus far has included service on the SierraClub Board of Directors, where he set strategy and policy for 1.4 million members and over 500 staff, and as a Special Adviser at the U.S. DepartmentofEnergy where he advised the distribution of $14 billion in stimulus spending. Now the co-founder and president of U.S. GreenData, Doochin was excited about his work. “We’re just starting to dig into the ‘energy information’ industry,” he exclaimed, an industry borne of a digital connected world.

The other panelists fell somewhere in between, supporting and executing entrepreneurship in the field. Zak Farkes ‘06, after spending six years in the MLB minor leagues “waiting for Jason Varitek to retire,” is now right-hand man to the COO of SolectriaRenewables. Karla Franco was formerly NE regional director for the CleantechOpen and is now Operations Director for Cambrian Innovation, an environmental product development firm. And Joe Abel ‘07, another current HBS student, spent time with Sungevity, a CA-based startup.

The panelists noted a variety of “hot trends” in their respective industries, including but not limited to work with lightbulbs and LEDs; development of censors and their application; shifts toward natural gas production; cutting down energy waste; and data innovation. Above all, the panelists praised the “fast pace” and exciting future of their work, a future that will be shaped by “problem solvers” of all stripes. “Being able to ‘connect’ ideas is a hugely valuable skill set,” said Doochin. “If you can see problems in society, and if you can create a sustainable business model to solve it, you can start a business. It’s that easy.”

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

Study Abroad

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In a small group conversation on February 2, students spoke directly with OCS advisers about study abroad options at Harvard. The conversation was facilitated by Cathy Winnie, Director of International Education at Harvard; Matilda West, Study Abroad Coordinator for Harvard Summer School; and Tricia Hughes, the Program Coordinator for the Undergraduate Fellowships Office. Joining these study abroad counselors in the discussion was Yvette Ramirez, a senior in Mather House and recipient of the Rockefeller Grant.

A theme throughout the discussion was the study abroad culture at Harvard, and how the study abroad advising here differs greatly from that of other universities. “We have a very individualized program in helping students figure out what they want from a study abroad experience,” Ms. Winnie explained. Because Harvard is not a school in which all students enter their freshman year knowing they’ll go abroad, the advising itself caters directly to each individual’s exact wants and needs.

“Nobody does the same program twice,” Ms. Winnie assured her audience. Raving about the unique programs completed by students in the past, Ms. Winnie encouraged interested students to take a look at the binders in her office with descriptions of various programs. In addition, the Office of International Education website has lists of students who have gone abroad and details about their experiences organized by house and concentration. Ms. Hughes highlighted the availability of fellowships and grants available for international programs, but mentioned that the deadlines are fast approaching.

Yvette Ramirez served as the cornerstone of this discussion because of her exemplary experiences abroad throughout her time at Harvard; she is a prime example of how students can utilize Harvard’s study abroad opportunities to enrich their education and open their eyes to a larger world beyond the brick facade of Harvard’s campus. Yvette first went to South Africa after her sophomore year, teaching English through WorldTeach and funded by a David Rockefeller grant. After her incredible experiences there, Yvette could not wait to return – and then studied abroad during the semester in the same region of South Africa. This past summer, Yvette did thesis research again in South Africa, receiving funding and course credit for an independent study.

Though the broader culture of Harvard does sometimes deter students from going abroad because of a fear of missing out, Yvette assured her audience that was never a concern for her. “Like my other friends who went abroad, I came back feeling that I had a totally different perspective on my work at Harvard. Going abroad taught me to remember to enjoy myself while studying here, and helped me regain a sense of purpose,” she discussed. Her experience in Africa also informed some of her course decisions in the remaining semesters – for example, she began taking many more African studies classes and is now writing her thesis based around Africa.

Despite the Harvard culture that does not immediately encourage students to take a semester abroad, Ms. Winnie commended those who take the initiative to do so. “You guys are the ‘chancers,’” she commended her audience. “You guys are the ones who will be glad they took the risk.”

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Julia Eger, ’14