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

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“Explore, explore, explore,” urged Sharon Kozuch, one of the panelists at the OCS event this past Friday about careers in psychology and mental health. Because the fields of psychology and mental health are highly diverse and demand fairly different skill sets and personalities, it is hard to say what the “right” path is for a given individual looking to enter this realm of the working world. So, to give the audience a well-rounded perspective on some of these possibilities, each panelist at this program spoke about his or her unique professional experiences.

Kozuch, a senior therapist and program administrator at the Dimock Community Health Center in Boston, described her career path and transition from the corporate world into non-profit and mental health work. Among other things, she noted the great value she found in volunteering as a way to gain professional experience, demonstrate your commitment, and build a network in a field that may be new to you.

As a research assistant at the BU School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, Keshia Toussaint loves the daily interaction she gets to have with her clinic’s patients. “I get to talk to them on a day-to-day basis,” she explained, “and hear them voice their concerns and talk about everything.” This human interaction, for Keshia, is a daily reminder of why she wanted to go into the health care profession in the first place. Though she is currently focusing on a project looking at HIV and AIDS, she explained that her position as a research assistant has given her a great perspective on the range of roles in the field – so, for someone unsure of which area of mental health care is the right fit, starting out as a research assistant is a great option.

Alternatively, as the disability services coordinator at The New England Institute of Art, Matthew Vialva spends less time communicating directly with patients and works administratively to oversee the student support program as a whole. “I’m really busy…I wear many hats,” he put it simply, explaining that his job entails a lot of multitasking with little support, so his time for student interaction is fairly limited. Nevertheless, his position working with students at the The New England Institute of Art has afforded him a lot of opportunities and rewarding experiences. He loves his job, but warned his audience that “the mental health and social services realm is such a growing field, and it’s not an easy one. Don’t let anyone tell you that.”

What should college students do first to make their stakes in this field? Keshia emphasized the importance of having a great summer internship experience. “Being in that sort of environment is really important,” she advised. “You can get insight into different types of things you can do with an underserved population. Start early and cast a wide net.” Sharon reiterated this point, adding that networking is really useful tool for this area. “In this economy, you need to put yourself out there, but you won’t always get something in return,” she explained. “But people want to help you, and they want to be able to share their experiences.”

Because there are so many routes to explore in this field, Matthew stressed the importance of putting yourself first in the job search. “Know that you have options, and always make sure to have a plan,” he advised. “You know yourself best, so you need to do your research to know what you’re getting into, and figure out what it is that you want to do.” And though there are so many opportunities available, there’s still some room for professional creativity: “Sometimes, you have to create opportunities for yourself, because you need to get your foot in the door.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

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

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

Harvard Pre-Medical Society members. Latinos in Health Careers Harvard-Radcliffe MIHNUET Kidney Disease Screening & Awareness Fenway Health

Last Friday, OCS hosted the Volunteer Opportunities in Health Care Fair, co-sponsored by The Harvard College Latinos in Health Careers (LiHC), The Harvard College Pre-Veterinary Society (HCPVS), The Harvard Pre-Medical Society (HPS), The Harvard Pre-Dental Society (HPDS), and The Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers (HSBSE). If you missed the fair, don’t worry! You can learn more about the participating organizations (and their opportunities) through the OCS website and Crimson Careers.

Participating Organizations:

Access Health
Trained by Harvard Medical students, volunteers interact with the low-income and homeless, setting up blood pressure screenings at free dinners in Harvard Square. Access Health seeks volunteers to help execute an expansion of service.

Adult Family Care

Adult Family Care (AFC) helps older people and younger people with disabilities who need assistance with daily activities to live independently in a supportive family environment.

Beacon Hospice

Beacon Hospice, Inc. is a community of caregivers dedicated to excellence in end-of-life care for the patient and their families. This is accomplished by respecting patient choice, providing comfort, and promoting dignity.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Brigham and Women’s Medical Career Exploration Volunteer Program (MCEP) gives undergraduates exposure to the hospital environment in order to help them make informed career/educational decisions. The program features a rotation of assignments that build experience and culminates in a letter of recommendation and the opportunity to round with a physician for one day.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital: HIV Vaccine Trials Unit

The Division of Infectious Diseases provides high quality inpatient and outpatient care and consultative services to the BWH patient and health care communities. Its mission is to teach clinical infectious disease; to create educational materials that widely disseminate knowledge of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases; and to develop creative basic biomedical laboratory, patient-oriented, or population-oriented research that has the potential to change approaches to infectious and infection-related diseases.

Clinton Health Access Initiative

The Clinton Health Access Initiative is a global health organization committed to strengthening integrated health systems around the world and expanding access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other illnesses.

Crimson Care Collaborative

CCC is a student-faculty collaborative practice. Medical students (precepted by faculty members) take care of patients at student-administered evening clinics. There are currently five CCC sites: Mass General Hospital, Internal Medicine Associates (IMA); Mass General Hospital, Chelsea; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC); Cambridge Health Alliance; and Mass General Hospital, Revere (Pediatrics).

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

The mission of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is to provide expert, compassionate care to children and adults with cancer while advancing the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of cancer and related diseases. The Institute also provides training for new generations of physicians and scientists, designs programs that promote public health—particularly among high-risk and underserved populations—and disseminates innovative patient therapies.

Fenway Health

The mission of Fenway Health is to enhance the well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community—and all people—through access to the highest quality health care, education, research, and advocacy.

Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies Program

HCAB pairs students with Alzheimer’s buddies—people with AD in need of social interaction—so that they may form meaningful relationships over the course of a semester or longer. Students travel as a group to meet their buddies one-on-one for an hour every week at Hebrew SeniorLife Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale.

Harvard MIHNUET

MIHNUET is a volunteer music organization in which students take regular trips to nursing homes and hospitals to perform music for the residents.
Harvard Premedical Society Hospital Volunteering Program
The Hospital Volunteering Program offers hospital volunteering opportunities through Cambridge Health Alliance to Harvard undergraduates.

Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program
KDSAP provides free health screenings in underserved communities, organizes health education talks, and establishes a hierarchical mentorship between nephrologists and undergraduate students through seminar events and clinical shadowing.

Kitty Connection

Kitty Connection is dedicated to rescuing abandoned, abused, and unwanted cats and dogs; most pets are fostered through volunteers in the organization. Through TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) programs, Kitty Connection works to reduce feral cat overpopulation in local communities—while offering a low-cost spay/neuter program for pet owners.

KSNAP: Kids with Special Needs Achievement Program
PBHA’s Kids with Special Needs Achievement Program (KSNAP) works every Friday afternoon to plan fun and educational classroom activities for 4th and 5th grade special education students in Chinatown and South Boston, including field trips every semester.

Latin American Health Institute

The Latin American Health Institute is a community-based professional organization that promotes the health of the community—its institutions, families, and individuals—through effective interventions that are culturally competent and technologically appropriate.

PBHA’s Pets as Therapy

PBHA’s Pets as Therapy is dedicated to serving the elderly residents of the Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center (CRNC). Once a week, volunteers bring dogs from the Harvard Square area to visit CRNC residents, providing companionship and therapeutic time with the animals. As the program expands, additional activities will include art and exercise classes.

Peer Health Exchange
PHE recruits, selects, and trains college students to teach high school students a comprehensive health curriculum consisting of twelve standardized health workshops on topics ranging from decision-making and sexual health to substance abuse and nutrition.

Reach Out and Read

Launched at Boston Medical Center over 20 years ago, Reach Out and Read is in place at over 250 pediatric practices in Massachusetts and over 4,500 nationwide; the program incorporates anticipatory literacy guidance into the well-child visit, giving books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading.

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services promotes the rights of all individuals to live with dignity and in the setting of their choice by offering older people and people with disabilities the information, services, and support needed to make choices which enhance health, well-being, and independence.

Team HBV at Harvard College
Team HBV engages students to prevent and control hepatitis B in the Boston community. Through targeted educational outreach, Team HBV dispels stigma and alerts at-risk people to opportunities for prevention; through advocacy, students raise awareness among members of the public, policy-makers, and future leaders; and through community partnerships, Team HBV promotes and facilitates prevention activities, such as accessible hepatitis B screenings and vaccinations.

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.

 Spotlight on programming this week:02.22.12 WEDNESDAY Explore Careers in the Fashion Industry4:30–5:30pm, OCS Reading Room: 54 Dunster St.Please register through Crimson Careers: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/crimsoncareers
 02.23.12 THURSDAY The Round Robin of Marketing & Advertising: Exploring Strategy, Digital, & Account Management Careers5:30–6:30pm, OCS Conference Room: 54 Dunster St.Please register through Crimson Careers: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/crimsoncareers
 02.24.12 FRIDAYVolunteer Opportunities in Health Care Fair4:00–6:00pm, OCS: 54 Dunster St.Meet representatives from organizations offering term-time volunteer opportunities in the Boston area. Participants include local hospitals, community health centers, Harvard programs, and more! Begin to build your network with local health care professionals in medicine, veterinary and dental medicine, nursing, social work, and other allied health professions.For additional events, visit the OCS student calendars.

Spotlight on programming this week:

02.22.12
WEDNESDAY

Explore Careers in the Fashion Industry
4:30–5:30pm, OCS Reading Room: 54 Dunster St.
Please register through Crimson Careers: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/crimsoncareers


02.23.12 THURSDAY


The Round Robin of Marketing & Advertising:
Exploring Strategy, Digital, & Account Management Careers
5:30–6:30pm, OCS Conference Room: 54 Dunster St.
Please register through Crimson Careers: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/crimsoncareers


02.24.12 FRIDAY


Volunteer Opportunities in Health Care Fair

4:00–6:00pm, OCS: 54 Dunster St.
Meet representatives from organizations offering term-time volunteer opportunities in the Boston area. Participants include local hospitals, community health centers, Harvard programs, and more! Begin to build your network with local health care professionals in medicine, veterinary and dental medicine, nursing, social work, and other allied health professions.

For additional events, visit the OCS student calendars.

Thanks to Harvard SEAS for posting this fabulous compilation of shots from the Start-Up Fair, with student cameos!

harvardseas:

Voices from Harvard’s Start-Up Career Fair—Harvard’s Office of Career Services (in partnership with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard’s Innovation Lab) hosted a career fair featuring representatives from entrepreneurial and start-up organizations. Harvard students at all levels were invited to come learn about jobs and internships and discover exciting opportunities available in the start-up field.

Harvard Start-Up Career Fair

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Friday, February 10, 2012
1:00-4:00pm
Harvard Innovation Lab
125 Western Avenue, Allston, MA

Are you creative, energetic, curious? Are you looking for a vibrant career with great opportunity for personal development? If any of the above applies to you, then you don’t want to miss the Harvard Start-Up Career Fair!

As a Social Studies concentrator carefully studying the impact of new technology on society, I couldn’t be more excited to welcome such an impressive collection of organizations spanning several industries and all continents. It’s not hyperbole to say that a job with any of these employers has the potential to change the world.

In advance of the fair, be sure you know who’s coming (list here), and update relevant job documents to reflect the best of what you have to offer. When you speak to employers, remember to be brief yet confident, and don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you letter or email!

Not convinced? Check out this list of 10 organizations you don’t want to miss:

  • Tumblr
    www.tumblr.com
    What it is: A popular micro-blogging site founded in 2007 by David Karp in NYC. Fun fact: The site now hosts over 30 million blogs with over 10 billion posts to date.

  • Vimeo
    www.vimeo.com
    What it is: A video-sharing social networking site founded in 2004.
    Fun fact: Notable users include the White House and Britney Spears, among others.

  • SimpleTuition
    www.simpletuition.com
    What it is: Online service that lets students compare and manage college loans.
    Fun fact: The company has helped more than 10 million families to date.

  • Venture for America
    www.ventureforamerica.org
    What it is: Postgraduate fellowship program with start-ups in low-cost cities. Fun fact: In their inaugural year, VFA’s goal: create 100,000 jobs by 2025.

  • Take the Interview
    www.taketheinterview.com
    What it is: A video-based job screening platform based in Cambridge. Fun fact: The company secure $775K in angel investments and has over 100 beta users.

  • Crittercism
    www.crittercism.com
    What it is:
    Platform for developers to diagnose app crashes and provide customer support. Fun fact: Investors include Google Ventures and AOL Ventures, among others.

  • MyDesignIn
    www.mydesignin.com
    What it is: A social search engine for home design and decorating products. Fun fact: PC Magazine named the company one of the top 5 products at DEMO 2007.

  • GreenLink
    www.greenlinktufts.com
    What it is: Job community for students and professionals; combines LinkedIn and GoAbroad. Fun fact: The site went live at Tufts in November 2011, preparing for wide release in 2012.

  • Counsyl
    www.counsyl.com
    What it is: Medical genomics company; created safe screening test for 100+ diseases. Fun fact: Used by over 100 fertility clinics; advised by Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

  • NeuroScouting
    www.neuroscouting.com
    What it is: Combines neuroscience and video games to improve sport performance. Fun fact: The Boston Red Sox are reportedly evaluating the technology for future use.

Don’t miss these companies, and many more, at this incredible fair!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13

See tips for preparing for the fair here. On the day of the fair, SPECIAL SHUTTLES WILL RUN BETWEEN OCS (54 Dunster Street) AND THE iLAB FROM 1:00-4:00pm! In addition, Harvard’s Allston Campus Express shuttle stops at the iLab. See the orange line on the Shuttle Tracker for real time shuttle locations. (Note: The special shuttles will NOT appear on this map.)

Business School? “Pursue Your Passion Now”

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The decision to attend graduate school – and business school in particular – is one of many paths a Harvard graduate can follow. In truth, many students don’t know what to do after college, and apply to schools in the hope that “the answer” awaits them there. Others reach graduate school after years of employment or volunteer work. Too often, students simply don’t have a clear idea of what “business school” or any graduate school entails.

In an effort to help students clarify the options available to them, the Office of Career Services hosted a panel of Harvard College alumni this past fall to discuss the “myths and realities” of applying to and attending business school. The collective experience of the panel included three teachers, two consultants, two entrepreneurs, and others; their travels spanned three continents. Together, the panelists shared critical wisdom that can help you make the best decision.

The best decision, the panelists agreed, begins with following your passions and exploring the disciplines and opportunities that most appeal to who you are. Ben Wells (COL ’04) joined the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP) late in his time at Harvard, ending up in a charter school after graduation. Oddly enough to him, teaching prepared him well for business school, demanding that he improve his speaking and organizational skills. “Don’t feel like you need to go into consulting or banking,” Ben assured the audience. “Pursue your passion now – it will work to your advantage in applications.”

Likewise, Hallie Hartman (COL ’03) moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation to pursue jobs in law or education. She worked in the headmaster’s office of a private school for a few years, where she became interested in how the school ran as a business. It was there, Hartman explained, that she realized she needed more business experience. “Follow your passions now!” she exclaimed. “Change jobs, explore different opportunities – learn more about yourself before applying.” Describing business school as “the ultimate reset button” to learn new skills, Hartman credited her time in school with enabling greater insight and performance in her later work.

As a current second-year student at HBS, Megan Leahey (COL ’06) agreed, saying, “I’ve been much more effective in class because I had job experiences before coming in and because I had matured mentally and emotionally.” After three years of consulting, Leahey applied both to business school and to a “dream job” at Google. Receiving an offer from Google just two weeks before her application decisions, Leahey took the opportunity. “Being on the operational side was very different than what I expected,” she said. “It helped me realize what I wanted out of a job.” These experiences enabled her to take full advantage of business school.

Kate Smith (COL ’02) and Matt Noble (COL ’02) each graduated without even considering business school as an option, but nevertheless ended up there years later. Kate first worked for a private school in D.C., like Megan, but then transitioned to work with PricewaterhouseCoopers when she realized she wanted to do business. Matt, on the other hand, took a job as a legal assistant but quickly realized he didn’t want to pursue law; he then did informational interviews in consulting but came to the same conclusion. Both made the leap to business school when they felt the decision was the appropriate next step. Kate pursued a joint degree at HBS and HKS so she could “apply my skills to something I care about.” Now a second-year student at HBS, Matt applied to school after working in a few different business ventures. “I felt I needed broader skills,” he explained. “I needed a way to ‘pull my head up,’ so to speak.”

All panelists agreed in the importance of attending business school with thought and intention. It will be important, they said, for applicants to present a “coherent story” about their life and their work. “Be honest and direct,” Ben suggested. “Don’t try to spin anything – just talk about your career goals.” Matt agreed. “[These schools] don’t need to see what you’re going to do with a business degree,” he explained. “They just want to see how business school fits into your path.”

Indeed, the importance of “story” highlights one central difference between applications to college and applications to business school. Panelists also emphasized the importance of well-written and thoughtful essays, as well as careful research into each prospective school so that you might tweak your application to match a school’s mission and focus. Ultimately, if you “think as an individual” and define yourself well, your prospects will be high and your business school experience will be extraordinary.

Good luck!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13