Hundreds Flock to Public Interest Job Fair


3L Alex Abdo at the ACLU table.
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While hordes of firm recruiters rush the campus every fall, public interest employers usually cannot afford to send staff to Harvard to spread the word about their organizations. Luckily, the Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) is on the case.

On Monday night, OPIA hosted the annual Student-to-Student Job Fair, where over 80 2Ls and 3Ls represented their summer employers and spoke to 1Ls about their experiences. By OPIA’s count, as many as 400 people came through the Ropes-Gray Room in Pound Hall during the evening, armed with a lengthy list of government, political, and nonprofit employers.

The OPIA staff was pleased with the turnout, both of volunteers and attendees. “We can’t invite this many organizations, so we invite the students,” said OPIA Assistant Director Sheila Hubbard. “This is a way for students to learn what it’s really like to work at these places.”

“There’s a lot of value added in having the students here instead of the employers,” added OPIA Director Alexa Shabecoff. “The students will give 1Ls the real skinny on an employer, instead of an official pitch. And they also know the inside of the hiring process. They know who you have to bug fifteen times.”

Behind rows of folding tables, the student volunteers were on a mission: to recruit more HLS students to causes they cared about deeply. “I’m doing this because I would like to see more Harvard students at PRLDEF,” said 2L Marie Scott, who worked for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. 2L Scott Levy concurred. “I’m trying to build up some buzz for this place,” he said of Bronx Defenders, a community organization that provides criminal and civil assistance to low-income clients.

The upperclassmen also offered 1Ls more general advice about the job search process. “I waited too long to start applying,” said 2L Michael Hoke, who worked for the Department of Labor, Office of the Regional Solicitor, “although I really enjoyed my job and I would recommend it.”

Once the 1Ls were done raiding the brownie-and-soda display, they went to work interrogating the student representatives. Most seemed impressed by what they heard. “I’m totally amazed that you can make all these contacts,” said 1L Abraham Wise. “They all say the same thing – ‘it’s great, you should work here’-but then they give you an actual name or an email. I could never do this on my own.” Even students who remain undecided between the public and private sectors took away a positive impression. “I talked to the Department of Defense,” said 1L Neil Pai. “I’m going to apply to firms and this kind of work, too. If I got a firm job and a DOD internship, I wouldn’t just take the firm job; I’d really have to think about it.”

There is still plenty of time to think. 1Ls are still weeks away from being allowed to apply for summer jobs, let alone decide between them. In the meantime, both OPIA and the Office of Career Services continue to and hold events and counseling appointments. Interview advice sessions are November 21st at 4:30 pm in Pound 201 (OPIA) and December 6th at 1:00 pm in Austin East (OCS).

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