Oh, to Be a Working Girl

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The ATM was not lying to me. This was obvious because it was a machine and so incapable of subterfuge, and in any case, it was unlikely to have any personal motivation to do so. As "CSI" and Sherlock Holmes have taught us, motive is everything. Still, I double-checked my balance: No such luck. I blinked, hoping a zero or two might appear. The digital readout, unimpressed with my efforts, remained unchanged. Two things then became apparent: One, I am probably a spendthrift, and two, I needed a job.

The first revelation was not something I was prepared to tackle, especially so close to lunchtime or so close to Cheeseboard - so it was the second revelation to which I turned my attention. A job.

In my life, I've held various positions. I was the editor and co-founder of a magazine devoted to pop culture entitled Empty Calories, which, due to creative differences between the founders concerning the artistic merit of VH1, never made it to a second issue.

I was a camp counselor, marketing captain of a robotics team and president of my high school's Young Democrats Club. I founded two t-shirt companies and a freelance graphic design practice.

I was even the proprietress and sometimes patron of a small business. Admittedly, my business was a lemonade stand and my profit was around 25 cents, but as they tell us, small businesses are the backbone of America. With the exception of the lemonade stand, though, none of these were permanently paid positions. I put in my time and in return got back that ever so tenuous currency: "experience."

However, as I read the job descriptions on Callisto, it became clear that I had been shortchanged. I had managed to survive 19 years on Earth without being qualified for anything. Further analysis revealed several startling facts about the jobs available to students:

1. There are no jobs at coffee shops. This is contrary to every single post-collegiate movie or wistful guitar song you've ever heard. Possibly, this is because all of those jobs opened up in the mid-nineties and were promptly filled by Reed College graduates looking to "get reacquainted with themselves" - and so remain occupied 13 years later. Barista is for life.

2. It turns out you probably shouldn't have dropped that statistics class. Who would have thought you would be deviating from the norm?

3. Nobody wants a liberal arts major, therefore, I would like to point out that I am not a liberal arts major. In fact, my major has the word "science" in it, as in cognitive science. This ought to separate me from the masses of English and media studies majors out there. Sure, political science also has "science" in it, but everyone knows that's just for show.

Sadly, companies are not fooled by this and prefer the suffix "engineering" over the more general "science" as in: bioengineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, etc. I would advocate the immediate creation of a major entitled "social engineering" to replace "political science" - but I suspect that would smack mildly of eugenics. In the mean time, I shall have to hope that the people reading my resume confuse cognitive science with computer science. Seriously, it's an easy mistake to make.

4. Are you a self-starter? Do you practice synergy? Would you like an exciting career in a morally ambiguous business? Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment? Do you look good in suits? Are you just generally really awesome? Well then, the insurance business is the perfect place for you.

5. The most readily available jobs are tutoring positions teaching other students so that they can get great jobs - as SAT tutors and so the cycle perpetuates. This alone is disheartening, not to mention the fact that our most valuable asset as students at UC Berkeley appears to be our ability to accurately fill in bubbles.

6. The job I am currently most qualified for is as a sales representative for an artisan olive oil refinery. Laugh, friends, laugh.

Writing cover letters is even worse than applying for jobs. How do you appear competent, but not self-aggrandizing? Confident but not cocky? How can you be formal without sounding like an asshole? Is there a synonym for "analytical skills," how about one for "creative approach?" And of course, my personal pet peeve, the ubiquitous question: "What would you say is your greatest weakness?"

If I had a weakness, would I tell you?

There is a reason that "student" is listed under occupation heading on official forms. There is no such thing as being a 9-to-5 student. If you are lucky, you love your classes, love your professors and love your major - if you don't, it can start to feel like school is an unwanted stray that follows you home.

Yet, we go through school with the knowledge that eventually we will leave the, if not hallowed, then certainly muddy, Berkeley halls for the chilling embrace of the real world. We hope that, after sweating out four years in higher education, we will be welcomed and recognized for our talents. Most of us came to college in search of mobility: social, geographic or economic. A college degree, we have been told, is the great equalizer, and it will be, in the future. However, as I filled out my third application for a dog-walker, that future seemed very far away. But hey, at least I'd be working a fast-paced job.

Tags: COLUMN


Fill out job applications with Meghna at [email protected]



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