Seeking jobs, gaining wisdom

“So, what are you doing next year?” It’s like one of those Twix commercials where a guy gets caught in an awkward conversation and stuffs an entire candy bar in his mouth while he thinks about what to say next. Lots of us “need a moment” to answer the job question. Actually, more than a moment. It’s going to take a darn big piece of chocolate to chew this one over.

Whether you’re a senior seeking a post-grad gig or an underclassman looking for summer internships, it’s hard to cope with job-hunting stress – particularly when no one here eats candy. As a soon-to-be-unemployed Williams graduate, I want to share some tips that have kept me smiling through this dreadful, nerve-racking, soul-crushing process. Because that’s exactly what it is. And if you think you’re the only one that feels that way, you’re crazy (see point one).

Advice from a doctor: Realize that you are crazy. I recently stopped by Dr. Pride’s office to discuss some issues. He asked how everything was going. “Well, it’s been a tough semester,” I replied. He listened patiently as I explained how I would probably be unemployed forever. Then he said I was crazy.

“I know I’m not supposed to say that to patients,” he said. “But what you’re saying is, well … insane.” He pointed out that I will graduate from what is – if he understands correctly – the best college in America. His first piece of advice: “When you think you’re going nowhere in life, tell yourself that you are crazy. You’ll be fine.” His second piece of advice: “Wash twice a day with benzoyl peroxide, and apply Retin-A crème if you’re having a really bad breakout.” Did I mention that Dr. Pride is my dermatologist?

Advice from a random bro: Watch more TV. As the aforementioned example demonstrates, Ephs feel compelled to blabber about jobs to whoever will listen… including well-meaning dermatologists who ask how we’re doing to be polite. We need to find something else to talk about.

Last weekend, I visited some friends at Hamilton. I was struggling to make small talk with a stranger at a party. He asked me if I’d seen House of Cards. I hadn’t. There was an awkward pause. And I knew exactly what he was going to say before he opened his mouth: “So uh… what’re you doing next year?” I must’ve looked uncomfortable because he apologized. Then we laughed about how the post-grad job-hunt is all we talk about these days. It’s something everyone has in common, so it seems like an appropriate conversation starter. However, we agreed that when you’re chatting with students from pressure-cooker colleges like Williams and Hamilton, it is best to stick to TV.

Advice from The Onion: Be Original. Don’t bother with career guidebooks or business magazines. You will pay money for advice you could have given yourself (e.g.: Keep an up-to-date résumé. Be confident in the interview. Email alums in your field. No duh.) For advice on how to stand out, The Onion is my go-to source.

They’ve got tips on how to ace the interview. One article advised, “When waiting for a job interview and a fellow applicant is there, strike up a conversation. Then, when it’s your turn to be interviewed, stand up and say, ‘See ya, sicko!’ Explain to the interviewer that he invited you to a goat-sex orgy.” Another tip: “Your interviewers will invariably ask you what your biggest strengths and weaknesses are. Do not say ‘embezzling’ for either answer.”

The Onion also publishes résumé advice: “Avoid borrowing liberally from Tom Clancy novels when describing previous job experiences.” Or, “Don’t be afraid to list ‘Cook County Correctional Facility.’” Finally, some tips we can actually use.

Advice from Grandma: Keep an open mind. Grandma Wilma is great about listening to me whine. Perhaps that’s because she turns her hearing aid off and nods sympathetically until I’m done ranting. I called her a few weeks ago to complain about having no money and no prospects in life. She said she’d help out any way she could.

A few days later, her assistance arrived in the form of a Valentine’s Day present. No, it wasn’t a box of Twix. It was a plain, heart-shaped card with some advice on finding sustainable employment. She wrote – in the kind, loopy cursive only a grandmother could produce: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey. Maybe you can try to find yourself a nice young man who makes great money. Hopefully he’ll be tall, dark and handsome. But don’t ignore the nerds. Remember – Bill Gates was a nerd.”

Advice from me: Make fun of at yourself and those around you. Throughout the job hunt, people will give you well-meaning but unhelpful advice, as if there were some shortcut to success. Unfortunately, there is no secret to finding the perfect job/fellowship/summer internship. Instead, we must trust that we are – and will be – just fine. We have to stop asking each other where we plan to end up. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find humor in the journey. Stress may contagious, but so is laughter. So if anyone wants to swap anecdotes (or is related to Bill Gates), please give me a call. I’d love to hear your stories, and I promise not to ask what you’re doing next year.

Julia Davis ’14 is a history and Spanish double major from Danville, Penn. She lives in Woodbridge.