Hirst: Seeking a job search system

In Periclean Athens, most public officials were selected by lot; the chosen men would then gather on a hill called the Pnyx to debate the issues of the day. Under Pericles’ influence, public offices became paid positions, for the first time opening up the government to even the poorest of Athenian citizens.

In Exodus, the burning bush is where Moses was appointed to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. At Yale, Undergraduate Career Services is where aspiring divine-right analysts are appointed to fetch coffee and edit PowerPoint presentations. Seriously, is what goes down at 55 Whitney Ave. an improvement on the process at Mount Horeb millennia ago?

Many Yalies (especially us seniors) are asking the same question.

The interview room at UCS reminds me more of an interrogation scene on Law and Order than a cubicle in a New York office building, and the waiting room has more tools than Morse College does during its renovation. The professionals at UCS are wonderful, thoughtful and helpful, and this silly process is not their fault. But why do respectable companies think this is the best way to hire candidates?

A lot of organizations avoid UCS entirely. Genco, for example, a respected importer of olive oil, has not sent a representative to UCS in years. The type of exchange typical at a UCS interview — “Well, what in your experience with the Yale Political Union makes you qualified for a career in ‘waste management’? Ya know what I’m sayin’? ” — is not helpful at finding “associates.”

The Philadelphia Phillies, though in desperate need of a closer, don’t interview on campus. While you may think that a job in professional baseball is only open to those who have played at the college level, I would note that many companies in the financial world make clear that they hire people without a background in finance.

While neither La Cosa Nostra nor professional baseball provides an acceptable method of selecting qualified applicants, a number of imperfect alternatives exist.

God could choose careers for us. He chose Moses to lead the Israelites, predestines some of us for heaven and loaned his powers to Jim Carrey for a time. The problem is finding the direct line to the big guy (or girl). This is New Haven, after all, not Jerusalem.

Comrade Barack Obama could choose careers for us. The Kenyan-born Socialist occupying the White House is happy to buy whole companies. Why not control our careers and, if only we’re so lucky, our thoughts as well. In Obama’s America, you don’t choose careers — careers choose you!

For small operations with a lot of potential for “aggressive” expansion and for teams with only a few spots open right now but with a lot of people interested, there should be tryouts.

My favorite alternative, which was suggested by a friend, would be a system that mimics the National Football League Draft. There would be a combine with tests including the 40-yard dash (to Starbucks), vertical jump (when the boss says jump you ask how high) and the 20-yard shuttle (between superiors who won’t speak to each other). Each company would develop a scouting report, and the draft would take place in mid-November. It would be televised on Yale TV, complete with annoying commentator — Joe Buck — saying stupidly obvious things: “He will be a good employee if he shows up to work on time.” Provost Peter Salovey would announce the selections. “With the first pick in the 2009 draft, Goldman Sachs selects Mordechai Chang out of Branford College.”

My point in all this is that the current system of finding a job is comically absurd and probably no good at differentiating between qualified candidates — no better than setting a bush on fire in front of a boy in the woods — but it’s no worse than any other system yet devised and perhaps is better than most. To be sure, however, it is still a system, and one whose limitations we must obey in so far as we want to play the game.

But maybe we should sit this one out. Rather than waiting around to see the jobs offered on the UCS Web site, better to ask yourself what you want to do with your life or what you want to do next year or this summer, and go do it. Don’t wait around. Don’t limit yourself to jobs in Yale’s network. If there’s a place you want to work, call the chief executive officer. If a company doesn’t yet exist that does what you are looking for, go start a company that does.

Adam Lior Hirst is a senior in Branford College.

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