Reid Cherlin ’03 spent much of a summer photocopying and filing for hours on end. In return, he was paid nothing. And this was the job that made him the envy of half the campus.
The fact that Cherlin did his filing in the White House, made otherwise menial duties into the stuff of a killer resume.
His case goes to show that in choosing a summer job, money is not everything. For those Yale students without summer plans, this is the month when the choice gets made between service and salary, prestige and practicality.
Students looking to strengthen a resume can face the downside of less meaningful work for a more interesting title. For those looking toward law or graduate school, students might want to look more towards community service.
“Employers are not terribly interested in whether the experience is paid or unpaid,” Deputy Director of Undergraduate Career Services Priscilla Case said. “They are looking for the range of experience.”
Sandy Goodson, senior associate director of UCS, said that employers do not necessarily look for students who have previously worked in their field.
“Employers look for well-rounded students,” Goodson said. “An investment bank will not look for a student who has only had experience in investment banking.”
Associate Dean of Yale Law School James Thomas said that he thinks too much value is put on job experience in a law firm.
“Generally all you do is carry papers around because that’s all you’re qualified to do,” Thomas said. “If you’re lucky and you get the right position, if can be helpful and you can get recommendations from the lawyers in the firm.”
Richard Silverman, the director of admissions of Yale Medical School, said in an e-mail that there is no universally correct solution to the summer dilemma.
The strongest applicants, Silverman said, are those “who have demonstrated qualities of intellect, maturity, leadership, citizenship, and compassion that bode well for a career in medicine.”
The compassionate among today’s undergrads are also fully aware of the resume building power of community service.
Kristi Loui ’02, who will lead the southern trip of the Habitat Bicycle Challenge, said that she did not really think much about how the Challenge looks on a resume.
“This is not a resume building experience,” Loui said. “It’s an opportunity to enrich your life and the lives of others.”
But her co-leader, Annie Lux ’02, said in an e-mail she thinks the Challenge looks good to employers.
“If I were hiring someone, I’d hire the person that had the mental and physical strength to ride across the country,” Lux said. “And, being able to raise the money is a skill that you need for many jobs.”
For some, both future marketability and present salary are secondary to the pleasures of working in a prestigious national organization.
At the White House, Cherlin said, “for the most part we weren’t doing the most sexy things. As we progressed through the summer and earned their trust they started having us work on real projects as well as clerical stuff. . .But even stapling things in the White House is exciting.”
Cherlin said that he thinks the White House position helped him when he applied for a job the next summer at Baltimore’s City Hall.
“Especially at Yale we have sort of created this culture where everybody does these amazing things over the summer,” Cherlin said. “And you definitely feel that you are competing with your classmates who are going to have really amazing things on their resumes.”
Lindsay Firestone ’03 was an intern in the Department of Corporate Strategy in the President’s Office of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C., last summer.
“The internship did not actually exist,” Firestone said. “There weren’t that many official job requirements. There were only three people in the office. They needed to write a Trends Analysis Report — essentially a five year plan.”
Firestone said that her internship was an exceptional learning experience, even though it was not paid.
“It’s the kind of thing I want to do in the future, so hopefully someone reading my resume would see that I was trying to build up job experience,” Firestone said.
Yet even at Yale, a select few will sacrifice bragging rights to earn a living wage.
Maren Ludwig ’05 worked in a meat packing plant last summer and plans to return this summer.
“Basically they were having a problem with the seals on the packages of lunch meats, so my job was to test the defective packages and track where the problems were coming from, so they could adjust the machinery and fix the problem,” Ludwig said. “I am working there this summer because the money is simply too good to pass up.”
Ludwig said she thinks her job experience will strengthen her resume.
“Because I was solely responsible for this project, it shows that I was responsible, I follow through and even when I didn’t want to get up at a quarter until five, I did it anyway,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig also said that it was a learning experience because she understood things from two different perspectives.
“I identified with the workers because my father worked there, but I identified with the supervisors because that was my role,” Ludwig said. “It showed me what I did not want to do with my life. I want more control. I don’t want other people dictating to me what I should be doing.”