Standing in front of an audience talking about what it takes to write a resume, to network, to build a personal brand, to get a job in publishing, or in nonprofits, or at consulting firms, or on the tenure track at academic institutions.
"Anyone who tells you that there's one way to get a job is a liar," I would say. Disarm the audience. Comfort them with the knowledge that you're not selling them magic potions or oils. That you, too, got up in the morning and shoveled out your car, before sitting in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway. That you, too, had to think seriously before you got out of bed to come to this presentation. That you, too, are an honest and qualified person, just trying to get rewarded for the skills you believe that you possess.
That you'd never be the one to lie to them. Not like those other folks doling out advice. No, you'd give it to them as straight as it could possibly be rendered.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the jobs to which I wasn't interested in applying. The jobs that, given a paltry four seconds to review, seemed like they required some reserve of zen. Or a view to the longest possible version of a life trajectory. Mostly the ones that seemed to entail lots of lonely hours on cross-country flights, nights in Crown Plaza Hotels sown across the frozen tundra of America's midsection, trying to calculate the means of exacting a few dimes worth of efficiencies out of a freight route while snorfing down a buffalo chicken sandwich from the Applebees next door.
But there were hundreds of students who wanted to apply to exactly these jobs. They were chasing the pay. They were chasing the prestige of working for the closest thing they could imagine to a household name. They were chasing a version of stability that they had never known they wanted before staring at a gaping hole in their future.
They would leave my office with resume advice and sometimes I thought that they honestly wanted the work--that their ambition had been somehow sanctified by my font advice. As if I had said, "I think you should right-justify the dates on your resume" and they had heard "This is your life's calling and you shouldn't rest until you get this job."
And then there'd be someone sitting in the red chair directly outside my office. I'd extend my hand and ask if they wanted tea, and I'd repeat their name twice to try to remember it, and then, we'd shut the door and be off to the races.
"What can we do today?" I'd ask. And "well, tell me everything." And, "First things first, how are you, really?" And stuff like "Man oh man, what a cold day it is out there, isn't it?"
I wish I had been as diligent then as now in keeping notes, records, notebooks full of observations. If only.