Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stunning levels of psychic damage.

I must preface this post by explaining that I am writing this almost entirely for its therapeutic and restorative purposes. I hope to expel some of the evil from my soul, and regain a modicum of balance. I put this out there on the blogosphere partially to serve as a warning for others, but mostly because I suspect my readers are more like me than not and will get a sort of voyeuristic pleasure from reading this. Sort of like watching a train wreck (where no one is hurt, of course).


Here's where I spent my day yesterday:

Well, no, not exactly there. This photo was taken at a Career Expo at some university somewhere in 2008. But it doesn't really matter, it was the same one I was at yesterday.

Take a moment to look at that photo. The first thing you need to get past is the fact that this was not taken at a goth club, and that all of the black clothing is actually power suits. What is not being clearly conveyed in this photo (I think mainly because they got a disproportionate number of students staring intently at their notes before talking to the next recruiter) is the heady, pervasive, almost tangible atmosphere of Go-Get-'Em-We-Can-Do-It-ness in the air. Or maybe that just doesn't photograph well, it's hard to say.

The Career Expo I attended yesterday was at one of the most prestigious private universities in our country. In the course of four hours, I saw hundreds of the absolute best, cream-of-the-crop, that this university had to offer, perfectly coiffed and immaculately turned-out, bright-eyed and face-forward, all falling all over themselves for the chance to spread their legs for the nearest corporate master. "Soul crushing" doesn't quite capture it, but I'm stuck for a better metaphor.

I was a recruiter. Or, to put it a different way, I was on the side of the forces of darkness. Now in fairness, I was recruiting interns for an organic farm, so you might imagine that I was a bit out of place there. In truth, I just sort of blended in. I mean, hell, I was between PNC and Deloitte accounting, both vortexes of black suits, tasteful eyeshadow and desperate drool; I'm not sure I was entirely recognizable for what I was. I felt a bit like I was behind enemy lines. Of course, these enemy lines did have a gourmet catered meal and free chair massages, so there is something to be said for it.

And then, about an hour into the pain, it happened. A bright young thing, in line for Deloitte (yes, a line. a long line.) looked at my banner and looked away. And then looked again. And then again, with a look somewhere between confused and hopeful. And then, lo though she had advanced mightily in her line, and was only 3 candidates away from getting her shot at selling herself to the biggest accounting firm in the U.S., she left the line and came over to me. Her first question was an almost pleading "Um... is your table really advertising what it looks like it's advertising?" When I said yes, we really are an organic farm, we really are taking apps for interns, and we really would welcome her application, she looked like she might cry. I think she was as scared of what she was seeing around her as I was. I was actually offering her an out, even just for a little while (maybe a few months, maybe just for the time we got to talk at the fair) of not having to be the person who will eventually get a job at Deloitte. I think in that moment that nothing could have made her happier; and honestly, I'm not sure anything could have made me happier, either.

In sum, I spoke with around twelve kids at the fair. A couple of them had even researched us before they got to the booth, and were looking to pad their resume with some unique experience in environmental service before graduating. Another few were interested, but were graduating seniors and needed to be finding a job (I suspect that once they realize what the job market is like, I'll be hearing back from at least one of them). And some of them were like that first girl, unaware of our existence, and falling all over themselves with happiness when they found us. One student grew up in the mountains of South Carolina, and just wants to come out to our farm and feel like she's at home again. One girl has a dual major in Anthropology and Chinese, and wants to work on environmental issues in China; the possibility of having on-farm experience for her was breathtaking.

Almost all of the kids I saw that day, not just the ones I spoke with, are good, bright kids with good hearts. And most of them genuinely believe that the best thing they can do with their lives right now is to land a good-paying job with Discover Card (across the aisle from me, next to Proctor & Gamble and Target Corporate). It makes me sad. But the kids that came and spoke with me--they make me happy. They will try to make a difference, even if they're working at Discover. Maybe they will make the world a better place. Maybe they'll end up out at my farm, or on their own. I don't know, but it was odd to feel some hope in such a place of desperate, corporate-black hell.


  1. Are you making this UP? Did someone really leave the line to corporate servitude to talk to you? Wow.

  2. Your post gave me CHILLS! Thats all I can say.... CHILLS. You were a very brave soul. Like spy into a scary.. tragic... world. Chills, I tell ya!

    By the way I'm Leigh, Im not sure if I have introduced myself before but love your blog. ;)

  3. @Kate: I would never, you know that! No, srsly, left the Deloitte line. Not the only one to do that, either.

    @Leigh: welcome! Thanks for reading.

  4. Great. Even assuming I could get my back to take the workload intern positions at organic farms are now going to Ivy League graduates.

    That does explain the $4/lb tomatoes.

  5. @Pangolin: eh, this place wasn't Ivy League (just pretentious, famous & expensive). Don't worry, Yale still thumbs its nose at me.

  6. I saw a tv program once on how to dress for an interview - tragic! I don't think I could do that ever although I did try when a whole heap younger. Now I just prefer to be myself - old clothes included - on the principle that if someone wants me they'd better know the worst now :)

    Strangely enough, the occasional job has wanted me although I've never worked full time. Which has allowed me lots of spare time to actually be just me. The money maybe would have been nice but money isn't everything. I still prefer to be an artist.

    viv in nz

  7. I wish someone would actually be honest about the job market and not force-feed YOU MUST GO TO COLLEGE AND GET A GOOD PAYING CAREER JOB down kids throats. In all honesty, what has it done for us? Nothing. Except for the black suit makers I guess. :-P

  8. The picture depicting the goths is broken