February 9, 2009

My Future as a 'Fresh Meat Manager'

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As spring semester gets under way, the worries of most Cornell seniors are no longer whether the bump on their crotch is an ingrown hair or a herpes sore, but where — and even if — they will work once they graduate. Conversations with students across majors have confirmed that the state of the economy has profoundly affected their prospects. With layoffs of qualified workers at an all time high — inexperienced labor, regardless of if it is Ivy educated, is not what employers seek.
As an interior design student from one of the best-ranked programs in the country, I always felt that I would not have difficulty securing a position at one of the nation’s top firms. The hospitality sector is where I have always wanted to work, and being able to design grandiose multi-million dollar projects was a dream. That dream, though, has been shattered.
When speaking with a professor last week, several peers and I were informed that we must be prepared to work “unconventional but related” jobs that will help us when we eventually are able to enter the design industry. For me it was suggested that I work at the front desk or even in the facilities department of a hotel in order to comprehend its inner-workings. Once the professor left, though, the general sentiment of the group was “well, fuck that…”
It is painful to think that after four years of rigorous academics and substantial student loan accumulation, we would deign to work positions that could be landed with only a GED. So to look for better “unconventional but related” options I turned to Cornell Career Services’ website that is run through Experience.com. By the interesting and often depressing listings of openings, it appears Cornell is fully aware that graduating students might be desperate.
The following positions were new posts from this past Saturday.
A “Plastic Injection Mold Supervisor” position was open in Norwalk, CA. I considered that for a moment, but then read one of the requirements: “Must be fluent English/Spanish and be able to manage team from cradle to grave.” I just didn’t think I could manage a team for an entire lifetime. Next was an ad for a non-denominational pastor position in Springville, CA. I am great at spewing hypothetical bullshit and have no trouble speaking in front of crowds, but I just abhor ziti dinner fundraisers in church basements. So I continued to look.
Then: an opening for a “Fresh Meat Manager” in Ames, Iowa. The title did catch my attention, but after reading the description that said it was for a “specialty/natural food retailer,” it was not as sexy as I originally had thought. An ad from Wichita, Kansas was for a Termite Treater and despite any other description said “WE OFFER exceptional salary, medical insurance, dental insurance, life insurance and many others!” So I jotted that one down as a maybe.
I then was pleased to come across an ad in the hospitality field for Extended Stay Hotels, even if it were just for a full-time housekeeping attendant. The advice of my professor almost made me consider it, but then the salary of $7,000- 9,000 per year (about what I annually spend on clothing), made me move on. And isn’t that wage unlawfully low — even to pay illegal immigrants?
A “Fire Alarm Installer” position seemed like a maybe because I could make up to $30 an hour in sunny California. But the ad stipulated that I “MUST WANT TO WORK,” and, well, I do — but I am not sure that my enthusiasm for fire safety matches the all caps nature of their requirement. I came across an ad looking for a “Specimen Accessioner” but it gave no job description, pay, or location. It made me think of someone who collects semen from farm animals for industrial, massive breeding programs and, therefore, no amount of money or desirable location would convince me to apply.
Exasperated, I soldiered on and finally came across two worthwhile positions. The first was for the Clandestine Service with the CIA. It would have been cool to be part of “an elite corps, providing vital information needed by U.S. policymakers, the military and law enforcement services to protect the national security interests of the American people.” However, there was a snag to my getting the position: I would have to successfully complete a thorough psychological exam, a polygraph interview, and an extensive background investigation. So with my dabbling in musical theatre that was out of the question. My last find was for a “Marketing Superstar” in Sarasota, FL. I don’t care what that entails — I will apply. Being able to reenact Molly Shannon’s bit in the movie Superstar every time anyone asks me what I do will be worth the crap salary.
In the end, my job search was fruitless, and I may have to apply for that housekeeping position after all. My father says that the imminent hardship endured after my graduation will probably help me to “build character.” According to him, though, I built character when I got frostbite shoveling snow when I was 13, and each time Grandpa drunkenly beat me. I just pray that the purported benefits of this new “character” will be little more identifiable.