Sara Schonfeld | How to be a successful graduate

Sara, Struggling | The list of ‘qualifications’ demanded by employers has become ridiculous

· March 24, 2014, 5:31 pm   ·  Updated March 25, 2014, 1:46 am

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It has begun: my season of applying to programs, to jobs and — horror of horrors — to internships. As I fill my days with applications, resumes and cover letters, I’m beginning to wonder what it takes to be “successful” today.

As I began rereading the classics so I’ll be better prepared to answer pretentious literature questions at the drop of a bowler cap, I realized: The answer is here.

For those of us who read “Pride and Prejudice” for English seminars or the high school English Literature AP test, Caroline Bingley is not a role model. If anything, she’s the image of snobbery and ridiculous ideals. But when she asserts her list of qualities, I find myself laughing. They’re nothing. In fact, they seem much more reasonable than many job applications I’ve come across.

So, with a little tweaking, I’m considering the ridiculous list of what it takes to be a successful college graduate, in the style of Jane Austen’s Caroline Bingley:

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A college graduate must have a thorough knowledge of Formal Reasoning, Quantitative Data Analysis, Cross Cultural Analysis, Cultural Diversity in the United States and an — albeit begrudging — respect for the says/does outline as studied in the Writing Seminar.

This candidate, he or she, must also have a more-than-modest grasp on current events; follow the company on Twitter and LinkedIn; and attend all networking, on-campus recruiting and information sessions offered. For every minute wasted on Reddit, he or she must be able to forego sleep for a midterm paper.

A college graduate must also fill the hours of the day outside the classroom with a cappella tryouts and Ultimate Frisbee, and must volunteer at a local shelter. But this candidate must also have the free time to read for leisure and pursue vocational hobbies from watercolor painting to belly-dancing.

But still — there are things such a graduate must not do in order to maintain his or her external presence. A truly worthy candidate does not post late-night pictures on Facebook with open drink containers, and such an individual does not tweet profanities nor take turns about the Quad during the peak hours of study at Van Pelt.

While this perfect job candidate can assert skills and list assets in neat 11-point typeface, he or she must not brag or boast.

For besides all this — all these core requirements and extracurriculars and extra, extracurriculars — a true candidate must possess a certain something in his or her air that can only be witnessed in the manner of entering an interview.

Such character can only be revealed by a personal essay, or a cover letter, or a question such as, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?” Or, perchance, seven perfected letters of recommendation from advisors, professors, at-risk youth and the current President of the United States (all of course, stamped and sealed to prove our candidate’s true honor).

A true candidate, a true college graduate, must have this unique quality in his or her voice, address and expressions, usage of the ironic hashtag or an A-line skirt.

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The shocking thing is that this list is much longer than the single paragraph that Caroline Bingley provides. A basket-weaving preceptorial, a YouTube tutorial on embroidery and I all blow Caroline Bingley out of the water. What now, Mr. Darcy?

In today’s job market, employers ask for so much. When did this happen?

I can’t say I’m ungrateful to my university for setting me up to succeed. Thanks to Penn, I can check off all these boxes — or at least I’ve been given a leg up.

But that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. My OKCupid account was less complex than many of these applications. Somehow it makes me feel better to think about it like this: While an employer may not bat an eyelash at my impressive list of hobbies and activities and GPA, somewhere in the fictional land of Jane Austen, Caroline Bingley is jealous.

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