During my undergraduate days, I subscribed to the idiotic notion that I should treat college as a time to "follow my interests" and "deepen my understanding of the human condition." As a result, I made a mistake that will haunt me forever - I majored in English, thus cementing my permanent status as one of the world's least employable losers. Indeed, the only losers less employable than English majors are mimes, Steven Seagal, and philosophy majors.
Still, my biggest mistake wasn't so much majoring in English as not recognizing what a big mistake majoring in English was until the middle of my senior year, when it was too late to switch to something more lucrative, like, say, pre-law, or pre-multibillionaire.
I discovered the immensity of my predicament when I visited the office of career services to ask what kind of post-graduation job they'd lined up for me. Since attending my college cost roughly the gross domestic product of Luxembourg (per semester), I'd assumed that the office of career services automatically secured each student a cushy, seven-figure job, regardless of such trivialities as "competence," or "work ethic."
The on-duty career counselor, however - a bubbly woman wearing a smart mauve pantsuit - laughed at my question (as if she thought I was joking) and handed me a sheet of paper covered front and back with multiple-choice questions. "In all seriousness," she said, "the first step toward gainful employment is filling out the appropriate survey."
And so, feeling duped - I wouldn't have bothered with college if I'd known a bachelor's degree didn't guarantee lifelong employment and vast wealth - I filled out the appropriate survey, answering every question with either a "no" or a "not sure." Had I interviewed for any jobs? No. Had I applied for any jobs? No. What about graduate school? Had I at least applied to graduate school? No. Why in the name of Richard Branson had I so thoroughly sabotaged my chances of becoming a multibillionaire? Not sure.
At the career counselor's urging, I applied for a couple of editorial-assistant positions: one at Random House and one at a company I'll call No Name & Sons - a company that, despite having published the likes of Edgar Allen Poe in centuries past, now mostly put out science textbooks and technical manuals. I wouldn't have applied to No Name & Sons on my own (because they mostly put out science textbooks and technical manuals), but, on account of my lack of prospects, the career counselor made me.
I never heard from Random House, but No Name & Sons asked me to interview at a career fair in Manhattan during spring break. Conducted in a booth in a crowded hotel conference room - where hundreds of other college seniors were interviewing for hundreds of other jobs - the interview consisted primarily of a hollow-cheeked man with a mass of glossy brown hair shellacked to his skull telling me about the company's illustrious past. When he finished, he asked where I was from.
"Saranac Lake," I said. "In the Adirondacks."
He flashed what he probably thought was a friendly smile, but what looked to me like a smirk. "Do you think you're ready to live in the city?"
No, I didn't. The city, with its hordes of pigeons and its geometrically precise layout, terrified me. "Definitely," I said, grinning and nodding emphatically. The man stared at me blankly, and I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my back. I forced myself to grin more widely, stretching my cheeks nearly to the splitting point. "I think I could definitely see living here."
Frowning - he obviously saw through my lies - the man jotted something on his yellow legal pad. When he looked up, he was smirking again; he thanked me for coming in and wished me luck, and I shook his hand and left, suspecting that I'd never talk to anybody from No Name & Sons again.
And I didn't - but I found I didn't care. In fact, not getting the job was a tremendous relief. I wasn't sure exactly what editorial assistants did, but I doubted it was pleasant, especially at a publishing house like No Name & Sons. I could picture myself spending all day copyediting a geology textbook, then soberly clocking out, taking the elevator to the roof, and leaping to a messy - but welcome - demise.
Besides, if I was going to be a loser anyway - that is, if I was going to make less than seven figures a year - I figured I might as well commit myself to the role and mooch off my parents for as long as I could manage.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at email@example.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.