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Gratuitous By NatureCareer Fairs Make Me Sad

By Ruth Miller

One hundred and twenty-nine days out of the school year, it’s pretty sweet to be double-majoring in Political Science and Urban Planning — both majors are so small, I don’t even bother referring to course numbers anymore.

There are people on my floor that average 4.5 psets a week. WTF, mate? Personally, I peruse JStor and Keenan casually, and almost guiltily, as I watch my dear, once-optimistic freshmen realize that their world is crashing down around them in the form of 8.01. Yeah, at some point I took 18.03 for fun, ordered pizza to an Athena cluster, and was nearly driven to insanity by mind-numbingly pedantic parentheses, but I’m finding it harder and harder to evoke the “hardcoreness” that my course 6, 18, 16, and 10 friends seem to ooze so readily.

But in the midst of my readings, class discussions, and photographic adventures, there’s Career Week. For my freshmen year, I was “undeclared, seriously considering Computer Science, maybe something in software design.” I was a debutante at her ball (I even had a cute Southern accent that the recruiters loved). I scored more T-shirts, pens, and breakable doo-dads than I knew what to do with, and though no one had an internship for me, nVIDIA kindly gave me a bigger bag to put my smaller Shell bag in, because it was busting at the seams. Sophomore year, I was busy or something, but this year, with one or two final majors in mind, I was one of the first to arrive, and had a single goal in mind — find a summer internship.

In the future, when I colloquially refer to something that is difficult, rather than employing a phrase such as finding “a needle in a haystack,” “a Democrat in Upson County, Georgia,” or “parking in the North End,” I will now casually refer to “a political science job at an MIT career fair.” It was depressing. For one, all the cool stuff is at the software engineering tables. Unfortunately, I’m not desperate enough for a pen that I’m willing to lie, so I have to walk hungrily by and suppress my jealousy of the new freshmen “pre-6ers.” While I was patiently waiting on a friend, a recruiter for the Boston Consulting Group asked my major, and out of pity gave me a sweet Nalgene bottle.

While I was looking for an internship, I ended up doing much better in the swag hunt. Walking past every booth proved horribly inefficient — a decision perhaps befitting my eventual humanities degree. I finally realized that “political science and urban planning” is too broad a field, so I started being specific. My concentration is international security studies and urban design, but in the din of a thousand giddy software engineers, this was interpreted as “security studies,” which investors interpret to mean “security trading.” This made no sense the first few times, and then I scooted out of Sloan Alley after realizing there was one and I was in it.

All in all, the National Security Agency has an internship for 16 lucky students, but I don’t know if my GPA is up to the challenge. It’s worth applying anyway, and to the consulting group that noticeably perked up when I mentioned my major. Act or not, they earned themselves an application.

So now, while I enjoy my Vera research for a thesis topic and watch my engineering friends do their psets, I can smile. I know that in the long run, they’ll be the people with jobs, and my aimless wandering will leave me in either grad school, eternal research, or God knows where.

That’s the bad thing about not having any direction — it’s only fun until you have to get a career. Maybe if they didn’t call it a “Career Fair,” but a “Job Fair” it would seem less threatening. Of course, getting more people for all the course 1, 4, 7, 22, 11, 17, 21’s, 24, CMS, and STS kids out there would fix the problem, too.

I mean, forcing me to take tons of HASS–Ds with uninterested engineers is one thing, but giving them tons of attention is another. I find it hard to believe that any engineer coming from MIT will have trouble finding a job upon graduation. Unless Career Week is really a party for engineers and Sloan people to get together and talk about all the money they’re going to make, how about some of that “minority awareness” we keep talking about? I’ve got your minority right here: a junior with three years experience working with GIS, looking for an internship, and willing to relocate.