This Column Is Ironic: Jobless in Palo Alto (Where’s Tom Hanks When You Need Him?)

Opinion by Shane Savitsky
April 21, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

This Column Is Ironic: Jobless in Palo Alto (Where’s Tom Hanks When You Need Him?)Spring break is finally over for me, guys! Yesterday was my return to the humdrum life of class. Granted, my class was on British rock music and I’m in Oxford, so I think things are pretty good. (Let’s talk next week when I have to read three books and write a paper for my tutorial, okay?) Plus, the weather in Oxford this week is warmer than at Stanford. I need to enjoy this while I can. I kind of think this first week is something like vacation for me. I need it. Even with jaunts to Denmark and a lot of Netflix in my life, my extended break was pretty stressful. You see, April of my junior year has rolled around and I still don’t have a great job for the summer.

Stanford seems to be the land where your life lacks any meaning if you don’t have a great position locked up for the summer. Some of my friends have grabbed awesome congressional internships and others have their career paths set in stone with positions on Wall Street. Yet I can never seem to find these crazy opportunities. I know they must be right there (after all, this is Stanford — the land of endless possibility), but damn, they’re all just out of my reach. This hypothetical great summer job has become something like Bigfoot to me in the last few weeks. People have seen it, so I know it must possibly exist; yet I don’t think I’ll ever get to experience it for myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this is not a sob story. I haven’t given up on my job search. I’ll probably take Britney’s advice and keep looking ‘till the world ends (or at least until May ends). If I don’t manage to find anything, I’ll probably end up back in Scranton for the summer, working in a law office. It’ll look pretty decent on the resume and be perfectly constructive for my future career plans. However, I, like so many Stanford students, just want to do something engaging and impactful with my summer. More than anything, I’ve always wanted to do research back on campus within my chosen field of political science. Who knew that would be such a minefield?

I should be clear: political science is exactly what I want to do here at Stanford. The classes and curriculum are both absolutely fantastic. However, I feel like professors’ interactions with their students at Stanford can leave something to be desired. The political science department has this thing called the Summer Research College, where you can apply to be a part of the research projects of different professors. I applied to three different research projects, all of which tied nicely into my interests and waited for a response back. And waited. And waited. Actually, I’m still waiting — even after two follow-up emails. The positions have long been filled by now, but I can think of nothing more irritating than just not getting a response about my application. (Actually, hearing Rebecca Black’s “Friday” a thousand times in a row might be more irritating, but only slightly.) A note to professors: I know you’re really busy, but please send rejection emails. It only has to be one sentence long. I don’t need any more than that, I swear. It makes my life infinitely easier, and my huge ego can handle the hit, I promise. In fact, when I spend a few hours writing you an application and a cover letter and I don’t hear a single word back from you, there’s probably no bigger slap in the face. At least a rejection lets me know you read my application…

I know there are plenty of kids out there at Stanford in the same boat as I am. Consider this a cry to let others know that they are not alone. While I love Stanford, it does tend to be a place that can make you feel really insignificant sometimes. Moreover, this is also an excuse for me to complain about what I perceive as the one massive shortcoming of my academic department. And you know what? Whether I end up in Scranton or Stanford or somewhere entirely different this summer, I’ll at least know that I made a valiant effort at finding a position that’s right for me.

Honestly, wherever I end up, I’ll probably be really happy. So for now, I won’t sweat the small stuff, and I’ll enjoy the Oxford sunshine. And just think: it could be worse; I could be Andrew Luck — at least my chosen profession likely won’t shut down for a labor dispute.


If you are a political science professor with an open research position (or if you just want to share your own hiring nightmares), then email Shane at [email protected].

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