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Riding the Reputation

By Beth L. Pinsker

I TRANSLATED a wedding invitation in Dutch at the Taj Mahal's employment office while looking for a job in Atlantic City last week. The "Human Resources Manager" was grateful and impressed, but in the end, all she could offer me was a job as a bus greeter at $3.80 an hour.

At first, I was insulted by the offer, but my sorrow mellowed when hers turned out to be my best job offer of the day. After a string of rejections from all 12 casinos and most of the restaurants in the area, I began to doubt the value of my Ivy League education.

I never thought my one year of Harvard education would mean very much in the real world, but I still hoped for something more interesting than handing out casino coupons and inhaling carbon monoxide fumes on a bus platform.

I know, I'm making my parents proud by being at Harvard. I'm having some fun. And I might actually be learning something. But if listing Harvard as my education can't even get me an interview at the Resorts International coffee shop, how can I count on riding on the University's reputation for the rest of my life?

Why should anyone go through all the work--the grueling exams, the endless papers and (God forbid) a thesis--if it's not going to get him or her a higher salary, better dates and a higher credit card limit than friends from high school who are getting straight A's at other colleges?

I HAVE discovered this summer that for most jobs, "education" is a loose term, and when a high school diploma is not a requirement, the Harvard name does not impress. In the real world, "special skills" does not mean how many languages I speak or if I can integrate calculus equations, but rather if I do arm or tray service and if I can type more than 55 words per minute.

It was a relief to be able to leave my job-hunting misery to come back to Harvard for Commencement. I thought that hearing about the interesting and high-powered plans of the graduating seniors would pick up my spirits.

My brother, who is among the 1600 seniors to graduate, wasn't much of a role model. He didn't have much more luck than I did in Atlantic City. Being an almost-Harvard graduate didn't put him in any better position than a mere first-year student.

He didn't even win at blackjack.

Most members of the Class of '90, however, won't be worrying about anything like employment for a long while. Between law, medical business and graduate school, a lot of people are going to avoid the real world. I have a suspicion that they discovered long before I did that the only thing education really prepares you for is more education.

And you need that extra education. What is a mere college diploma without a degree from Yale Law or Stanford Business School? Were we all under the mistaken impression that four years of Harvard would be it?

What about those who are going onto jobs on Wall Street or in Washington? While their classmates are spending more than $30,000 on tuition, the graduates in investment banking or political consulting will be making that much in salary their first year. That must have something to do with the "Harvard mystique"--Harvard as the stepping-stone to bigger and better careers.

INSTEAD of being encouraged by the success of the Class of '90, I was upset. Not only do I have many more summers as a bus greeter to look forward to, I will have to endure many more years of school and resume-building jobs as well.

Maybe I can create my own ladder of success--Harvard, bus greeter, train greeter, airplane greeter. By the time I am out of graduate school, I'll have worked my way up greeting Donald Trump's personal limousine.

Actually, that scale is kind of encouraging in itself. There is always something to be done with a Harvard education. When I go back to job hunting next week, I'm going to try to remember that. With all of these proud parents roaming around finally able to openly declare their child graduated from Harvard and not Hartford or some generic school in Massachusetts, there has to be some truth to the Harvard reputation.

So, if I am not a high-powered intern this summer, I may be in the future. I have around 1600 role models proving the Harvard step-ladder to success.

And if any of those role models are still looking for a summer job should join me in Atlantic City. They are still hiring bus greeters--no experience necessary.

Beth L. Pinsker '93 is an editorial editor of The Crimson.

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