Monday, February 11, 2008

Fulbright Scholar Degraded by Working in a Bookstore

President of the 2006 class, Jennifer Krimm, in yesterday's Post:

Want Fries with that Frustration?

Sunday, February 10, 2008; Page B08

When I was turned down for a purely administrative job at a nonprofit because the other candidate had a master's degree, I knew that there was something very wrong with the economy. Since reading the Jan. 21 front-page story "Highly Skilled and Out of Work," at least I know that there are others like me.

I moved to Adams Morgan in October convinced that my stint studying al-Jazeera in the Middle East as a Fulbright scholar, my internship at the White House, my public relations experience in Kuwait and my Ivy League education in government and international relations would give me an edge. Yet after months of searching for a job eight hours a day, every day, my savings are gone, I cannot pay the rent and I cannot afford to eat anything more elaborate than fried potatoes a la Tabasco.

Frustrated with the resume-eating abyss that is USAJobs.gov, I sought out career counselors, who advised me to go to the offices, resume in hand, and introduce myself to potential employers. They didn't warn me, however, that Brookings Institution security guards would throw me out of the building for not having a job number on my resume. I learned the hard way that Washington does things a little differently.

I worked my way to Dartmouth College from a Kentucky public school, where one of my advisers told me that a private school was a waste of money because "women only get married and drop out." I ignored that advice and tried harder, working my way to and through Dartmouth. So it's hard for me to ask for help. After a month of heartbreak and frustration, I finally decided to suck it up and ask my contacts for assistance. They tried, but to no avail. I then asked my White House intern friends for help, but since I had changed political sides after my internship, they were not willing to help me.

Looking at my Dartmouth investment banking and consulting friends, I am starting to think I may have made the wrong decision coming to Washington as an idealist. My dreams of someday starting a nonprofit to foster Western and Middle Eastern cultural understanding and to reform public diplomacy through media -- maybe those are dead dreams in this city, especially in this economic slump.

I scored a temporary job long enough to pay my phone bill. Tired of potatoes and fearful of eviction, I am waiting to see whether Borders thinks I'm qualified to work as a cashier. Next on the list are Starbucks and McDonald's. The next time you are craving fast food, keep in mind that an Ivy Leaguer might be asking, "Would you like fries with that?"

When I was turned down for the administrative job, I seriously considered standing at the top of the Farragut North Metro Station during rush hour in a suit, resumes in one hand and a poster listing my qualifications in the other. I haven't done it, but like the economy, I haven't reached rock bottom. Yet.

-- Jennifer Krimm

Washington

I've put my favorite parts in italics. Comment on your favorites below.

Her stellar resume is here, and her blog "Perceptions, Impressions, and (Mis) Conceptions" is here.

(Hat Tip: IvyGate)

UPDATE: A reader writes in to the Post.

20 comments:

John Bruce said...

IvyGate is a real gift. The sense of entitlement -- which is a part of narcissistic personality disorder -- attaching to Dartmouth and similar elite schools is, as far as I can see, getting worse and worse. The poor lady has been out of work for a month. I haven't tried to count how many times she's used the word Dartmouth in her story.

Part of this stems from the view that adolescence is to be spent as a form of boot camp, upon the successful completion of which one attends an Ivy League school and then presumably has it made for life. Elite papers like the WaPo enable this viewpoint by printing sympathetic stories like this one.

A very small breath of fresh air, to my way of thinking, was the insurgent alumni movement, which at least offered some kind of opposition to the otherwise monolithic institutional narcissism. But IvyGate does even better.

Anonymous said...

Good Lord. The girl's gone off the deep end. I'm used to this kind of rant-y nonsense about the unfairness on the pages of the daily D. Usually, though, those op-eds are from entitled freshmen who get a couple of life lessons bopped into their heads during their four-years. How sheltered and ridiculous is she?
Oh and my favorite line: "Tired of potatoes and fearful of eviction, I am waiting to see whether Borders thinks I'm qualified to work as a cashier." This world is so cruel!

Anonymous said...

Sending resumes thru USAJobs.com. Waiting a month before even trying friendly contacts.

All that elite education and no common practical street sense.

No sympathy from this reader!

Wait... there is surely some position within the Dartmouth bureacracy... maybe as an assistant deputy admissions director to search out others of similar persuasion.

A Friend said...

"A very small breath of fresh air, to my way of thinking, was the insurgent alumni movement, which at least offered some kind of opposition to the otherwise monolithic institutional narcissism."

John Bruce: Simply because one leader of the "insurgent" movement made some stupid, undiplomatic comments, that is no reason to begin describing the whole thing in the past tense, and writing off the efforts of all others so engaged.

Individuals make mistakes. But if you believe in the fundamental causes they are fighting for, it is all the more reason they need your support.

W. Aubin said...

My favorite part about this story is the way Ms. Krimm framed her predicament as a sign of a dreadful economic downturn, and lamented the potential end of her dream of changing the world through a nonprofit organization.

My question is, how did Ms. Krimm make it through an institution like Dartmouth and still not seem to understand or have faith in the power of working up through the private sector compared to immediately launching oneself into a role as some sort of international policy-shaping nonprofit muckety-muck?

Anonymous said...

I feel a little badly for her for all of the derisive internet publicity she's getting for this.

On the one hand, there's the self-absorption and the entitlement, the whole my setback of the moment is conclusive evidence of a broader social problem (not unlike last week's religious kid talking in class is a sign that theocratic vandals are coming to destroy the academy). And there's also the ungratefulness. Many people out there would give much more than she has for the opportunity to go to Dartmouth and for the other opportunities that her resume reflects she's had. At times it seems--as Mr. Bruce notes--that she feels she gets to stop trying once she has the Dartmouth diploma (and the al-Jazeera) thing, which is sad and probably galling to some.

On the other hand, she's (1) honestly expressing the feelings a lot of undergrads probably get when they leave the Ivies and, after years of being told that they're smarter than anyone else and the world's their oyster, have a rude awakening when they have to pay bills and struggle to get gainful employment, and (2) hustlin' and getting free publicity for her resume in case she left some stone unturned out there.

It would be one thing if she expected lots of sympathy, but I wonder if she knew that the derision was coming and decided that she was willing to risk that in case the op-ed paid off somehow.

It's hard to tell exactly what was going through her head as she wrote it, but I don't feel as negatively toward her as I often do toward the writers of self-absorbed pieces in the D, and I hope everything turns out ok for her. If she's sending out letters that show some motivation but lack a bit of humility and perspective, that's probably better than crying in her apartment or moving back in with her parents to "find herself."

Anonymous said...

Anon has it right. Rather than be upset with the student, more blame should be placed on the environment of parents, advisors, and the elite academic institutions that do not provide a better "grounding" in all the education they provide.

Then again, not letting the individual bear the responsibility is itself another manifestation of the problem.

12AM said...

I don't think it's question of blame. I think it's somewhat inevitable.

* One thing is the perspective people get while applying to college.

Most people who have the SATs and GPAs to into Dartmouth are eligible for a full ride elsewhere based on numbers alone and can consider the majority of schools in the country as safety schools.

At 16/17 years old, your resume can speak for itself in many places, you're not worried like many others are if you can get into a college that you can afford, and you have opportunities that most of your friends don't (particularly if you go to public school)

* Another thing is the nonprofit sector. There's a common perception that it's nowhere near as competitive as the private sector. I think people think that nonprofits are some sort of well-kept secret and that the main qualifications are idealism a willingness to forgo lots of money. I remember a few years back, there was an op-ed in the D by someone who was disappointed that she was rejected by either Teach for America or the Peace Corps (TfA, I think, but I'm not sure). Similar tone. On the one hand, she really wanted to help the world and seemed really idealistic. On the other, she seemed almost indignant that there wasn't an opportunity for her and that she got no credit for her idealism.

Until you get out there and realize that employment often isn't like college admissions, I don't think people really understand. By all accounts, she should have it made. Went to one of the best colleges in the country, did well while she was there, got a Fulbright scholarship studying in a poorly understood but recently very important part of the world... and she brings her accomplishments and idealism to the Mecca of accomplished idealists and gets stuck considering jobs she could have done just as well had she never even gone to college.

To those of us who've been out for a bit, it's not a huge surprise, but to someone who's 18 months past graduation and fresh out of a prestigious job in the Middle East, it's understandable that it could come as a jolt. I'm not a big fan of the melodramatic touches, but that's just my taste.

She's worked very hard to get where she is, but the job market doesn't always give you credit and encouragement the way an elite college might. I wish her luck and hope that she doesn't get too much flak for this.

Perhaps if she'd spent 4 years scoffing at people in a conservative newspaper, her network might be more helpful to her.

John Bruce said...

There's now a follow-up to the story at IvyGate; turns out that one of Krimm's sorority sisters didn't think the photo in the first story was sufficiently flattering. The new photos make her seem less plain but more insipid.

I agree with those who say there's a whole culture at fault here, though individuals have reason and free will and, by their teens, the ability to see frivolity and superficiality. The fact is that the whole culture has produced someone who's essentially unemployable and has no recognition of that. Nor, of course, do her sisters seem to have a clue. . .

Anonymous said...

The reply letter to the Post has it about right.

Christine S. Tian said...

Mr. Bruce, it turns out it was not one of Ms. Krimm's sorority sisters who had sent the new pictures. The sister's account had been blitz-jacked. Additionally, I believe that the posting of the pictures was in response to some nasty, inappropriate comments on her appearance that appeared in response to the original IvyGate post.

John Bruce said...

I've re-read the various corrections and retractions at IvyGate, and I'm still puzzled at exactly who did what. The non-tipster who didn't send the photos neverthless did apparently send an e-mail with the title "Do NOT apritiate this", and her own detective work seems to have uncovered the fact that her high-school age sibling-sister sent the photos and the original e-mail. Huh? How did one's high-school sibling in Sewickly or Sherman Oaks get hold of jpg images of Krimm? Oh, I see, she has one of those programs that can seize control of your PC, and she regularly does that with her older sister's computer at Dartmouth, as she has nothing better to do. Or something. This version does not pass the sniff test -- sorry.

This saga is very strange, and frankly, it says little good about Dartmouth sororities and their members. Whoever did or didn't send updated jpgs of Krimm, I'm still entitled to think that some of the best-educated ladies in the country can't spell, but have a remarkable sense of entitlement nonetheless. And apparently (or maybe it's their high-school age sisters) feel the need to put the skin and hairstyles of their peers in the best light, should they appear on satirical blogs in the wrong context. A 21st century Dartmouth education is apparently highly overrated.

Jane Austen, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Anonymous said...

I've re-read the various corrections and retractions at IvyGate, and I'm still puzzled at exactly who did what.

Someone has a bit too much time on his hands.

Christine S. Tian said...

I agree that the story is very strange. I do find it very easy to believe that the non-tipster's sister could have found pictures of Ms. Krimm through Facebook. Successfully blitz-jacking her e-mail account, though, is a bit more questionable (did she know or guess the password? Did the '08 student leave herself logged in on a home computer?).

Her e-mail to the editors was pretty incoherent, but keep in mind this is blitz -- even intelligent people frequently don't correct typos or use proper capitalization, etc, when blitzing. I'm not defending the sending of the pictures (and frankly I have no idea what "apritiate" is supposed to mean), but I do think it's a bit harsh to say that the actions of two Dartmouth girls reflect poorly on Dartmouth sororities and their members *in general*.

Anonymous said...

"apritiate" = "appreciate," most likely

Anonymous said...

1) There were 500 words. I couldn't write 6 months worth of job-search frustration in 500 words. People of the blogosphere - try to do one thing you *never* do and cut the lady a little slack.

2) It's interesting how the words "Dartmouth" and "Ivy" make people presume so much about a person's "sense of entitlement". There are a lot of us struggling through thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt who did nothing but sell out to a job we're not interested in for the long term so we could have insurance and a paycheck. Her determination to follow her interests and dreams despite is admirable.

3) Let's get a dose of reality about foreign policy - international experience in the Middle East SHOULD QUALIFY HER to employment in the foreign policy capitol of the U.S. (that's D.C. by the way...unless someone's going to argue she should relocate?) The fact that nonprofits, consulting firms, the State Department and think tanks are rejecting her applications **IS** troubling.

She's a canary in the coalmine of the economy. And the fact she's not hired doesn't speak so highly of our interest as a nation in international relations and understanding issues in the Middle East...

Anonymous said...

1:04 = J.K.?

Read the earlier comments. "Dartmouth" and "Ivy" only convey a sense of entitlement when one repeats them over and over again in a short op-ed complaining about the lack of a job.

This isn't college admissions. The job market isn't a mechanical formula where Ivy B.A. + 1 year in Qatar = job.

As for the collective interest of the United States in understanding the Middle East, there are far better ways to do that than to pay a relatively out-of-touch 23/24-yr-old to tell you about her yearlong hiatus. One lesson I think the Ivies should be good at teaching people is that no matter how good you think you are, there's always someone better. 1:04 doesn't seem to have absorbed this. Take a look at her resume. She's only had one year of formal instruction in Arabic, and it looks like her year in Qatar was more in the nature of academic research than immersion. I suppose that someone who can say "where's the train station" in Arabic and knows a bit about al-Jazeera could be useful, but if a prospective employer disagrees, I hardly think that's an indictment of the United States.

Ms. Krimm is obviously intelligent and accomplished, and I'm sympathetic that she's having trouble finding a decent job. I hope that she stays patient and comes out on top. The initial post was a bit unkind, but the 1:04 response is just idiotic. Ms. Krimm is certainly not a "canary in the coalmine of the economy." Do you even understand the expression? The histrionics are a bit much.

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