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A serial intern in the finance sector speaks.
January 27, 2012 5:21 AM   Subscribe

A serial intern in the finance sector speaks: "Applying for internships is so tiresome and bruising. It's like dating, you sit by the phone waiting for a call. Back in my days at university I would get up at 5.30am or 6am. First I'd go jogging, then send out an application for an internship. Every morning. It's so painful to hear 'no' all the time."
posted by feelinglistless (86 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nobody said becoming a job creator was easy.
posted by planet at 5:23 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Why finance? I am a nerd. Wasn't always one, but with the years I am becoming nerdier and nerdier. I just love a difficult problem, to tweak and try, until I crack it. I like numbers, too. The work in M&A is really rather interesting, and the better you get at it, the more fun it becomes. I also like to think that this work adds value to society; we help companies sell loss-making divisions, improving their financial health.
I didn't have much sympathy going in and I lost the remaining shreds here. Didja ever hear of science? Or unemployment?
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


"the other day I was on the phone with a specialised data service, and they helped me to this trick to download reports much faster – making me seriously more efficient. I am not going to share that with the other two."

kinda sums up the kind of person she is here.
posted by lester at 5:38 AM on January 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


I wonder how many people warned the author that this was finance...I suspect a large number. I took two finance courses and the profs (as well as the guest speakers) all warned us that this was life in finance. I suspect, like people applying to law school or education now, they're just tone deaf to the idea that the idyllic lifestyle of TV doesn't exist.

This really irks me too:

"Why finance? I am a nerd. Wasn't always one, but with the years I am becoming nerdier and nerdier. I just love a difficult problem, to tweak and try, until I crack it. I like numbers, too."

There are plenty of nerds out there doing plenty of other things than finance. There may not be the potential payoff attached to it, but if it was purely about problem solving and numbers, the author could have found something balanced.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:44 AM on January 27, 2012


"Why finance? I am a nerd. Wasn't always one, but with the years I am becoming nerdier and nerdier. I just love a difficult problem, to tweak and try, until I crack it. I like numbers, too. The work in M&A is really rather interesting, and the better you get at it, the more fun it becomes. I also like to think that this work adds value to society; we help companies sell loss-making divisions, improving their financial health.

Well, I wouldn't get all pious about "adding value to society"; she's just performing a necessary function. M&A vultures are, in fact, a necessary part of the environment of capital. They do not create "jobs" per se; they force efficiencies in the placement of capital. The pity is that so many companies are so badly run that they allow their bones to be picked by these MBA stooges.

That being said, I have no sympathy for the difficulty of anyone's interview process. Maybe if this woman's father was named Romney M&A would be easier for her. But then she couldn't brag about making it on her own.
posted by three blind mice at 5:45 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This whole series is pretty interesting! I liked this one, about the process by which banks recruit from math and science departments at universities.
posted by escabeche at 5:47 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I have two screens open, one with a very complicated looking spread sheets, lots of colours and all, and one with the story I am reading.

Ah, yes, the MetaFilter Strategy. I think removing the img tag on this site destroyed productivity for thousands of office drones no longer afraid of leaving a dense block of text up around supervisors who don't look too close.

But then she couldn't brag about making it on her own.

Really? I thought the BOOTSTRAPS! mentality was a requisite for that sort of thing.
posted by griphus at 5:50 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Since I got many offers last year, friends from business school asked to copy out my answers, so they could use them too.

Everyone I ever met who went to business school had similar stories involving flexible ethics, from admissions through to finding a job. I don't think they actually teach or encourage this stuff, but it seems to be embedded into the selection process in some way.
posted by Forktine at 6:00 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got offers for two jobs, but declined as there was this other job I wanted.

Poor baby.

You know, with Occupy going on and all, I have consistently stepped up to argue against its adversaries who say "these people could get jobs - they just don't want them." I know full well that's the reality for many, too.

And yet, this situation has been happening at my job. My boss has been interviewing for an assistant for ages. This is an incredible plum of an entry-level job in my field - it's the very rare foot in the door I would have arm-wrestled for at the age of 25. It pays unusually well, offers benefits, includes research and interesting projects, and presents the opportunity to have my boss, who is a leader, influencer, and connector across the field, as a mentor.

We finally got down to a final 3 candidates. One flubbed her last interview, leaving us two. We offered the job to the first one, and after a lot of hemming and hawing, she called back to say she didn't want the job. We were genuinely shocked. Her reasons? "The commute is too long" [this even though it is 45 minutes and three of the four of us on the search team had longer commutes at the time, one from the same town where she lived] and "it's just that I'm so involved in my social life and projects in X city." Well, OK. So we offered to candidate number 2, who had been temping at a hospital in adminstration. She hemmed and hawed and when we finally got through, she said "Well...it just pays so much less than what I'm doing now." Dumbfounding - it's a temp gig, not permanent; no benefits; it's healthcare, of course it pays more than our humanities field and if you really wanted a career change, you should know that.

It's absolutely unheard of for a chance like this to enter our field at double the usual entry level wages to be turned down by two people. Both these applicants had a whiff of entitlement about them. They turned us down because they expected better things. They seemed to have felt that they wouldn't need to pay any dues, because they'd done internships and volunteer jobs already. They expect to walk into high-level positions doing exactly what's on their wishlist. It's really amazing, and then to see it again here? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say if you're under 25, master's or no, you very probably don't have anything so unusually amazing to offer that you should consider yourself such a precious and rare commodity that you can turn down real job offers in the expectation of even sweeter deals.
posted by Miko at 6:10 AM on January 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


hey Miko - I'll take your job. I'm not under 25 (closer to 35), but I'm happy to have starting wages and benefits, though I do have a masters. What's the commute time from Canada?
posted by jb at 6:17 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


why not just go into a field with less chance of poisoning all of society at once? like selling crack to small children, for example. there are plenty of opportunities in the crack industy.
posted by elizardbits at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


as for the nerd thing (back to the original post) - I thought she meant that she was nerdy and excited about numbers in finance, which is different from enjoying numbers and problem solving in other fields. Me, I love data-management when it comes to social research, but I hate accounting. I don't know why tracking down a missing participant in a psychology study or cleaning up typos in the database is more interesting than balancing accounts - but it just is. Whereas I know bookkeeping nerds who love what they do.

anyways - I had a lot of sympathy for her. She's in finance because it's what she enjoys doing, and not just because it pays a lot and is high status.

that said - working 7am to 3am? The banks should just stop being cheapos and hire enough people to do the work. If it's mostly sitting around until someone wants you, that's fine - that's what midnight donut shop clerks do.
posted by jb at 6:23 AM on January 27, 2012


Both these applicants had a whiff of entitlement about them. They turned us down because they expected better things.

No they turned down the offer because you aren't offering enough money. This isn't rocket science. Certainly find some deadbeat to fill the chair at those wages, but if you want candidates like the ones who turned you down twice already, you need to change the offer. Or hope you find one who is great at everything else and clueless about salary.

I am dumbfounded by employers who say "this is what the job pays" instead of "this is what i have to pay to get this person to work for me."
posted by three blind mice at 6:29 AM on January 27, 2012 [36 favorites]


When I was at university, I did 4 internships with different investment banks (7 months total over the course of a 3 year degree) so much of what she says is familiar. Interns work late, including all-nighters when the job demands it, but the people who have made it their career work even harder. It's not meant to be abusive or even part of paying your dues, it's more the reality of life on the ground.

But I'm surprised at the special snowflake tone. She doesn't seem to grasp that all job applications and interview processes are painful and that frankly the UK financial and legal sectors are models of how to run a transparent and meritocratic recruiting process. Friends trying to break into publishing, media, development or political work had to scrounge up cash so they could feed themselves while doing unpaid office work for the experience. In contrast, the banks would fund my travel costs, put me up in hotels while I interviewed, give me black car rides home at night and would pay a completely unjustifiable sum of £8,000 for 10 weeks of work. Those jobs paid off my university tuition, taught me a lot and really, in retrospect, I've got no grounds to complain about them given that starting a career in other fields is a hell of a lot less cushy.
posted by emergent at 6:33 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No they turned down the offer because you aren't offering enough money

It's one of the best paying insitutions in my field and this is one of the best paying entry level jobs in the field. If you don't want that wage structure, then you don't want to work in this field, and you shouldn't be interviewing in it - certainly not going to the second interview where you know the exact wages being offered. You're wasting everyone's time and you're believing a fantasy about the capabilities of your chosen field.
posted by Miko at 6:38 AM on January 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


this is what i have to pay to get this person to work for me

And like I said, we'll find someone equally good and hungrier. At 25 with little experience, you can really only be so good.
posted by Miko at 6:39 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


t's absolutely unheard of for a chance like this to enter our field at double the usual entry level wages to be turned down by two people. Both these applicants had a whiff of entitlement about them. They turned us down because they expected better things.

I know I have written about this here before, but we have struggled to make hires all through the "great recession" or whatever it's being called now. Aggregate unemployment and underemployment numbers are very high, but that has not turned into a buyers market in terms of hiring people specialized skills, or in finding people willing to take on what seem to me to be fairly reasonable issues (like your commute, or relocating to a place that isn't a major coastal city) in exchange for wide-open professional development, great pay, solid benefits, job security, etc.

No they turned down the offer because you aren't offering enough money

Like Miko says, the wage structure in most fields is pretty open, and you should pick a different track if that is a deal breaker, any more than the person interviewed for the article finding the long hours a problem.
posted by Forktine at 6:43 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


hiring people with specialized skills, like being able to write coherently, obviously.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eh, sometimes these things are more obscure than they seem. I talked to dozens of people in accounting prior to beginning the interview process. I learned about busy season hours, I learned about the promotional structure, I learned about the hierarchy. Not a single person mentioned travelling to a different client every 2-4 weeks and adding an extra two hours to your commute every day because head office is downtown so that's where you got a place but your clients are in bumfucknowhere. And not, like, bumfucknowhere in one location, either. I've been 40 miles north, east, and west of my actual head office.

Come to accounting! We don't work long hours like the investment bankers (except during busy season) and we're not on the road all the time like the consultants (you just drive two hours a day to get to the client instead of flying somewhere and staying there for a week) and we actually add value unlike the marketers (except for the bit where auditing procedures are insubstantial and the entire underlying theoretical framework is flawed).

I don't regret business school, but there's a lot of muddling of the waters.
posted by Phire at 6:54 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Why finance? I am a nerd. Wasn't always one, but with the years I am becoming nerdier and nerdier. I just love a difficult problem, to tweak and try, until I crack it. I like numbers, too. The work in M&A is really rather interesting,

Sorry, I don't believe her. At the end of the day, people want to go into finance because they want to make a lot of money (I'm not saying it's a bad thing!). The fact that they're good with numbers is a requirement, of course, but it's not the reason people go into finance. The problem is that she's really too ashamed to say it, or doesn't realize that this is the reason people go into finance and M&A. As a consequence, she comes across as fake.

It's one of the best paying insitutions in my field and this is one of the best paying entry level jobs in the field. If you don't want that wage structure, then you don't want to work in this field, and you shouldn't be interviewing in it - certainly not going to the second interview where you know the exact wages being offered. You're wasting everyone's time and you're believing a fantasy about the capabilities of your chosen field.

I understand... kind of. But the truth is that you shouldn't expect to find qualified applicants if you can't pay them decent wages. The sort of people you want to attract (presumably well educated with a high level of social capital) are also the sort of people who can afford not to take the job and are going to have a "whiff of entitlement." If your boss wants to hire an assistant, find someone who's going to be good at being an assistant and needs the money. At that wage structure, the fact that you think you can have well-educated highly qualified staff begging to be "mentored" far away from the city isn't really serious.
posted by deanc at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're wasting everyone's time and you're believing a fantasy about the capabilities of your chosen field.

The fantasy is that you can hire people who pass your interview process at the wages you're offering when twice you have failed to close the deal. In this economy. Is not the problem an interview process selects the wrong candidate to whom to make an offer?

When my wife worked as a headhunter I used to see this all the time. The employer would be all "She should be honored we're even considering her for a job" and then the astonishment when "she" turns down the generous offer. And then always some explanation of sour-grapes that "she" doesn't get the job market, doesn't understand the business, didn't see how "generous" the offer was, etc. When an offer is rejected the blame is always on the candidate and seldom on the offer.

Lower your standards and you'll have no problem finding a wage match, but you might be less satisfied than if you paid a bit more and hired one of the candidates who turned you down.
posted by three blind mice at 7:01 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Here is some more flame bait for you guys.

theiBanker.com on Why People Become Investment Bankers. I think you will especially enjoy the chart at the top of the page.
posted by JPD at 7:15 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fantasy is that you can hire people who pass your interview process at the wages you're offering when twice you have failed to close the deal.

Relatedly, this is why people gravitate towards finance, and it's why in medicine, you can predict almost to the last digit on your board scores what residency you can get based on the specialty's pay relative to others: because things are so stratified now that it becomes expensive not to go into a high-paying field. And it's why the author's claims that she likes finance because she's "a nerd" sound fake-- she's going into finance because it's the best paying field that coincides with her skill set (business and math). And it's why anyone with an undergraduate and/or master's degree from a well-regarded school isn't going to take an underpaid menial staff position for a non-profit: because it's too expensive to commit oneself to a low-tier wage structure in this environment.

People might be willing to choose a lower paying field they enjoy over a higher-paying field they might be qualified for is the pay differential is 25% or so. But when the pay differential is 2x or 5x or 10x, the incentives are so stark that you're going to look at all the jobs you're qualified for and make an effort to pick the highest-paid-one possible. And that's why the author is going into finance and it's why well-educated articulate professionals with social capital aren't going to take a low-paid menial position in the non-profit industry if they have other options.
posted by deanc at 7:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Something tells me the reaction to this piece would be a lot different if the author were, say, looking for a position as a grant writer or an entry-level publishing job.
posted by downing street memo at 7:20 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


... an entry-level publishing job.

That would just push it entirely into the realm of fantasy.
posted by rewil at 7:26 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something tells me the reaction to this piece would be a lot different if the author were, say, looking for a position as a grant writer or an entry-level publishing job.

or the person who euthanizes animals at the pound
posted by JPD at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2012


But the truth is that you shouldn't expect to find qualified applicants if you can't pay them decent wages.

I'm sorry, folks, but we're not going to lower out standards. We don't need to. Again, these young people were good but not gold-plated. No one is. We work in a real world with finite constraints. And what you're missing is we do pay decent wages - if you want to do this kind of work, we pay just about the most decent wages that are out there. If you can't accept those wages, you're not being realistic about this field - and because of these applicants' lack of experience, and perhaps bad advice from families or professors, they're making poor judgments about what's realistic. Also, we are not far from the city. We're in a city, actually, connected to this other city with great frequent public transportation and decent commuting by car. There aren't many better jobs than this for someone with no experience. I know we would all like to believe the sky is the limit, but it is not. It will take time, but not much else, to find a candidate who is every bit as good as these others - really, it is their loss. In fact we had two new candidates in this week, who were next on the list of over 160 applicants (we've had only five in for an interview). So the market reality is that though it's taking time to weed out those who aren't really serious about working in this field but due to their naivete thought they were, we really have plenty of excellent people remaining to choose from.

I do believe in paying good, attractive, competitive wages and that this is one of the single most powerful things you can do to improve the overall quality of your organization and its products. It's one reason I am working here and proud of the place - it pays well above market rate for similar jobs, and the staff as a result is really wonderful. So what you're missing when you say 'but you need to pay more' is that we already do. There is not an unlimited budget for an assistant, and there is honestly no assistant in this world who would be good enough for us to throw another $10,000 onto the offer. It's not that kind of job, plain and simple, and if you think institutions really have that kind of flexibility in recruiting at the entry level, you're advocating for an approach that ignores a rational cost/benefit analysis. I've been in this field a long time, and I assure you, this job pays appropriately, and if you want to work in this field, there are really a very very limited number of these kinds of jobs across the country, let alone in our region. It's okay - some won't want it, but we can happily move right on down the line.

All of this has not that much to do with the intern's woes in the post. But in general, I never had a doubt on exiting my training that getting into a good job was going to take a long time and a grasping at every opportunity. If you struggle in a field for a while and find it's not working out for you, chances are you can find a place that uses similar skills and has more of what you want, lifestyle-wise. If you are really committed to that field, though, there is a certain amount of clawing-up that you may need to do if you were not born with a golden ticket.
posted by Miko at 7:43 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There aren't many better jobs than this for someone with no experience.

Yes, there are many better jobs. Those jobs are not in your field, and "qualified" applicants are going to take jobs in other fields instead of your field, leaving you with a lower tier of candidates, outside of a couple who are maybe able to do it as a "hobby job."

There are some arguments to be made that jobs have compensation in forms other than money-- prestige, personal enjoyment, glamour, etc. And those arguments are true! But in this economically stratified environment, anyone who's "qualified" in these fields is going to be pursuing something like finance rather than being a low-paid assistant.

There are plenty of people who would love to take that job you're offering, Miko, but you're hung up on the idea that they should come from a certain social class and academic pedigree. And people with that background generally have a sufficient amount of social capital to take another job. And if they don't have that kind of social capital, they're precisely the sort of people who are going to prioritize maximizing every last dollar.

To bring it back to the FPP link, that's why this author is going into finance. Not because she's a "nerd" who's "passionate about numbers." Finance doesn't have to screen people who are "looking for a foot in the door" to this field based on how much of a labor of love they have for it. You're making a basic mistake in thinking that people go into finance because they love it and figure that you can find people who should be thankful for the opportunity to go into your field as well: it doesn't work that way.
posted by deanc at 7:52 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Those jobs are not in your field

Oh, I don't contest that. These people should not be interviewing in my field.

anyone who's "qualified" in these fields is going to be pursuing something like finance rather than being a low-paid assistant.


That's false. What's not the case is that people who are willing to take these jobs are less qualified or talented than people who are not. This is a question of what you want in your career. I work with people every day who made this choice.

you're hung up on the idea that they should come from a certain social class and academic pedigree.

Social class background is unimportant but requisite skills are important - rather, essential. Academic history is indeed important. It's just counter to reality that we cannot find people like this - I'm offering you an example of two people who have other means of support and are finding they are really not all that interested in making the sacrifices that our very satisfying work entails. That's fine for them, but it is not evidence that there are not many more people who are interested. You're arguing an abstract position, I'm living and hiring in the reality, and it's not normally a problem for us to find excellent people, so this has been an unusual wrinkle. As I said, with 155 people left in the applicant pool, I think it's safe to say that not everyone has adopted your calculus.

Finance doesn't have to screen people who are "looking for a foot in the door" to this field based on how much of a labor of love they have for it.

And yet that's exactly what the FPP is about. She can't get hired. We have loads of interns working for us too. We don't have jobs for them.
posted by Miko at 7:59 AM on January 27, 2012


This is a great fpp to start the day with after waking up to a rejection in my voicemail.
posted by hellojed at 8:02 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miko & Co. please stop derailing and post it in jobs.

...so we can get back to talking shit about i-bankers.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:12 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


there are plenty of opportunities in the crack industy.

Yeah, I tried that, but they wanted me to start out by selling on the street! I thought I'd be going right to supervising several dealers! And they wouldn't even listen to my ideas about reaching out to new consumers through people's friend networks on facebook! I have a degree, dammit!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:12 AM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


There is not an unlimited budget for an assistant, and there is honestly no assistant in this world who would be good enough for us to throw another $10,000 onto the offer. It's not that kind of job, plain and simple, and if you think institutions really have that kind of flexibility in recruiting at the entry level, you're advocating for an approach that ignores a rational cost/benefit analysis.

This kind of reminds me of the current trend for a lot of entry level jobs for college grads to be temp-to-hire. Want a job with health benefits that pays enough for you to pay off your rent and student loans? Too bad, those don't exist, no matter how good of a prospect you are. Sure, the CEO might give himself millions of dollars a year but it doesn't make sense to pay for some worker drone's health insurance. A lot of "rational" hiring decisions come down to a race to the bottom in terms of salary and benefits, because if there are less jobs than there are applicants they can just squeeze costs down to the absolute minimum that the job candidates as a whole will tolerate. There is a huge power imbalance between an individual job candidate and the company doing the hiring, and the main reason that worker unions exist is to try to create an equally strong negotiating position so that workers don't have to just take whatever rotten deal an employer decides to offer them. (Note that this comment is not directed at your particular situation Miko)
posted by burnmp3s at 8:16 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


No I know, and actually what's a shame is that we're not doing that - full, good benefits and a permanent gig. In a nonprofit we don't have the same kinds of market pressures that influence rational management in the corporate world, but we have others, such as accountability for public funds. Being a good employer and not an exploiter is a value you have to embrace or not. Some fields are inherently exploitive, finance maybe being one. Even the friends I had working in finance in NYC in the early 90s were driven into the ground by their crazy hours. I remember one saying she was making $75K for working twelve to fourteen hours each day; that sounded princely to me at the time, but now I'm kind horrified, since she had to pay NY rent on top of it, and never had time to cook for herself so every meal was prepared. That's not a lot and that's once she jumped through the hoops to get actually hired, not just interning.
posted by Miko at 8:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And what you're missing is we do pay decent wages - if you want to do this kind of work, we pay just about the most decent wages that are out there. If you can't accept those wages, you're not being realistic about this field - and because of these applicants' lack of experience, and perhaps bad advice from families or professors, they're making poor judgments about what's realistic.

Or, and I say this as someone out of school who got this type of response from a non-profit (why apply and interview if our offer isn't good enough?), they applied trying to get a sense of what working in the field is like and the interview slowly showed that it wasn't worth it. Interviews are two-way processes.

I was the final candidate for a well-paying (comparatively) entry-level position with a non-profit out of school. What stuck out in the final interview was that the starting salary was great, but there was not a terribly wide nor lucrative road to the top, and it was clogged with people who had no route to advance themselves. The top jobs were national, largely political positions and the mid-senior level ones were filled by 35-40 year olds who would stay there basically forever because it was their field.

I ended up taking my chances on having successfully navigated to a second interview with government, because the overall progression of my career was going to be better.

So, I wouldn't jump straight to the inadequacies of the applicant; perhaps there are barriers within your field that are a lot more important than you think.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:42 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I didn't have much sympathy going in and I lost the remaining shreds here.

I didn't get the sense that she was asking for sympathy, so much as telling us about what she does. If anything, I think she's more bragging about how hard she works. I don't see any signs of someone who is traumatized or claiming to be traumatized.
posted by Edgewise at 8:59 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Something about the quotes in the FPP make me really hate the subject. I think it's maybe the whole "I'm a special snowflake" tone that someone else mentioned. That whole "I'm a nerd" bit also annoyed me, because it comes across as incredibly disingenuous.
posted by asnider at 9:06 AM on January 27, 2012


I think you will especially enjoy the chart at the top of the page.

That's not a chart.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:08 AM on January 27, 2012


It's an interesting blog, but double?
posted by Bukvoed at 9:09 AM on January 27, 2012


I don't know anyone like Miko's talking about that can turn down a job these days. I do not get that. I do not see that among the college students where I live--people are begging for scraps so they don't have to move home. But yeah, nobody is going to up the pay for an entry level "warm body" job. They only pay enough for a specific person in upper level management.

Back to the article, holy shit, does this sound like intern abuse. Finance or no, this is freaking unreal.

"I come in by 9am and go out around midnight, but 3am is no exception either. When I have been able to get home before midnight for a few days in a row, I think to myself: wow, lucky me. Same if I haven't had to work for three weekends in a row."

"I never have to work beyond 3am."

"I always strike up a conversation with the driver, something I actually look forward to during the day. Imagine my sorrow when the driver is stand-offish. I go, how can you do this to me? This is my daily dose of social interaction, and you're ruining it. And there's lunch, which can come to 40 minutes, allowing me to meet with friends – who I can never see in the evenings."


Oh, for the love of god.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:38 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


jenfullmoon, I believe that these are paid internships, not unpaid. I mean, sure, the hours suck, but she's being paid to the sort of job that she will do as a full time employee.
posted by deanc at 9:42 AM on January 27, 2012


Still, 15 hour work days?
posted by ymgve at 9:57 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine what anyone finds appealing about this market or this job environment. If you want to be overworked, under-appreciated and talked down to on a daily basis, I suggest you get married and have kids.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:59 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I work 10-7 then I take a nap and get back to work around 11 and work until 3 or 4. Usually I work 11-3 saturday as well. Mostly my fault, I could be done quicker but I take frequent breaks to look at pictures of cats on the internet. For many people, their job is their life so work/life balance really does not apply.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, the hours suck, but she's being paid to the sort of job that she will do as a full time employee.

The only reason these sorts of jobs aren't being done by full time employees is that they can exploit the fact that extremely competent students (gauranteed by the fact that they only accept students from top business schools who pass a series of tests) are willing to take a temporary position with long hours for not much money (she says she makes £6 an hour if you consider the actual hours she works) doing busy work that doesn't actually teach them any valuable skills, with the hope that it will somehow lead to a good job in the future. It's a great situation for the employer since they can pay competent workers less than London's minimum wage, but for the intern it's at best an obstacle that needs to be passed on the way to getting an actual job.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


theiBanker.com on Why People Become Investment Bankers:

Money, Money, Money, Money, Money
Ego Stroke, Ego Stroke, Ego Stroke
Skills Development


job satisfaction
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Second-hand anecdotes from friends who worked as interns in investment banks: investment banking internships are pretty different from regular internships in that: 1. you actually do the work you would do as an entry level associate, 2. you have a pretty good chance of being hired back (unless this person, apparently), and 3. you get paid well enough to justify the hours to yourself for the duration. I knew people who were making $1,000 CAD a week for a summer internship out of their second or third year of school. I'd say that's an alright trade-off for working those hours, if that's the trade-off you want to make.

Not everyone wants to make the trade-off, of course. A friend of mine working with Morgan Stanley got offered near six-digits right out of school, but six months in is now interviewing with headhunters and putting together an application to grad school because she hates the culture so much.
posted by Phire at 10:25 AM on January 27, 2012


That's amazingly high, in the $30/hr range. Canadian Federal rates for summer students are ~$550 CAD per week (~$15/hr), and that's considered high pay for most. Engineering, academic and other levels of government frequently pay less, closer to minimum wage, ~$10/hr CAD.
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on January 27, 2012


1. Busy young woman unsuccessfully but persistently attempting to enter a competitive professional field graciously agrees to be interviewed by Guardian blog about her experiences.
2. Guardian, having made the determination that there will be an interested audience, posts lengthy, apparently off-the-cuff comments woman makes with respect to her experiences.
3. Blog post is linked on Metafilter.
4. Metafilter [having RTFA?] deems woman parasitic, entitled, stupid, naive, and/or otherwise beneath contempt.

Got it.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:33 AM on January 27, 2012


Oh, I forgot 5.

5. Metafilter extrapolates from this and other limited anecdotes to make tenuously connected claims relating to Kids These Days.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew people who were making $1,000 CAD a week for a summer internship out of their second or third year of school. I'd say that's an alright trade-off for working those hours, if that's the trade-off you want to make.

For a summer job as a student, that's a pretty good wage, but not at those hours. I mean, I make roughly that amount of money (pre-tax), but I don't put in anything close to a 15 hour day. Of course, this is my full time job and I'm not going to be earning six-figures anytime soon.
posted by asnider at 10:49 AM on January 27, 2012


Yes, in a rare turn of events, the comments on the actual linked site take a more interesting direction than the comments we've made so far. There's a lot of"is this kind of life really worth it?," which makes me wonder whether the response is in part cultural. Usually in the US when you discuss this kind of sacrifice of personal existence on the part of someone in the business world, the implication is that we're supposed to either admire based on the person's work ethic and the argument of "added value" or decry it based on the argument of evil in the finance industry - instead of critique it based on terms related to quality of life.
posted by Miko at 11:18 AM on January 27, 2012


i.e.:
The great King Shite of Finance plays his slimey tune & all the little turds dance their little jig, squealing "Look at me ! Look at me !" What fulfilling lives they must all lead. The words "sad" & "pathetic" spring to mind.

I wonder, have they ever seen the sunrise from the slopes of Kilimanjaro ? Or observed a herd of African Elephant settling down for the night ? Or the sunset from Key west ? Or swam in the Indian Ocean off a beach in Goa ? Or ridden a motorcycle across Europe ? All this I did before I was thirty, just about the time all these bright young things think their lives have begun, so it seems.
posted by Miko at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2012


Yeah, I had a few moments in 2nd year when I was tempted by articles about bigshot CEOs in the finance sector and briefly wondered if I should throw myself into my studies to make the grades needed to even qualify for an interview. Then I realized I would hate my life and that it was my overdeveloped overachievement complex that wanted me to prove to myself that I was capable of working 90 hour weeks, and not any sort of healthy impulse.

This is one area in which I was more than happy to let my parents call me lazy for not wanting to work those types of hours. I'll take a comfortable wage and some semblance of mental health over a high-flying position like that any day. Icarus and all that.

Aside: the interviewing process for getting an entry level finance position is insane. Several rounds of interviews with hour-long technical components and case-interviews on top of your standard behavioural questions culminating in a "Super Monday" where you spend 6-7 hours in and out of hour-long panel sessions with people at different levels of the firm, all of whom you have to impress to be let in the door. If that's not a hazing process designed to encourage fanatic devotion, I don't know what is.
posted by Phire at 11:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


For a summer job as a student, that's a pretty good wage, but not at those hours.

Grad students are more or less expected to work constantly. In undergrad, there's little concept of "work/life balance" since you're always in class or studying or working on problem sets, with some extracurriculars mixed in. When you're straight out of school (or still in school), you can pretty easily convince people to work long hours, especially if you're dangling out the promise of massive professional advancement.

There does seem to be a bit of a cultural divide among college students, some of whom look forward to graduating with relief at the idea that they'll have a job that they can leave at home at the end of the day, and others who regard their no-sleep lifestyle in college as "normal" and end up in fields where they will keep doing that.
posted by deanc at 11:34 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]



It's funny because I'm 100% sure that when I graduated with my bachelors at the age of 24 or with my MBA at the age of 32, that I would have been right up there, begging for that 15 hour a day job. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and dig into that big, bad, corporate world.

Now, as I approach 50, there's NOTHING that would get me to work in that kind of environment. Money is fun, but if you don't have time to spend it, whatever is the point?

Is it possible that the reward of that kind of grueling work day is the actual payoff? What do you have to tell yourself about the work that you do that makes it worthwhile, just for the actual work itself?

I know that Doctors may get satisfaction from a long work-day, curing illness, saving lives. I know that lawyers get satisfaction from long work days in finding truth and preserving justice. Teachers, likewise, enjoy the satisfaction of molding young minds.

Bankers? I work with spreadsheets all day, and if I couldn't drop them like poison at 5:30 every night to go home, I promise you, I'd be looking for another job.

I don't understand that culture. I don't understand what the reward would be to work long hours, sacrifice a social life and commit totally to a job.

Anyone?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:58 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a single reason why I didn't pursue anything like a line of work that would have me doing finance or most other similar jobs, and that's my very low tolerance for boredom and repetition. I'm much too antsy, a novelty seeker, and to be sitting at a desk doing small variations of the same task over and over would be, to me, a recipe for depression and/or insanity. I considered fields like this in high school and college, for a short time as due diligence, but it has always been very clear to me that I would be very uncomfortable, unhappily so, in that sort of setting. I'm competitive but not about things like accounts won or sales made or mergers forged, so I don't get the adrenaline rush from those things that I think fuels a lot of people in finance particularly. I am deeply glad I was able to have a satisfying and interesting career that makes the most of strengths that in another field would be liabilities.
posted by Miko at 1:17 PM on January 27, 2012


I know that lawyers get satisfaction from long work days in finding truth and preserving justice.

[citation needed]
posted by Blue Meanie at 1:27 PM on January 27, 2012


I don't understand that culture. I don't understand what the reward would be to work long hours, sacrifice a social life and commit totally to a job.

Some people genuinely enjoy the intellectual challenge of solving puzzles, which is what a lot of spreadsheet manipulation is all about. It doesn't sound like you do (or, maybe you don't like doing so for a corporation) which is okay, too.
posted by downing street memo at 4:26 PM on January 27, 2012


Yeah, definitely. I know one of the only things I can concentrate on for long stretches of time without getting distracted is coding, and lots of people I work with would find that horrifying. But then, I find looking at amortization schedules horrifying, so you know, different strokes.
posted by Phire at 4:34 PM on January 27, 2012


Man, no one's saying everybody likes the same things, but is everyone relatively low on the totem pole in finance in love with not seeing friends or family and getting little sleep? That's doubtful.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:42 PM on January 27, 2012


I wonder, have they ever seen the sunrise from the slopes of Kilimanjaro ? Or observed a herd of African Elephant settling down for the night ? Or the sunset from Key west ? Or swam in the Indian Ocean off a beach in Goa ? Or ridden a motorcycle across Europe ? All this I did before I was thirty, just about the time all these bright young things think their lives have begun, so it seems.

Well, I've never done any of those things - and I don't have a high powered career as compensation. The only people I know who've done any of that sort of thing have been wealthy and/or had family in the region (and even then, they only see that one place). Most people I know spent their 20s in their home country either working or in school. A few went to another country for graduate school, but (of course) then there is no time for swimming (I couldn't even tell you what the pool at my grad school looked like). Three of my friends made it as far as Japan (teaching English or a vacation), and another has been in the interior of China (also teaching English) - but no African elephants or motorcycling across (albeit small) continents.

Thing is - you can spend your 20s doing fun things. I spent my 20s (and early 30s) doing what I wanted, somewhat, in university and graduate school. But now I have no financial security and I'm delaying having children until my late 30s which really worries me. Whereas a friend of mine started working right after university - she and her partner have bought a house, she has a job with benefits and a generous maternity leave (same place as I work, but she's permanent and I'm not so I have neither) - and they are having their first child, and she is just under 30.

Of course, she's not in finance, so she works 35 hours a week and has a very relaxed and supportive work environment. Pay isn't as high, but I would work well-supported non-profit (public health research) any day.
posted by jb at 5:24 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you can't accept those wages, you're not being realistic about this field - and because of these applicants' lack of experience, and perhaps bad advice from families or professors, they're making poor judgments about what's realistic.

If all three of your top candidates had reason to avoid going along with it, you are vastly over inflating a sense of your company's worth. Remember you're selling something, not doing them a favour- if the job was so darn awesome pay would not be an issue. An interview works both ways, the candidate is screening you, and your company did not pass three people's screening.

You can try again, but you obviously are failing at making yourself super exciting. Maybe if one person had flaked, you could blame it on random human choices, but three people politely declined. Either up your patience or lower your standards if this is all your budget.

And like I said, we'll find someone equally good and hungrier. At 25 with little experience, you can really only be so good.

And I think I know why your candidates are only meh about your position. You're literally looking in terms for someone desperate enough. If an employer told me that their philosophy was based on metaphors for starvation I would be very cautious relying on them for a source of income, especially when my age (just 25) was going to be such a big issue. I honestly don't think it sounds like you respect entry level workers very much.
posted by Phalene at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's two people, Phalene - we rejected the first one. And it's a futile conversation and a huge derail - lots of abstract principles here, no one actually familiar with the company or the field or who really has any idea what they're talking about. But thanks for the unsupported judgments.
posted by Miko at 10:27 AM on January 28, 2012


It's only sort of a derail. Job applications are a dance that works both ways; the employer has to want to hire you, but you also have to be willing to say yes. The intern in the interview sounds to me like she is pretty ambivalent about her field, and my guess is that her ambivalence shows, which is going to impact how excited an employer is going to be to offer her a job.

I've done a bunch of hiring in the last year and a half, and one of the things I am learning is that I need to care a lot more about finding someone who is a great fit, rather than the person with the highest qualifications or who is the best at interviewing. Someone who is a great fit will have done the math about the job's constraints as well as its opportunities; in low-skill entry-level jobs, this matters a lot more than the particular experiences they might bring.

So if I was going to make a sight-unseen and mostly-uninformed criticism of Miko's hiring process, I'd guess that they aren't fully assessing "fit," given what the job offers in terms of pay and future opportunity. They need to find someone who can play a longer game (taking a less great job now that will open doors later), rather than someone who won't or can't make those sacrifices in the short term. It sounds like, from her description, that it offers a living wage and benefits, so at least it's not something restricted to trust fund babies, but there are still going to be people, perhaps with huge student debt, say, who won't be able to afford to take it.

The long hours and unreasonable expectations that the intern is complaining about are filtering devices, and she sounds like she is on the edge of being filtered out. Non-profit work has filtering devices, too, some of which are fairly egalitarian and some of which are not.
posted by Forktine at 11:03 AM on January 28, 2012


I agree with all of you on many of your broadly general and abstract/theoretical points. Right now, I'd like to request that if we go forward with the discussion, we take as a given that without your knowing


  • the job description, rate of pay, hours, benefits package, region and city, and opportunities
  • the hiring manager or hiring practices of this institution
  • the criteria for selection
  • the hiring and recruiting record of this institution
  • the nature of wage structure and opportunity in this particular interdisciplinary field
  • the kinds of jobs people move on to from this institution
  • the rate at which they recommend and assist recruiters in placing people at our institution even after having left
  • the qualities represented in this applicant pool of 160 of which only five have been seen, or
  • the personal details of the two applicants who turned down an offer

    ...that no one here can possibly properly diagnose what went on in this particular hiring situation.

    I offered the outlines of the episode only as a point on which to discuss the fact that even in a lousy economy with few opportunities, people are turning down good jobs in hopes of getting better offers, which concerns me because these offers are not as common as they may be thinking.

    I'm actually feeling rather insulted that the presumed hiring practices of my organization are to blame - no one here has a leg to stand on in asserting that - and I'm not sure why they are even a focus of discussion, since none of you has any idea what they are beyond the few things I've shared.

    You may be extrapolating from your own experiences and what you've seen; you may be noticing general trends, but you really are in no position whatever to be telling me what you think has gone wrong here. You simply cannot know, and without really breaking confidentiality of the applicants and giving you full details of the compensation package, you can't hope to know. So this discussion becomes futile and, for me, inappropriate in that there's really nothing more I can say to you about it.

    Can we set the topic of the job my company is hiring for aside in light of these facts? I personally have not asked for the analysis of anyone here of our general approach to hiring and have no use for any the ideas being offered here, as though they have never occurred to us, who after all, have worked our way up into this field, each hire several people annually, and have some understanding of what the trajectories and likelihood of other opportunities are.

    If anyone has any more opinions about what's happening in my specific situation, please MeMail me to discuss them personally. I would be happy to listen to your theories and respond with clearer explanations in as much detail as I can go into privately. I'll thank everyone, though, to cease trying to read into something you really don't have the ability to analyze at your distance and with so little information.

  • posted by Miko at 11:31 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I'm actually feeling rather insulted that the presumed hiring practices of my organization are to blame - no one here has a leg to stand on in asserting that - and I'm not sure why they are even a focus of discussion, since none of you has any idea what they are beyond the few things I've shared.

    Your top 3 interviewees fell through. You're doing something wrong. We don't have to read anything into anything to figure that out.

    If you don't want people to discuss something, probably don't bring it up completely unbidden.
    posted by TypographicalError at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I offered the outlines of the episode only as a point on which to discuss the fact that even in a lousy economy with few opportunities, people are turning down good jobs in hopes of getting better offers, which concerns me because these offers are not as common as they may be thinking.

    It works both ways: in a lousy economy with few opportunities, there's going to be a natural "flight to safety," and glamour/sex-appeal non-profit work (eg, museums) is going to seem less appealing and very career limiting. Someone with interdisciplinary skills to work in a "sexy" non-profit who has attended a high-quality academic institution and has the sort of social capital that makes such glamour non-profit work an option has at least one if not both of the following advantages: other job opportunities and economic support from parents. Both of which are going to make low-paid positions with non-profits merely options rather than necessities. Heck, back when I was in college, Anderson/Accenture was hiring all possible warm bodies out of college for consulting jobs which weren't particularly high paying but were stable and had a decent career path. When times are tough, what reason can you give to explain to someone they should get a menial assistant job at a non-profit?

    I know you don't want to discuss your personal situation because it's not directly related, but it is related to the issues of the economy and economic stratification, and does relate directly to the decisions that the "serial intern" here is making: people are looking to maximize their economic opportunities, and in tough times with massive income inequality, certain fields end up severely limiting your economic opportunities compared to the other ones you could be pursuing.
    posted by deanc at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Your top 3 interviewees fell through. You're doing something wrong.

    Again - we expect a certain amount of weeding. We rejected the first person. Two turned us down. Perhaps when you have more experience hiring, this will happen to you from time to time.

    , certain fields end up severely limiting your economic opportunities compared to the other ones you could be pursuing.


    Which is exactly why those people for whom this is a priority should be looking in fields with a higher wage scale.
    posted by Miko at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2012


    ...and the serial intern is in such a field, and turned down two real, concrete job offers in hopes of getting another that didn't actually exist. This is what I had trouble understanding:
    In my earlier internship I didn't play the office politics right. I got offers for two jobs, but declined as there was this other job I wanted. Turns out there was no 'headcount' there, no openings. Headcount is the magical word for interns.
    posted by Miko at 1:43 PM on January 28, 2012


    You're right Miko, I can't know your situation without being in it. However, so far what you've written is attacking the pool of people you might hire for being entitled and if you bring a plate of beans to mefi, people will probably start trying to sort and count it for you willy-nilly, especially since you presented your experience as part of a discussion, including broad statements about young persons. Understand that implying my job seeking demographic is entitled is pretty darn insulting too, this is a conversation where there's a large streak of ageism floating around and people are not going to take it well, even if nobody means anyone ill.

    But fairly, you say these were the top three out of over a hundred and fifty people who applied and you're complaining they feel special and want more from you? Whether one of them muffed her second interview, you admit yourself that you were skimming what you saw way the cream of the pool, and two of these people rejected your company as not good enough- and yet you imply they are entitled, which is why your hiring practices are being ripped to shreds. It's not that we think the top three saw you were running a slave plantation and mefites are agreeing with them, it's the predatory implications of demanding hungry workers instead of viewing it as a mutual exchange, basically there's something wrong when the hiring language is in terms of neediness, not finding a good fit, kind of like trying to find a romantic partner based on someone settling for you is also very sad. There is an implied attitude that these people should be grateful to get an offer being read out of your words by me, but no mutual gratitude that they applied- basically it's as if this was some sort of charity you're running.

    I think people, myself included, may be non-consensually giving you an unearned and unfair snooty monocle/ew hoi poli cant to you attitude you might not have, but it's not necessarily fair to characterize people in my bracket as not having much negotiation room- you obviously need people otherwise you wouldn't be hiring, and you're characterizing your company as a consumer- keep in mind that your 160 applicants have probably sent off resumes to dozens of places, despite that many of these jobs probably have the mindless busywork HR uses to defend themselves from the so called non-serious candidates (and was mentioned in the article). So you don't have 160 people milling around drooling, you have 160 people who are probably in the pools of twenty or more other companies, weighing the attention they get from those companies against yours.
    posted by Phalene at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


    snooty monocle/ew hoi poli

    I don't know what this is.

    It's really true that nobody here is really able to look at the episode with all the facts they need to make a determination. It really is. Sorry. I can see that now and probably shouldn't have offered the detail I did at all, but kept my comments to more general observations which I would still stand by. But no one here is in a position to critique an event they just don't have sufficient information about, and in some cases, no experience with. The other candidates that didn't take the job may indeed get great offers, and if so, more power to them. We're no worse off in the end.

    But there's a larger point, the reason I introduced the topic at all. That central point is that trealism about the realities of the job market seems to be lacking in both the FPP's subject and some of my own hiring experience. What are the actual prospects for someone in the FPP person's position? Have families, professors, recruiters, companies, people who started work in earlier waves created a false impression that abundant jobs are available and that a candidate has access to enough information to easily assess their value on the market and their own future employment prospects? Is the kind of interning she's doing in the FPP on a track for permanent hiring? At what point does too much of it become a liability, creating a red flag that makes employers wonder why she hasn't been snatched up yet? Would she make the same trade-off if offered another non-perfect job today? Are her skills, experience, and intellect really of a level that will make her competitive with the people who are getting those perfect jobs? Who is giving or has given this person career advice? Is she seeking critical opinions as well as cheerleader opinions? Is this field and its job structure the best fit for her? What does someone who simply cannot find a permanent position in this market doing what they'd ideally like to do supposed to do for work? What happens to those people who don't break through the permanent-hire wall? These are the kinds of questions it may interesting to look at.

    I know a number of people on the job market now who are excellent and who cannot find openings that work for them in any way, because of the contraction of their various fields. And lots of underemployed people, cobbling together half-jobs and quarter-jobs and jobs with low compensation, waiting for better opportunities to open up. It's a highly competitive time, and there are myriad talented people out there, many more than there are positions, particularly in the humanities.

    I've also seen widespread pain from the contraction of finance in the part of the country where my parents live and do business, a financial center - dramatic drops in earning power and family income, harsh and sudden changes in midlife and later life. I don't think I know anyone outside of maybe the tech or healthcare sectors who would turn down a reasonable, appropriately compensating,and feasible job offer in their field right now, especially a permanent non-contract job with benefits, even if it were a little inconvenient. There may be a better job yet out there, but accepting a job does not preclude further looking. You begin to realize that our earning years are limited, and some segments of the career trajectory are more make-or-break than others, in terms of whether you'll ever be in a position to reach the topmost levels of the field, whether you can achieve a solid annual income which allows you to meet your financial goals, whether you can retire. The people I'm thinking of, though, don't have a safety net in the way of significant non-employment income, and/or family who can house and support them, which changes their calculus, of course, and that's certainly one factor in how eager people are to take jobs. As is the presence or absence of dependents, property and other financial liabilities. But I still wonder about the question of realism and access to honest and complete information about employment prospects. I still have trouble reconciling statistics like this, this, and this with the perception that there are abundant jobs (especially in narrow fields, and particularly ones in which academic programs are producing more graduates than there are jobs in the field).

    Again, if you want to talk about my hiring practices more, MeMail away. I haven't got any yet, which always indicates it might be more fun to dance righteous jigs than to have a productive personal conversation in good faith.
    posted by Miko at 4:35 PM on January 28, 2012


    I wouldn't work for Miko or with Miko based on this conversation. Rarely is it interesting to speak with someone who is ageist, then refuses to be contradicted, explicitly claiming that their point of view is correct, and no one has the facts to argue with him/her -- you and your company --WHATEVERITMAYBE LOL-- is a walking disaster. I'm happy those people dodged the bullet that is your workplace culture. And btw, in this thread you've been a snobby, entitled brat.
    posted by Shit Parade at 3:16 PM on January 29, 2012


    i'm glad miko shared their experience here. it's one of the reasons why i read the comments on threads like these. hiring someone for a more complex job can be a pretty complicated process and it's virtually impossible to second guess the process via messageboard comments.
    posted by lester at 3:54 PM on January 29, 2012


    I wouldn't work for Miko or with Miko based on this conversation....you've been a snobby, entitled brat.

    Don't worry - given your communication style, I wouldn't have you. I didn't see a MeMail from you, either, Shit Parade - it really is more fun to score yourself some nasty points than to ask about something you don't fully understand, isn't it.

    Earlier on, I had thought of providing this link to the job outlook from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics for museum work, just by way of demonstrating what the wage structure and employment prospects in the field are. I didn't do it before because I had this naive hope we might be able to talk about the issue of expectations for career progress, rather than "OMG Miko is a terrible boss!" But since that horse is shot, have a look. Note that this outlook talks about the museum staff with advanced degrees - not the more junior staff who will be starting a few steps further back:
    Keen competition is expected for most jobs as archivists, curators, and museum technicians because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings....Curator jobs, in particular, are attractive to many people, and many applicants have the necessary training and knowledge of the subject. But because there are relatively few openings, candidates may have to work part time, as an intern, or even as a volunteer assistant curator or research associate after completing their formal education. Substantial work experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, as well as database management skills, will be necessary for permanent status....Conservators also can expect competition for jobs...Museums and other cultural institutions can be subject to cuts in funding during recessions or periods of budget tightening, reducing demand for these workers. Although the number of archivists and curators who move to other occupations is relatively low, the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation will create some job openings. However, workers in these occupations tend to work beyond the typical retirement age of workers in other occupations.

    ...Median annual wages of curators in May 2008 were $47,220. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,910 and $63,940. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,290. Median annual wages of museum technicians and conservators in May 2008 were $36,660. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,030 and $49,170. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,060.
    Wage-wise, if nothing else, my employer is leading in the field - a field reknowned,and I hope more frequently held to task, for its general standards of low pay, especially at the entry levels. These again are jobs higher in the organizational structure than assistant jobs, but the assistant role is exactly the kind of entry point you would need to be able to compete at some point later for a curatorial or other advanced position. As this writer puts it:
    Think Small... First off, don't apply for that director position straight off. Go for the executive assistant instead. Don't go for full curator, go for a curatorial assistant. You need experience even if you are coming from another career field and have job experience.
    From the UK Museums Association site:
    Lots of people want to work in museums and there aren't very many jobs, so competition for entry-level jobs is often fierce. Different types of jobs need different types of skills and knowledge. Frustratingly, this can vary between different museums (for a guide to different types of job, see case studies). For most types of entry-level job, you'll find you need to have relevant experience, and people usually get this by volunteering. Some types of job, such as museum assistants or administrative jobs, can be easier to get.

    A few forward-looking museums offer training and development to their administrators and assistants, so they can progress up the career ladder - but most museums don't. For many types of job you'll be expected to have qualifications. Employers can be demanding.
    Chronicle of Higher Education:
    The biggest challenge to a museum career is breaking into the profession. Museums are famous, popular institutions for which many knowledgeable people are willing to volunteer their labor. As a result, even large museums will have relatively small paid staffs, and since this is the nonprofit sector, the salaries can be considerably lower than in comparable for-profit jobs....Entry-level positions for professionals with graduate degrees often fall between $20,000 and $35,000, while the most senior educators at a major museum usually earn less than tenured professors in the humanities.
    Museum Blog:
    Be realistic. This is key. Work out your budget. What can you live on? If no one has told you yet, museum work is usually not going to make you rich. What will you be happy doing? Are you willing to work in the pest management department or will you refuse? And remember, please remember, that this a a field that many people want to work in, many people are qualified for, and in which there are relatively few open positions.
    PDF - a survey report addressing some of the disconnect between academic museum studies programs creating more graduates with higher expectations than the field could supply jobs for that met those expectations:
    The expectations of practicing museum professionals are important because they set job qualifications and make hiring decisions. Ultimately, the entry-level employee must meet their criteria. Also these are the people determining the work environment of the entry-level worker. Their expectations are terribly important to prospective as well as new employees.

    Entry-level employment was targeted, because most academically-based museum studies training is in fact directed to persons wanting to make museums their career path and who have had little or no experience in the museum. This is especially true of new museum studies courses and programs developed in the last decade at the BA or MA degree levels.

    [Academic Museum Studies programs] need to attract students to museum work who are good with people as well as with objects. They need to attract students who not only can achieve in their program and courses, but also can continue to learn on their own outside of the formal classroom. Highly motivated students are necessary to have highly motivated entry-level employees. Capability to become a professional in the museum community needs to be assessed and encouraged in recruiting students.
    This is the context my experience needs to be seen in. Chances are good that I'm not making shit up. This may not be like others' experience from different fields. In fact, it's so niche in nature that I'd be surprised if it were. If you don't understand it, you don't. It's okay; I don't understand nursing or IT or higher education or any other field's hiring practices, wage structure, or needs beyond vague outlines, either. I wouldn't take that as my invitation to cast aspersions on the character of the people or the quality of the institution doing the hiring, though. I would maybe take it as a chance to get a glimpse of what it's like inside that field.

    And I think that on the question of entering a highly competitive field with little to no practical experience, the issue of realism has some crossover with the content of the FPP.

    Some points here have been worth entertaining, though it was not appealing to do so with character attacks coming alongside them. The field's wage structure is lousy and built on a history of this employer privilege going back to the gendered division of labor and funding structures rooted in the history of museums 100 years ago. There are a lot of people pushing for change on this problem, and it's a serious program. But those issues happen to be much less a factor at my employer which aims to overshoot the high end of the fieldwide salary range. People interviewing for this job who may not yet have tested this field may indeed get better offers in another field, but they're not likely to find better offers in this field in this region right now, if indeed this field is truly in their trajectory. There is indeed often an expectation mismatch between recent graduates without advanced degrees and their actual prospects for immediate full-time employment with benefits in this field, and the distinctions between recent graduates in academic background and work experience are relatively few. So there are good general points to be made about hiring, but the specifics folks have imagined into the situation here don't apply to this particular story. Many people are having an argument about hiring with someone else, someone who is abstract and not here, and mistaking them for me. But certainly once you've done enough name-calling and labeling to indicate that there's no good faith discussion available, it becomes a lot less enticing to have that more reasonable and nuanced conversation about what can and can't be said about breaking into a field and hiring paradigms.

    Reality can suck, but this is how it is. The working world in general is rough. This field in particular is tough to get into and tough to stay in. Unlike finance, there's no literal pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    I would just add this note for those who perceive some kind of ogre in action here: stay away from career threads on AskMe. This kind of thing is run of the mill discussion.

    Thanks for the benefit of the doubt, Lester.
    posted by Miko at 6:24 PM on January 29, 2012


    Cool story bro. Maybe when I'm older I'll understand all this nuance. As for good faith discussion -- it usually isn't engendered when you begin by insulting the people you offered jobs to, or helped by the insistence that everyone doesn't know what they are talking about because you've chosen to withhold the facts you believe to be pertinent for an earnest conversation. But please, go on making your nasty comments.
    posted by Shit Parade at 6:50 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Bro?
    posted by Miko at 7:01 PM on January 29, 2012


    let me help you understand.
    posted by Shit Parade at 7:03 PM on January 29, 2012


    Miko, it's a two way street in a tough economy. In this sort of an environment, the rocky shoals of the economy can focus your mind in ways it wouldn't be focused otherwise. When times are good, anything is possible! You can take that museum job, thinking that with pluck and hard work, you'll rise to the top!

    But like you say, in times like these, it becomes clear that you have a limited number of working years available, and you have to focus on knowing that some day you'll be able to retire. How can a job with a museum help with that? Honestly, it can't. So people are going to turn it down. In good economic times, you'll have tons of people hungry to fulfill their dreams, because in good times, it seems like the sky's the limit for the young and ambitious. In tough economic times, applications to med school skyrocket, and anyone from a good school and nice resume looking for a job right out of school is going to think to themselves, "maybe consulting is the way to go, and I'll just be a volunteer fundraiser for a museum."

    Someone has a whiff of entitlement in this economy, and it's not your applicants. There isn't a very big market for the menial "vanity jobs" of the sort you're recruiting for right now. Even when you find takers, they're either less qualified than you would expect, or they're willing to turn them down.
    posted by deanc at 7:14 PM on January 29, 2012


    I've encountered the meme. I'm just not a bro.

    I'm sure you understand my reluctance to post details, but regardless of that, it is indeed possible to have a good-faith conversation on MeFi; I've been doing it a long time. At the same time, it's true that people are reasoning from information that didn't apply here. It's not necessary to know more to discuss hiring and career progress - it's just necessary to not create imagined information where you lack actual information.

    And looking back over my comments, I was pretty direct about the idea of entitlement, which can be a real problem in hiring, but I don't see where I've insulted anyone here until you called me a brat, and I wanted to let you know that was pretty much out of line with me.

    It looks like you might be a bit of a provocateur in general, so it's to be expected I guess, but it's lousy nonetheless. Anyway - prior to your arrival, no insult intended to anyone here.

    **

    Deanc, I get what you're saying about the economy and the abundance of liberal arts graduates willing to kind of work anywhere doing anything as long as they can find employment, not particularly serious about any one track. But like I said - if you are not coming from that vaguer problem-solving place, if you strongly want to be in this field, you take the jobs. In this economy you might not want to enter this field - totally true. So don't take the job. Totally understand that thinking.

    But you are describing a type of applicant we're not seeing - the exploratory kind who's looking to build general transferable skills, has a low level of commitment to museums in particular, and has not much background in related work. That's not who we have in the pool. We have people who are coming to us with a longer-term focus on this field specifically. If you actually have the career goal of working in museums and intend to pursue it, and have spent your undergraduate years building a resume that will set you up to enter that field, and you can describe in detail your hoped-for career trajectory in that field with great specificity, and you receive an offer which will you put on the first step of the staircase, it's unusual, and probably inadvisable to turn it down. The opportunities aren't all that common. For the specialist, there are not a lot of other options. Maybe in a development department, sure, as in your example - every nonprofit needs fundraisers, and so that area has a really hard time competing with very very similar but much more lucrative jobs in higher ed alumni giving or the big disease-related charitable causes. Not in the content/object side of a museum, though. Someone without the background doesn't make it into the interview pool at all.

    So it's not the rejection that concerns me - there may be many valid personal reasons to reject, and that's happened before. It's the hint that the rejection is precipitated by the idea that this is one of many opportunities of this type in this field that will come along. That sense is most definitely unrealistic. There is a disconnect between the stated goals/experience history and the reality of the field, especially right now.
    posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on January 29, 2012


    poor baby

    This is an incredible plum of an entry-level job in my field - it's the very rare foot in the door I would have arm-wrestled for at the age of 25.

    I'm gonna go out on a limb and say if you're under 25, master's or no, you very probably don't have anything so unusually amazing to offer that you should consider yourself such a precious and rare commodity that you can turn down real job offers in the expectation of even sweeter deals.

    I've encountered the meme. I'm just not a bro.

    Perhaps you're just jealous you aren't young anymore?

    Look, you've refused multiple times to acknowledge that people even have the capability to engage in a conversation with you on this topic. I'm almost certainly younger than you, but I likely have more experience working in HR than you do, and the way in which you analyze situations tells me very clearly you aren't very good at getting the right person for the position(for instance, commuting is a top analytic for employee retention, so the fact that your first choice candidate identified it and was open and honest about it speaks strongly in his or her favor) -- and you're right when you look at the economy, acknowledge all the benefits of the position, tell us how it is above market average -- those facts paint a worse picture of you/your workplaces inability to find suitable talent, not a better one. Blaming it on age and entitlement is, honestly, gross incompetence on either your part or HR's part.
    posted by Shit Parade at 7:54 PM on January 29, 2012


    I'm not sure what the quotes are supposed to indicate.

    I likely have more experience working in HR than you do

    Care to substantiate that?

    your first choice candidate identified it and was open and honest about it

    She may have been open and honest about it after receiving her offer, but she was neither open nor honest about it in the screening call or in the interview when we brought it up, and when the co-worker who also lives there had a detailed conversation about it with her, and when she assured us it would not be a problem. It may have been the true reason she turned us down, who knows? though we did screen for it.

    We may never agree on our perception of events, which is fine. One of us is there.
    posted by Miko at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2012


    Again, not being able to fill this "great" position in this economy speaks more about you than me, or the people who turned you down. Want to wave around credentials, that's fine with me, but you really gotta drop the "you're not here so you can't possible know" bullshit, it is some of most asinine pomo pseudo philosophy to escape into contemporary thought and opinion.

    My boss has been interviewing for an assistant for ages.

    So how long is ages?
    posted by Shit Parade at 8:19 PM on January 29, 2012


    Still no substantiation?
    posted by Miko at 8:28 PM on January 29, 2012


    for not being a bro you sure want to have a dick waving contest.

    Alright, I've worked in customer relations since high school, was class president of my college, studied psychology, worked for LHH in midtown Manhattan during the 2008 financial crisis, been a PA for VIPS, worked as a temp for multiple companies in multiple states from lowly clerk to office supervisor -- and temp work is HR work -- been a canvasser, RA, club host, and currently am an offices services manager providing internal resources to variety of client portfolio companies.

    So how long is ages?
    posted by Shit Parade at 9:50 PM on January 29, 2012


    [kind of getting pretty far off the rail here; if this side conversation needs more back and forth, email is your option]
    posted by taz at 2:17 AM on January 30, 2012


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