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How Mark Zuckerberg Got Me My First Job by Alyssa White '11

Posted February 21, 2012
Tags Alumni Advice Finding a Job

I worked hard to earn my first job, but I wouldn’t have actually gotten it without Mark Zuckerberg.  That may sound counter-intuitive, since all we usually hear about Facebook and job hunting is that they don’t mix. Allow me, then, to explain.

By my senior year at Hamilton, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do after graduation.  What I did know was that I wanted to be economically independent and intellectually challenged (translation: I didn’t want to live at home or be bored), and that that meant finding a job.  In retrospect, my indecision about what specific career I was after was advantageous, because it spurred me to research a wider variety of opportunities than I might have otherwise.  My search needed some narrowing down, though—turns out you can’t apply to every job on HamNet and still finish your thesis—so I focused on postings in the “Education,” “Environment,” and “Writing/Publishing” categories.

Soon, I was interviewing as well as applying, and I had a favorite among my prospective jobs.  It was a writing position with a Newark charter school that helps huge numbers of low-income students to get into college.  I wanted that job so badly that the night before my interview, I woke up roughly every half hour to make sure I hadn’t slept through my alarm.  Remaining poised during the interview itself probably had a lot to do with the number of times I’d rehearsed in front of a mirror, with practice questions and answers from my writing mentor.  I knew my mentor’s tips would be helpful, but I was surprised to find myself grateful to have practiced in front of a mirror.  What had felt undignified when I was alone in my dorm room felt downright professional when my potential employer was asking about my greatest weaknesses.

I left the interview thinking it had gone well, which is why I was so distressed when, two months later, I still hadn’t heard anything about the status of my application.  I held off calling my hiring contact for a week or so more—I mean, I didn’t want to seem desperate—before, finally, caving.

It turned out that I could have called sooner—my hiring contact was apologetic about how long it had taken for me to receive any follow-up after my interview.  What she said next, though, was disheartening as well as heartwarming. I had been the top candidate for the position, but due to a shortage of funding, they had decided not to hire anyone new for it after all.
The weeks that followed—during which none of my other job opportunities came through, either—gave me plenty of time to resign myself to a few more months at my parents’ house.  I started applying for jobs in the Los Angeles area and bade the East Coast a bittersweet goodbye.  I was on the verge of accepting a part-time position as an SAT tutor when I got one more email from the charter school.

Mark Zuckerberg, I learned, had made a $100 million grant to Newark schools.  My school had gotten a portion of it.  They could now afford to hire me.  Was I still interested?

By mid-July, I had road-tripped back across the United States, found an apartment, and survived my first day of work.  Today, I am becoming good at a job I love, and I know something I didn’t understand last year: being hired is about having a strong resume and interviewing well, but it’s also about being in the right place at the right time.  It’s about circumstances working out for all parties involved.  It’s less personal than it feels, because it’s about more people than just you.  And as proud as I am of what I do now, I’ll always be humbled by people like my mentor, who helped me when I asked; and by Mark Zuckerberg, who helped me without even knowing it.
 

Meet Alyssa White '11 on Friday, February 24th in Kirner Johnson 104 to hear more about her experience.  She is also participating in the What Can I Do with a Major in English, Creative Writing and Comparative Literature? presentation at 4:15pm in Kirner Johnson Red Pit. Stop by to meet her! Read more stories like this on the Career Center website.

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