Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Harvard's "dirty little secret"

It seems that Harvard students are having to learn how to handle rejection (via Newsalert):

The dirty secret is out. Harvard students fail sometimes. They are denied jobs, fellowships, A's they think they deserve. They are passed over for publication, graduate school, and research grants. And when that finally happens, it hurts. Big time.

To help students cope, Harvard's Office of Career Services hosted a new seminar last week on handling rejection, a fear job-seekers are feeling acutely in the plummeting economy. The advice from panelists could have come from a caring, patient parent. No rejection is the end of the world, they said, even though it might feel that way at the time.

I have known quite a few people who have graduated from Harvard who had a hard time getting or keeping a job. When competing in the real world, an ivy league education is nice, but other skills and the ability to get along with others is often more important.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

rejection is a very bad economy is natural, expected. Why pick on the ivy schools since there are so many other fine schools where there are similar problems...you seem to relish the notion that at "those" places such things happen.

9:44 AM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

My sister got rejected from Harvard Business school. She had to take a week off from work to spend it in bed crying. Being the trooper that she is, she eventually dusted herself off and went to Wharton. It all turned out okay in the end.

10:03 AM, April 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latin American studies major who wants to work in higher-education administration or healthcare researchYeah, if I were the hiring manager at a school or healthcare research company, the first thing I would look for is a degree in Latin American studies.

12:36 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Larry J said...

In the Air Force, we had a group of officers known derisively as "ring knockers." These were the people who prominently wore their Academy rings and would make a point of knocking the rings on the table so everyone else would know they were Academy grads.

It seems the Ivy League has its equivalent sense of entitlement. Somewhere along the line, they were told they were the "best and brightest" and believed it.

1:39 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

fred - the point being that it's always thrown in our faces that Ivy League graduates are "the best and the brightest" and are our superiors. Nice to see them taken down a peg.

2:37 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Ivy League graduates aren't necessarily the best and the brightest, Ivy League graduates are, however, very very good at taking exams.

2:56 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Sio said...

I lost all respect for Harvard after the Larry Summers incident a few years ago. Funny how he was the devil incarnate yet now he's doing great as one of Obama's economic advisers. Combine that with the incident a year or so ago of them allowing Muslim women students to have their own time each week in a school run/owned gym (kicking out all males) and there isn't much to respect about Harvard these days.

3:08 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

IMO education in itself is about 1/2 useful in finding a job or career.

My son (a high schooler) and I were laughing the other day because I told him the 2 things you "have to do" in life are die & pay taxes. And they don't teach a darn thing in school about how to pay your taxes, itemizing, deductions, who has to file, etc., etc.

3:18 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Vicki - no kidding. That would be useful, though, can't have that.

I suspect there is an extra level of angst, though, for ivy league grads who can't find jobs, and that is that the student loans are probably roughly proportional to the prestige of the school, and those are due whether the student finds a job or not.

6:12 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Liz said...

I think I hear the violins cuing up....

6:12 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Comment on the article:

"User Image
Jaxxon wrote:
May I offer a friendly, helpful suggestion?

Great companies, wonderful organizations. Very civic minded, very helpful.


Just suggesting."


6:15 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Derve Swanson said...

Sometimes when you can't 'get along with others', those are the types that do well as small businessmen. Not sure if it's necessarily true of Harvard grads, if the payoff is fast enough, but it's been known to work for others, that "be your own boss" thing.

6:15 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Derve Swanson said...

Of course, if you don't handle rejection well -- well, that's not a positive trait for going into business for yourself...

6:18 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Mario said...

I do feel bad, to a small degree, for the Ivy League grads who are suddenly getting the cold shock of reality. These are the kids who have bought into the hype sold by our education system that excelling in the education system -- studying hard, competing for all sorts of "honors," pleasing the teacher -- is the ticket to sure success.

We sell kids on that idea from kindergarten through high school, and even beyond. These are the kids credulous enough to believe it, and smart enough to throw themselves headlong into it.

Sure, lots of them will do very well, if not immediately, then eventually. But plenty of people who didn't buy into the hype will do as well, or maybe better.

That's why you find so many Ivy League grads working in government, especially in the present administration. They've been groomed to be modern day Mandarins, and feel most at home in bureaucracy, and in furthering bureaucracy.

For the love of God, somebody find jobs for these kids before Obama hires them.

7:58 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I eat rejection for breakfast. When I divorced and needed a better job, I sent out over 300 resumes over the next year. Almost no responses for a long time. During the last month, I had 4 job interviews and 2 job offers. Rejection tastes good.

9:34 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Here is the address for a cool little paper on the role of social skills in ultimate financial success. It is a small study, but it finds that sets of social skills are more predictive of success than level of education.



11:10 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Here is the address for a cool article from Cornell that states: "Particularly interesting were findings that educational level, quality, prestige, and degree type all
predicted financial success."

This study did not include any social skills variables, the subjects were executives, and over 90% white males.


So far, the answer to the Ivy League and success relationship seems to depend on the bias of pertinent variable selection.


11:17 PM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger J. Bowen said...

When I saw this I immediately thought of this WSJ article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123983744241222865.html.

Cue crocodile tears...

2:10 AM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...


If success means rising high in corporate America, and you ask a bunch of educated white males who work as executives in corporate America about what it take to be "successful", they will simply tell you about their education and background.

I know "successful" owners of nail salons, shredding businesses and landscape companies that are incredibly financially successful but, I promise you, couldn't tell you what an Ivy League is. I also know 2 recipients of the best Ivy League education that my parents could buy who sit on their asses all day and watch Oprah.

Ivy League education, my ass.

6:55 AM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Cham, the model that the Cornell study used to quantify success was actually pretty good as it containted measures of status, money, and satisfaction. Neither of the studies was based completely on self reported data.

By using over 1000 people, they got a good number sample. I thought that the first study was more interesting as it included mid-level business owners and a significant number of women.

I agree with you about the inherent bias involved in strictly self-report measures, so I tend to avoid them.


8:29 AM, April 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also know 2 recipients of the best Ivy League education that my parents could buy who sit on their asses all day and watch Oprah."


And they are probably rich because they met a man (future husband) who got a good job. That's why they can watch Oprah. And they are much more likely to meet a future rich man at an Ivy League school.

So their education DID pay off. In fact, I'd say being rich without doing any work is a lot better than being rich by working your butt off in a stupid nail salon.

You sound jealous.

9:36 AM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger Jeff Y said...

What Cham said.

10:35 AM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger Liz said...

re: Harvard grads or drop outs finding success as entrepeneurs.

Two words: Bill Gates.

4:40 PM, April 22, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

I know a couple of recent Ivy League grads who are in the same situation, unemployed or underemployed. My advice to them (and to most recent grads) is use this time to go out and have a few adventures. The economy and job markets will eventually return, but those few years in in your early to mid-20's, free of the responsibilities which eventually build up over time, will not.

I graduated from college (University of California) in 1981, which was as bad a time to graduate as right now. I was under a lot of family pressure to get immediately into the working world, and I bowed to it. Although I found employment relatively quickly, I sometimes wish I had taken the other path, maybe joined the peace corps or something, and learned a lot more about myself in the process.

Isn't it true that our brains aren't fully developed until we are about 25? If so, why not take a little time off and see the world until you are sure you are playing with a full deck? Then you can start making the real commitments that will bind you for life.

My Ivy league friends who are my age can basically be divided in three categories:

1) Scientists and Doctors, all successful - financially as well as well being happy with their lives. Some have good social skills and some comeplete introverts.

2) Any other major with good social skills and a gregarious personality - all seem happy with their lives, some have made a lot of money and some haven't.

3) Any other major with poor social skills. Some happy and successful and some not. Of the not happy, two died not long ago - 1 shot himself in the head and 1 of accute alcohol poisoning.

12:58 PM, April 29, 2009  

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