Dunbar: Getting a job all about learning to lie well

Blair Dunbar, Columnist

This past summer, my friend who attends Marquette University had an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Of course, the hope of every summer accounting intern is the promise of a job opportunity. While the interns are busy working, what are the accounting firms doing? They are schmoozing their interns through boat rides along the river, brewery tours and baseball games. Not surprisingly, most of these trips include the promise of alcohol. So what do you do if the partners and your fellow interns are drinking, but the idea of drinking four glasses of beer in an hour doesn’t appeal to you? You drink anyway. When it’s time to schmooze, it’s time to schmooze.

At the end of the summer, PwC took all the interns they recently offered jobs on a trip to Walt Disney World. In a way, it was a test. Can you drink but still stay classy? One of the interns became so drunk that she threw up on one of the partners. Job offer revoked. Fortunately, my friend—who certainly doesn’t spend his Saturday nights partying and Sunday mornings recovering from hangovers with big pancakes from The Broken Yolk & Sandwich Shoppe—made it through the schmoozing process and will be working with PwC come next fall. But the question I have to ask is, is it all worth it?

It seems that increasingly, in order to get jobs, we have to become good liars. None of the lies we tell are earth-shattering. We are not on our way to becoming con artists.

We slowly accumulate a series of white lies. It all starts with the resume. We tailor it to specific companies, inflating that summer volunteering experience at the neighborhood community center or that secretarial work we did at some city office. We add a couple adjectives here or there. We make our verbs more active to highlight our genius: generate, innovate, develop.

Then it comes time for the cover letter, which once again must be tailored to each specific company, somehow proving that we possess the necessary skills for the position. We pull out pieces from our resume and draw connections that may or may not exist.

They always tell you to be honest in interviews, but in reality, some questions have correct answers. It’s time for a peppy makeover so you can walk in exuding pop and positive energy. If you’re actually fortunate enough to receive an internship, as my friend was, the entire summer must be spent putting on a face the company would approve of, even if that means pretending you care about sports or beer. You may not know what consulting actually entails. Most companies train you on site. How do you tell someone you want to be a consultant when you don’t fully understand what that term means? You lie.

The big fall career fair is coming to Northwestern on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. All this week you can go to University Career Services for express advising hours to help fine-tune your skills of subtle persuasion and find the hidden skills you didn’t even know you had. Hopefully, by the time the career fair comes around, you are fully prepared to schmooze in your best blazer or pencil skirt.

As a current senior trying to figure our her future, my biggest fear is the interview. I know there will be that inevitable question: Why do you want to work for us? How do I answer? I can’t say I really need a job. I can’t say, “Well your company has a good benefits package and excellent medical care.” I can’t say what I’m really feeling: “Your company sounds interesting. I’m trying to figure out my life, and I think if you gave me a chance, I’d do a good job.”

I guess it’s time to start practicing my schmoozing skills.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].