Thursday, September 18, 2014


"I could go on about how my South American history coursework prepares me to analyze the formation of cultures, which in turn prepares me to make money by trading shares of corporations for money. Or I could tell you about how my study of contemporary Middle Eastern literature has shaped my understanding of global politics, and in turn shaped my understanding of how to make money by trading shares of corporations for money. Or I could tell you about my Mom, whom I love very much. But I think I’ve covered enough in this cover letter, and hopefully the rest will come through in a follow-up interview."

See the online version here.
Or...


A Dash of Insanity


The following is a cover letter I wrote to a finance firm this past spring, while applying for a summer internship.

Dear Mr. Money-Smith,

I am a sophomore at Harvard College, and I am applying for your internship this summer.

I hope my previous work experience will shine through in my attached CV and recommendations. But in this letter, rather than listing my qualifications, I want to take the opportunity to discuss a more subtle subject: how my education adequately prepares me for anything you would expect from me in this internship.

At Harvard, I am a social studies concentrator. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Despite the name, my concentration doesn’t mean I only take eighth-grade history classes. Actually, I get to participate in a wide-range of courses in a variety of subjects, all of which relate to the social world in which we inhabit. And all of which, as I will show here, will assist me greatly in the world of finance.

For instance, all social studies concentrators take introductory economics, which students here lovingly refer to with the pet name “Ec 10.” In Ec 10, I was able to get a direct introduction to the world of finance, as we studied the bond and stock markets for several weeks. Of course, that’s not all we studied: We got to talk about topics like globalization, economic inequality, and environmental policy. In fact, the professors repeatedly stressed that we studied financial markets only to understand their role in the economy as a whole. And they taught us that a monkey randomly trading stocks would do basically about as well as a professional trader in a mutual fund.

But, Mr. Money-Smith, I don’t think you’re a money … I mean, monkey. Crises are not really my thing. And at the end of the day, when the Euro crashes, economic inequality spurs revolutions and millions look towards the great economic thinkers of our time for solutions to their buckling livelihoods, I’ll be glad I chose to apply those critical thinking skills instead to trading shares of corporations for money.

Another pillar of our education as social studies concentrators is our sophomore tutorial, referred to with a similar pet name—Soc Stud 10. The course gives us the pleasure of reading some of the greatest philosophy produced in the West, touching on social and moral theory that spans from Kant to Marx.

Sure, these philosophers didn’t do work that directly related to finance. Rather, they tried to apply their logical aptitude to study human morality, shedding light on the mysteries of our interactions. But studying their philosophies has taught something very important—it taught me what not to think about.  Knowing these moral codes, I can pin-point which ones to ignore and which ones to accept when trading in the marketplace. That way, whether leasing sub-prime loans that could start another recession or just making fun of that one janitor on the night shift to make me feel better at night, I can justify any action you’d like me to take. In other words, when I trade shares of corporations for money, there is nothing I “Kant” do. (You can expect more clever quips like that around the water cooler, again largely because of my education, if you hire me)

I could go on about how my South American history coursework prepares me to analyze the formation of cultures, which in turn prepares me to make money by trading shares of corporations for money. Or I could tell you about how my study of contemporary Middle Eastern literature has shaped my understanding of global politics, and in turn shaped my understanding of how to make money by trading shares of corporations for money. Or I could tell you about my Mom, whom I love very much. But I think I’ve covered enough in this cover letter, and hopefully the rest will come through in a follow-up interview.

So in summary, when many look at a liberal arts education, they may think a student would need to “buckle down” to get a job in the real world, shedding her impractical and idealistic notions in the process. But I think of my education more as “buckling up,” readying to take the ride of my life on the ups and downs of the marketplace. In other words, school taught me to think. And now I’m ready to “think about the money.” (another quip!) Even at the “cost” (and another!) of everything else.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon, Mr. Money-Smith.

Sincerely,

Dashiell Young-Saver

In the end, I was offered the internship. It was unpaid.

Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is a an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column runs on alternate Thursdays.

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