I am going to be receiving an offer from Sears to intern over the summer. I will be working as part of customer analytics, meaning interpreting huge sets of customer data and then using mathematical modeling to predict their habits and what they will want to buy (example here). It's going to be totally fucking awesome and exactly what I have always wanted to do and it's also close to my house so this opportunity is so crazy to me.
Even more crazy was how easy it was. The parents of the kids I babysit for offered to help me find something for the summer, as the dad is an important person at Sears. I sent them my resume, and within two days had a phone interview, and then the very next day I was notified that I would be receiving an offer through HR. After months of sending my resume and writing cover letters for dozens of positions and not hearing one thing back, this was much too easy. This position is going to be perfect, more than I could ever have hoped for, while I couldn't get any of the random irrelevant clerical positions I applied for. Partially it's because I was competing with other UChicago students who are at least as qualified as I am and older. But I think that if I had applied for the Sears internship the same way everyone else did, through the website, I probably would not have gotten it either. I had a connection, and that combined with the prestige of my school gave me the foot in the door. It seems that foot in the door is the hardest part, and once I had that I think it was clear that the position was a good fit for me. Without this chance, I may have just resigned to a retail or other similar job, which also takes a lot of effort to find and would not have counted for much towards my long term goals.
I am so fortunate to have this position, but at the same time it makes me even more sure that the American ideal of "if you work hard enough you will get it" is false. We hear this all the time, and yes hard work is needed, I worked tirelessly trying to get anything at all, but in the end it was a stroke of luck and someone else's kindness that provided me an opportunity. I live in a nice neighborhood and go to a nice school so therefore I am able to babysit for people with resources. There were circumstances beyond my control that allowed me to have what I want and will ultimately help me continue to be successful in the future. For a person with a disadvantaged background, living in a very different neighborhood, hard work just isn't enough. Even if it is enough, that person would need to work ten times as hard as I did. It's quite amusing to me when people assume that poor individuals are just lazy or stupid. The successful people stand out to us, and we often forget that along the way they were lucky and some circumstances helped them. This doesn't mean they didn't work hard, but a chance occurrence will determine whether your effort will count or not.