Monday, December 10, 2007


by Gina Sestak

EVERYONE - Read the NEWSFLASH posted just below before you read this!

I started law school in 1973. At that time, Pitt had a rule that first year law students weren't supposed to work. The idea was that a job would interfere with the concentration needed to complete the first year work.

If you've been reading my posts for the past year or so, you know I didn't really have a choice. I had to work to eat - starving to death would have made it even harder to do all that studying -- and so I found a job. For a few hours every day, I typed labels. This was before mail merge, so the company I worked for prepared individual mailing labels. The project involved typing labels for every doctor who belonged to the Allegheny County Medical Society. I had a book of names and addresses and I'd type them onto forms that were six copies thick, with carbon in between the pages. Corrections were a nightmare, involving erasing one copy at a time while a piece of cardboard behind that page protected the copies below from being smudged. This had to be done without taking the forms out of the typewriter, so the alignment would be the same when the correction was typed.

Meanwhile, back at the law school, students were expected to hang around all day and check the bulletin board frequently. I'd been assigned to an advisor, a professor who posted student appointments only an hour or two ahead of time. He posted my first (and only) appointment while I was at my typing job, and so I missed it. I went to him when I got back and explained. He was irate, promising to put a note in my permanent file to alert potential employers to my dereliction. As far as I know, I've never failed to get a job because of that note but, needless to say, he wasn't much use as an advisor.

That seemed to be the norm for Pitt, though. The undergraduate advisors left a lot to be desired, too. My final one insisted that the only reason so many college graduates couldn't find jobs in their fields was because they didn't believe in themselves. I thought he was an idiot.

I'd been through the "note in the file" routine before, in high school. I'd laughed in class and the nun threatened to put a note in my file to alert future employers not to hire me. I don't think I've ever failed to get a job because of that note, either.

Who else has had nasty notes put in their files? Did it impact your employability?


Tory said...

Gina, you forgot your byline!

I've never received a (real or hypothetical) "note in my file." But all I can think about your professor is, "Boy, what a jerk!"

In the cooperative household I lived in in graduate school, for part of the time I was "steward," the person who prepares menus and buys the food. One of my co-stewards used to put nasty notes in my box. I hated that! I think it was the precurser to someone writing a nasty email rather than complaining to you face-to-face.

Gina said...

Thanks, Tory. I went back and put my name on it.

Joyce said...

I don't think I've ever had a note put in my file, but I was always the "quiet one" who never did anything wrong in school. I'm trying to make up for that now.

Thank goodness things at Pitt have changed. When Josh first decided to go there, I was a bit apprehensive remembering how much I hated my year and a half there. It is SO different now. Josh has excellent advisors/professors/classes. I couldn't ask for a better school for him.

Brenda said...

I don't think I had any nasty notes in my files, but my advisors in life have been essentially useless. Hmmm, perhaps that explains why is has taken me so long to become rich and famous. Oh, no wait, that's my fault.

Gina, as always, excellent post. It will go on your permanent record!

Nancy said...

I wonder if anyone looks in those "files." Nowadays, I suppose they're protected so that nobody--perhaps not even the file-ee!--can take a peek.

Cathy said...

What a joke! As if anyone could stop you from getting a job. You proved them wrong, and how. It would be fun to rub their noses in it. Let me know if I can assist.