While seniors worry about what they’re going to do in “the real world” — two examples here and here
— they need to take into account that they’ll probably end up in a job or occupation due to a random conversation and serendipity.

Several notable Williams examples:

Bernard Bailyn ’44: Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard, President of the American Historical Association in 1981, won two Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize, … you get the idea.  When applying to Harvard graduate school, he was worried that they wouldn’t admit him because he hadn’t majored in History at Williams (he was an English major).  His faculty advisor told him, "Don’t mention it; if they don’t ask, don’t tell."  Happily for generations of historians, they didn’t ask.

Bethany McLean ’92: Reporter at Fortune, credited with being one of the reporters who first pointed out chinks in Enron’s armor, co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron.  As to how she got to Fortune:

I have never been a person with a huge plan. I was on my way to business school as a third-year analyst at Goldman. And I just got this idea in my head that I wanted to be a business journalist. But there was not this big mission to be a magazine journalist. Frankly, no one would hire me. I had no clips, no experience. People were like, "yeah, right." I was willing to get a job sending faxes somewhere. Honestly, I got lucky and got a job at Fortune.

At that time, Fortune hired people as fact-checkers. So it was okay that I hadn’t been a reporter before. They were just looking for someone who could calculate compound annual growth rate and read a balance sheet. So I really got lucky.

The guy I was dating at the time, his father knew someone at Fortune. I said,
"Why don’t you send my resume there," and he’s like, "yeah, right." But through
the fact-checking door, I got in. So it was purely random.

Jimmy Lee ’75: Vice Chairman of JP Morgan Chase, known as a major dealmaker on Wall Street, the subject of a cover story in Forbes (April 17, 2000) entitled, "The New Power on Wall Street."  His business journey started at Williams when his girlfriend at the time, Beth Brownell ’75 (now his wife), realized she couldn’t make her job interview with Chemical Bank and urged him to take her place instead.

I’m sure Ephblog readers have had similar experiences. So seniors, take a deep breath and trust a bit of your life to fate. As Steve Jobs notes, “Life is random.”

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