No Purchase Necessary: MasterCard’s Master Plan and Advice on How to Actually Get a Job

Ad for MasterCard InternLike many other MIT students, I’m looking for real work experience, because, let’s be realistic here, my undergrad degree in media studies isn’t going to put me at a competitive advantage in today’s world. So, when I heard about the MasterCard internship I was intrigued to say the least. Until I realized what I had to do to apply and how the selection process was going to work.#internswanted

The application process requires you to come up with an idea for a cashless future (which is impossible, but that’s a whole different topic). After that you share your idea with MasterCard through LinkedIn along with a copy of your resumé. Sounds pretty normal, right? Wrong. Before you submit your idea and resumé you are encouraged to share said idea throughout your social platforms. Why? Because, The more likes and retweets you get, the better your chances of getting noticed. Don’t forget to use the #InternsWanted hashtag so we can find you.” Oh, and don’t forget to follow MasterCard on Twitter, because if you are selected for an interview, you’ll be notified via direct message on April 15th. Wait a minute, this sounds a lot like a classic social media contest… Should I submit my Klout score, too?

“You want some advice? Impress someone.
Pick up the phone and put yourself out there.”

For those of you unfamiliar with MasterCard’s #InternsWanted campaign, it is a ‘social interview’ that’s in it’s third year. It’s called a ‘social interview’ because it’s not a job search; it’s a popularity contest. Seriously, it’s a fucking contest. Check it out.

MasterCard job description called a contest

Not a job, a contest.

What’s wrong with this, you ask? Everything! I would expect that you, my fellow MIT colleagues, would be able to see how idiotic this ‘job search’ really is. We learn about this shit every day. It’s drilled into our brains from professors like Alison Hearn, Matt Stahl, Warren Steele, and Jonathan Burston—the world is out to fuck us, yet all those who applied to this job seem to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

Don’t you see what kind of threat this poses to the job industry? Can’t you see that it’s behaviour like this that is naturalizing the competitive nature in today’s job market? Your likely response: “But the job industry has always been like this.” No it hasn’t. What you mean to say is, “The job industry has always been competitive,” but it’s usually a competition based on relative skills, not because Steve is more popular than Dylan.

What the fuck is going on?

What the fuck is going on?

To really examine how awful this process is, let’s go back in time, like, 4 or 5 years when you were getting your first job. Maybe you were applying to work at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s. You had no experience. This was the first time you put yourself out there. The first time you really took a leap of faith. The first time you were really vulnerable. Now imagine your surprise if you were to hand in a resume and hear the manager say, “Okay great. Now just go home, ‘like’ us on Facebook, share your job application, and whomever mastercard intern campaign: we want innovatorsget’s the most ‘likes’ gets the job. Hope you’re popular!” You would be pretty bummed out to say the least.

The best part about this whole thing, though, was when our beloved faculty, who teaches us to be cautious of how terrible society is, sent out an email encouraging all of us to apply! Fuck yeah, MIT! It’s a depressing corner of our curriculum, because, what MIT is really saying is, “Hey, we’re gonna teach you to be ‘anti-establishment,’ but at the end of the day, if you want a job, you better man up and compete like everybody else.” MasterCard’s ‘social interview,’ #InternsWanted, social media campaign is the fucking antithesis of MIT.

“I would expect that you, my fellow MIT colleagues, would be able to see how idiotic this job search really is.”

Am I applying for this MasterCard internship? Absolutely not. Over 350 people have applied for this job. There are 5 positions. If this social media contest isn’t the most effective way to sift through that many resumes, then I don’t know what is. Bonne chance to all those who applied, though. God knows you probably need it.

You want some advice? Impress someone. Pick up the phone (funny how that’s impressive these days) and put yourself out there. Yes, today’s job market is extremely competitive, and yes, it’s more who you know than what you know, but it’s a double-edged sword, my friend. If you have a skill and you do it well, someone will one day be like, “Woah, you’re pretty good, eh?” But then again, you need to know someone who’s actually going to say that, and chances are it’s not going to be the person you’re sucking corporate dick for over the summer at your unpaid internship.

applicant outline

How is that okay?

Say, for example, you’re a whiz at designing websites and you find a website that’s poorly designed, has a lot of bugs, and generally sucks. Send them an email, tell them why their site sucks, explain your qualifications, and tell them why they should hire you and fire the other guy. Just because there’s a goalie in the net doesn’t mean you can’t score. No business is going to be pissed because you called them out on their professionalism. Remember, they’re most interested in their public image and how they spend their money, and if they’re wasting money paying some lazy dude, you should jump on the opportunity.

With the economy in such rough shape the job market is fierce. Competing for a job can be acceptable, but not in the way that MasterCard—and many other institutions—present it. A social competition? I always hated reality television. Can we change it? Probably not. So do we just accept this new social competitive job model? Hell no. I urge you to do whatever it takes to get someone to notice your skills or talent. Don’t get me wrong, you can learn a lot of useful things from an internship, most importantly real life job experience, but just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you can’t amount to more. If you see an opportunity, take it. Introduce yourself to everyone, act the part for whatever job you want, because at the end of the day, if you know the right people, it could make the difference between an unpaid internship and a salary with benefits.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this ‘social interview’ is the way of the future, to weed out the candidates with weak social skills. What do I know—I’m just some asshole in second-year MIT who wears a Hawaiian shirt all year long. I could probably talk some more shit about you, MIT, MasterCard, or society in general, but my quesadillas are getting cold.

14 thoughts on “No Purchase Necessary: MasterCard’s Master Plan and Advice on How to Actually Get a Job

  1. A poorly written, vulgar, and patriarchal take on corporate privilege. The use of “man up” and allusion to “sucking corporate dick” lend this article an inherently masculinist tone. If Open Wide is to maintain its reputation as the campus paragon of critical assessment, it better apply some critical thinking to its own publications.

    • Who says this isn’t a critical assessment? And just because my style of writing isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t make it poorly written. Open Wide is a great publication, and I don’t think they would just post an article that they wouldn’t agree with, you know? But let’s set one thing straight, this isn’t a formal paper, and this shouldn’t be a publication that posts purely academic and formal points of view.

      I’m sure this is a piece that would shock 89% of MIT because of the informal language that I used to get my point across. But I wasn’t really intending on appealing to academics. I actually dawned on this today when Burston gave his final speech in MIT 2100, but a good chunk of this faculty is brain dead to what is going on in the world around them.

      I’m sorry that you found my article too ‘patriarchal’, ‘vulgar’, and ‘masculine’. Your comment is pretty shallow, I wonder if you even read the whole thing? Or maybe you just think what MasterCard, and other major corporations are doing to the job market, maybe not, I honestly don’t care though.

      • Believe it or not, I actually did manage to struggle through your article. Your point was fair, albeit entirely redundant (who among us disagrees that leaping through corporate hoops is frustrating?). You claim you’re not appealing to academics, and yet you name drop a cohort of MIT profs, so you’re thoroughly mixing your message.Get off of your pedestal, you’re not better than any fraction of MIT students.

        • A struggle! Awesome! And yes, fair point, I did contradict myself (that whole academic nonsense). But the whole reason I felt like writing this article was because I saw a large amount of MIT students falling for this ploy and applying for this contest.

          I’m not interested in getting in a comment war and I definitely don’t need my point of view to be validated by a small sum of angry, bitter MIT students.

          Again, I apologize for my ‘aggressive’ writing, hopefully you don’t find yourself in a situation that I warned against.

          And let’s also set the record straight, I don’t think I’m better than anyone else in MIT, in fact I know I’m much worse.

  2. Self-congratulatory, self-serving crap. “Look how critical I am,” repeated for X paragraphs, without any indication of how you possibly came to this conclusion. You admitted critical defeat in the first paragraph when you said, “let’s be realistic here, my undergrad degree in media studies isn’t going to put me at a competitive advantage in today’s world.” Perhaps it bears mentioning why this is the case. Surely, a defeatist “welp, that’s just the way things are” is no substitute for legitimate social critique.

    I tried to look past the excessive swearing (like, so edgy, bro), I tried to look past the sexist colloquialisms, and I tried to look past the unwarranted holier-than-thou attitude, because, at the core of this article, there’s a decent–if obvious–point you’ve attempted to make (yes, popularity is indeed a shoddy replacement for applicable skill; no one in your target audience is arguing otherwise), but after incessantly masturbating your oh-so-critical ego while paradoxically championing ‘traditional’ hegemonic corporate culture, I can’t help but dismiss this piece as an example of MIT style over substance.

    It’s obvious you can drop the names of rightfully-revered MIT professors, it’s less obvious that you actually understand (or express) their values or sentiments.

    • My undergrad degree in media studies doesn’t put me at a competitive advantage because it is useless! That’s why. People in MIT are going to graduate with an undergrad degree and then probably go back to school to get a masters or some other piece of paper, putting them into deeper debt, and further alienating them from the employable world.

      Bold statement, right? Well (here’s the part where I bring in some facts), the CBC put together a documentary called “Generation Jobless” where they address this situation of degree inflation. They simply state that one of the worst things a student can do after graduating with an undergrad degree—after an unsuccessful job search—is to go back to school to obtain a masters or PhD (although there are exceptions for this, but let’s stick with the general population of people graduating from MIT hoping to work in say, an advertising firm). It’s a terrible idea because the economy is horrible right now. Companies don’t want someone fresh out of university with no experience at all because then they would have to train them. Companies also don’t want to hire people with master degrees or PhDs because they have higher salary expectations (with no work experience). Companies want experience.

      That is why I advocate that students act on any opportunity they come across, because they’re not going to get recognized doing data entry for a marketing firm, and they certainly aren’t going to be obtaining any useful marketing techniques.

      The main reason people do internships is to get their foot in the door, and meet the right people, but if students are entering internships with the impression that that’s all they’re good for, they aren’t going to get anywhere.

      But alas, an undergrad degree is not completely pointless, it let’s employers know that I’m more likely to be self-disciplined, smarter, and successful than others who do not have them. Besides, now that over 50% of the population is pursuing post-secondary education, not doing so is automatically declaring yourself at the bottom half of the ability distribution. Not the greatest way to start a job search.

      • I understand that (arguably) you aren’t incorrect in a purely pragmatic sense. The problem is that pragmatics and criticality do not readily intertwine. In approaching a problem from a wholly practical point of view, you’re falling into the trap of instrumentality that MIT Doctrine™ so fervently warns against. As well, you paradoxically reify the false notion of meritocracy that your very critique of who-you-know employment seeks to discredit–though, I mean, it’s difficult to tell where you actually stand on this issue, since you attest to the supposed instrumentality of hiring policy while simultaneously suggesting that “if you know the right people, it could make the difference between an unpaid internship and a salary with benefits.”

        Moreover, while internships can provide a short-term solution to the current unemployment problem, the ostensible benefits that come with unpaid labour do not offset the disastrous long-term effects these internships have had on job security, employment options, and career progression (particularly in the media industry). It’s a double-bind where an individual might find employment only through supporting a system that contributes further to widespread unemployment.

        And if you truly want students to act on any opportunity they’re given, why discourage popularity contests like this? Evidently, the job offered by MasterCard (which, don’t get me wrong, I find entirely abhorrent) requires a certain proficiency in the manipulative use of social-media–one of the few marketable skills that MIT students can disingenuously choose to capitalize on. These are the sorts of positions that our out-of-the-box thinking is tailored towards, so it seems hypocritical to lament the uselessness of MIT degrees while discouraging your fellow students from pursuing careers on purely moralistic grounds.

        I can’t tell if it’s the result of attempted nonpartisanship, but your arguments come off rather schizophrenic. You’ve simultaneously championed criticality and instrumentality (without expressing the virtues of either), and you’ve claimed the job market is both meritocratic and nepotistic. While I support deconstruction as much as the next MITten, I simply can’t make heads or tails of your article.

        • What I’m trying to say while simultaneously presenting both sides of the coin is that there is no correct ‘formula’ of the job market. It is indeed both who you know and what you know, but like I said, you need to know the person who’s actually going to recognize your skills for what they are. That being said, the MasterCard internship may give students the ability to show off their social-media marketing skills, but the positions available (at least in the US) are computer programming positions, that in the job description, require no knowledge of social media or ‘proficient’ use of social networks.

          I’m not saying students shouldn’t participate. I actually had a section talking about the job but decided to take it out for some reason, but reflecting on it now I should have left it in. My whole argument is that everyone is getting so caught up with the whole free ‘internship’ idea that they aren’t amounting to more than just a free intern (maybe for the companies reasons, maybe cause they aren’t making the best of the their opportunities). Sure, this MasterCard job is probably one of the best things one could do during the summer. I have no doubts that whoever gets the internship will become a full-time employee for MasterCard. But the selection process is bad. It’s bad for students to accept it as normal and it’s bad for companies to see it as legitimate. I’ve seen this popping up more and more lately (Australia tourism) and it seems like the job market is becoming very much like Big Brother. If you can’t see that, or at least see that it’s a possibility in the future, I have nothing more to say.

  3. It is funny how grammatical terms, slang, and popular language can distract so many from the argument presented. The way someone writes should not devalue the idea anymore than a persons thick accent or use of slang. It may reduce the effectiveness of the communication of that idea but nothing more.

    I do believe that Jordan missed the intention of the campaign, but is right on with the result of it. I think the idea behind the campaign is for applicants to exemplify their ability to create a social media campaign that engages users, but as Jordan stated, this results in simply a popularity campaign.

    This however is not much different than requiring a portfolio of graphic design work or marketing campaigns. This is the development of a portfolio for the social media/ community manger. A natural progression, shock about this is similar to the shock our parents experienced when they learned teenagers were posting *drunk* photos of themselves online ( the atrocity, invasion of privacy!).

  4. The opinions and ideas expressed in student-written pieces on OPENWIDE belong to individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or values of the OPENWIDE editorial team, the FIMS Student Council, or the faculty of FIMS.

    While every piece for OPENWIDE is edited, the zine is a place where people can express opinions with much less filter than in a traditional (or corporate) publication. Here, contributors have the freedom to grapple with controversial ideas and sentiments, sometimes in controversial ways.

    We hope that (respectful) conversation will ensue.

  5. This article comes so close to reaching an in-depth conclusion multiple times, but manages to consistently fail to address the real problems at hand.

    The fact is that as students enrolled in MIT, we have no choice but to place ourselves within the very system which we criticize. Our culture has moved in a direction which has forced us to not only invest ourself in a feeble opportunity to work for free, but to also spend our own free time learning and consuming information so that we amass the practical skills required to survive in an everyday world. Your argument is akin to calling an occupy protester a hypocrite for using a name brand phone— as if they have a choice! In the same way, it is impossible to expect students of MIT to deny themselves the possibility to work their way up to a paying job so they can at some point in their lives nourish themselves and afford shelter.

    When a company like Mastercard presents the opportunity to win a job based on a few Facebook statuses and a vaguely thought out idea, we would be insane not to jump on the chance. It’s not like we’re not all posting asinine information and reworked advertisements on there anyway. While popular people may benefit, their popularity is exactly what the company is looking for in this exact instance. Social media reps need to possess the ability to reach the largest audience and produce the most results for a company— exactly what the applicants are attempting to do.

    So jobs are NOT moving in a direction where popularity is the defining factor for acceptance, but rather in a direction where specific jobs that favour popularity are simply conducting an in-depth study on who will economically benefit their company the most.

    The combination of this and the fiscal need for students to eventually find secure employment creates a situation in which what you preach is nothing more than a pipe dream that can only be achieved after a societal and cultural upheaval of the capitalist system.

    • I have to disagree, if MasterCard can pull a stunt like this off any other major corporation will notice and follow suit. If students legitimize this type of job search by participating, companies will do the same because it kills two birds with one stone.

      A) This crowd-sources the screening process for applicants. Saving money and time of employees that work for the organization.
      B) It’s a massive marketing campaign that people voluntarily participate in. It is absolutely no different than live tweeting, or hashtagging ‘#DoritosParty’ (the social media campaign Doritos put on in the UK in order to win a 32″ flatscreen TV).

      Even now you can see many corporations taking on this idea of a ‘social interview’ for a job position. Take a look at Tourism Australia’s newest job search, albeit an amazing job that obviously is going to boost the reputation of Australia tourism, it’s still pretty fucked up.

      HOWEVER, I do agree with your notion that we are forced in to this society that we, as MIT students, critique so often. And that’s a down-fall of the faculty in general. But that’s just life, bro.

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