In a way, he was right. After a series of menial gigs that didn't require a Reed degree, I was still worried that a real job might turn my work days into an infinite series of Dilbert strips, complete with a devilish boss reigning over a kingdom of cubicles. However, after many evenings of hard work down at the neighborhood brewery squeezing Reed alumni for job leads and a mailbox full of form rejection letters from chirpy human resources departments, I was almost ready to argue with him.
Eventually, my job searching yielded interviews at companies for which I did want to work. I treated an interview like a thesis oral. I didn't bother to prepare, because I could never predict what I would be asked. Just as during my thesis orals, when some professors asked about my thesis and others asked about someone else's thesis, the interviews were unpredictable. Sometimes I was asked about my last job and my computer skills. Other times, I was asked about Jack Kerouac, who introduced the darker side of Reed to the reading public when he mentioned a social event he attended at Reed in his novel On the Road.
During one coveted interview, at a posh computer magazine, I was determined to prove that I could fit into a corporate atmosphere of coy administrative assistants and leather couch lobbies. I dressed in black wool slacks and loafers and washed my hair. In other words, there was no identifying me as a Reedie on sight. The only hint of Reed were the fatal words on my resume. I hoped that Reed wouldn't come up during the interview and that I could get away with a vague mention of a private liberal arts college, and let the interviewer imagine a college like Smith or Brown. If all went well, I would escape the interview unscathed.
My hopes were instantly dashed. As if the words "Reed College" were flashing hypertext, the interviewer ignored the list of job experience I'd accumulated and asked about Reed. He wanted to know whether the stories he'd heard about Reed could possibly be true.
I was familiar with the script: "I've heard that Reed is a strange place. Did you have a major and receive grades?" There is mention of Steve Jobs and a mildly veiled question about substance use. They may have heard about Renn Fayre; they may want to know more, or they may prefer that you keep the details to yourself. When you become convinced that no decent company would ever hire someone who went to a college where students celebrate surviving another year with a golf ball roll and a bug-eating contest, the interviewer will say, "Well, I hear that Reedies are pretty smart." Somehow, Reed's reputation, which plays on the delicate balance between strange and brilliant, weighs in favor of Reedies' reputed intelligence.
I ended up getting hired by a man who had always wanted to go to Reed and who had a habit of hiring Reedies. In fact, my Reed degree was the only reason why I was hired at all, seeing as how I'd never used Windows and had no knowledge of multimedia software or help authoring tools, though I'd have to use all three on the job.