On Wednesday, Jezebel introduced us to Redditor PastLightSpeed, who posted images of a Lego set she’d created and sent to her “dream advertising agencies” in the hopes of nabbing an internship. “Leah” is a brick figurine in a blue suit, “new for 2014,” and she comes with a brightly colored poster advertising her “attention to detail,” “eye for design,” and “fantastic people skills.” She specializes in “creative solutions for every challenge,” but she also—crucially—knows the value of “a fresh pot of coffee.” The top of the poster reads, “Build the perfect Account Service intern!” and after PastLightSpeed’s link shot to gold on Reddit, Jezebel gave the whole project a ringing endorsement: “This is fucking rad.”
Props to the Reddit commenters for some sterling Lego-based office humor: “Faceless … just like every other intern,” “She hurts anyone who walks all over her,” “At least she’s got good connections.” And props to Leah—I assume the poster, 20, named the toy after herself—for imagination and savvy, because Legos are definitely having a moment. But: I am cringing a little at this elaborate, possibly fruitless piece of self-marketing. So far, the reactions to Leah’s Lego gambit suggest we should be inspired by her ingenuity. We should find it uplifting that, in the impersonal bustle of the Internet/job market, she’s found a way to stand out. But I don’t feel uplifted—I feel as though I’m watching a half-starved aquarium otter somersault for her supper. I don’t know about Leah’s specific situation, but what do such resumes say about the difficulties of getting an internship or paid position and the demented hoops applicants must jump through in order to distinguish themselves?
There’s an entire alcove of the Internet dedicated to celebrating genius job app ideas. Here are six impressive cover letters that will motivate you to up your game: One of them promises, “I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing.” Here are 25 resumes that stand out from the crowd: They look like gorgeously designed, wittily formatted art installations. Lindsay Blackwell really, really, really wanted to manage the University of Michigan’s social media presence, so she built a website called “dear lisa rudgers,” addressed to the university’s vice president of communications. (She didn’t get the job.)
A lot of these ideas are brilliant, and it’s the mixture of brilliance and desperation that makes them so uncomfortable to read about. Setting aside the intense competition in fields like finance, social media, and graphic design (where many of the featured hopefuls were applying), youth unemployment rates in 2013 were around 16 percent, and for black Americans that number was 23.7 percent. So times are tough. But—and maybe I’m old-fashioned or scared about having to compete with these people—I still don’t think reinventing the very concept of a resume or cover letter should be a prerequisite for employment. It makes me embarrassed to watch young people sell themselves so hard and then to click through articles and roundups glorifying their efforts, as if convincing some bored or busy exec that yours are the most dazzlingly original hands ever to brew a pot of coffee is a good use of your talent.