Dropout Lands Dream Job
Andrew Leland, managing editor for literary magazine The Believer and an Oberlin dropout, delivered a lecture in early March sponsored by the Office of Career Services, ostensibly about how to thrive in an internship. But instead, he said that he wasn’t quite sure how to succeed at an internship.
“I knew HTML. I think that helped,” he said.
What the audience got, instead of great advice about how to succeed in the workplace, was a dream story of random luck.
Leland spent his years at Oberlin College smoking a pack a day, hanging out in Mudd and playing pop on his WOBC radio show. After asking for extensions on assignments Leland spent his time in A-level reading McSweeneys.net, a humor-based website. The website, run by a small eponymous San Francisco-based publishing company and founded in 1998 by author Dave Eggers, focuses on undiscovered and underappreciated writers.
Obsessed with the site, Leland applied to intern at the publishing house.
Post-internship, back in Oberlin, Leland received an email from Eggers asking him to return to San Francisco as managing editor of the company’s new literary magazine The Believer.
Leland was not the first person Eggers asked to do the job, but the initial managing editor had been technologically impaired and unable to master HTML. In a quick need for someone to fill the role as managing editor, Eggers remembered his former intern, Leland, with his clever sense of humor, dedication to the publishing house and decent computer skills.
There was a catch: If Leland wanted the job, he had to start immediately. Despite department chair and Associate Professor of English Tracy Scott McMillin’s encouragement for Leland to finish his education and earn his college degree, Leland decided to drop out of school with only a few months left before his graduation.
And now, four years later, he still believes he has his dream job.
The Believer is a monthly magazine that has created a forum for articles about all things literary, from interviews with writers to essays about “Rock-Paper-Scissors.”
Each issue contains six perpetually positive book reviews, reflecting their manifesto:
“We will focus on writers and books we like...The working title of this magazine was The Optimist.”
Leland’s job as managing editor is the “traffic-cop-kind”; he oversees and coordinates all aspects of the magazine, ensuring the finished issue is taken to press by the twenty-fifth of each month.
Leland informed eagerly listening students that publishing his first few issues was extremely stressful, as he had to pretend that he knew what he was doing. But since then, he has somehow managed to quit smoking and still declares that he has his dream-job, because “I get to work with all my favorite artists.”