It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO WORK.
In some ways, it is very odd that Jose Melendez would sit down and write KEYS about work. For starters, Jose doesn’t particularly like to work. There are some people who don’t know what they would do if they retired or can’t imagine a life where they don’t have to get up each day and go somewhere. Jose is not one of those people. No, Jose can very easily imagine himself living a life of quiet leisure a book in one hand, a Manhattan in the other, the television on and the radio blaring. Yes, Jose would interrupt his leisure time only long enough to pound out the day’s KEYS, to feed the ravenous Internet beast.
Of course, this is not a life Jose has, nor is it a life he is every likely to have. Jose works. Actually, Jose works a lot. In fact, a more likely scenario is that Jose will work until he’s in his 80s not because he is loves to work, but because he is lousy with money. (Note: Actually, Jose knows how not to spend money, and that’s probably the hard part. He just can’t figure out what to do with the money he saves. For now, he keeps it buried near the Kosciuszko statue in the public garden, but the interest rate on buried money is low, and the squirrels keep making withdrawals.) And it’s not that Jose hates his job, he likes it just fine. It is just that Jose doesn’t believe we were put on this Earth to write memos, hold meetings and wolf down our crappy Fresh City lunches during a seminar. (Note: In editing, yes Jose does edit, sort of, he noticed that this KEYS is sort of reading like Dilbert without the amusing pictures or witty dialogue. That’s just great.) Clearly, the human animal was made to sit around reading comic books, watching professional wrestling and complaining about (Correction: celebrating…WOLRD CHAMPS!!! Wooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!) the Boston Red Sox.
It is also odd that Jose would choose to write about work since he is in the business of work. KEYS is supposed to be an escape from reality, a sort of verbal Cubism, (Note: Or Pointilism..no, wait…maybe Dadaism) mocking and disfiguring the ennui of daily life, not a commentary on daily life. Whatever.
Every day Jose talks to people about how we as a society can do a better job preparing people for work (Note: More money for Jose is a good start), and he has learned one very important thing – a huge number of people in this country have a really terrible job or even worse really terrible jobs, for instance, migrant farm worker, janitor, Wal Mart greeter and General Manager of the New York Yankees. Therefore, Jose should stop complaining, or at least complain in a foreign language so fewer people can understand his griping. Arbeit hat Jose nicht gut gefallen!!! (Note: Actually, when Jose was a PR guy, a job he truly hated after a while, he used to keep the lyrics to the old labor song “Dark as the Dungeon” up in his cube, so he could always be thankful that he wasn’t working in the mines. Of course, on really bad days, Jose used to fantasize about how awesome it would be to work in the mines and how much cooler it would be to have black lung disease than to tell yet another reporter about how wonderful Gigantor Pharmaceutical is.)
As Jose thought about writing about work, he received some advice from a friend who runs an Internet marketing company (Note: This guy will tell you at length how wonderful pop up ads are. Really. But he cannot explain why some pro wrestling sites have pop ups advocating for Saudi Arabian tourism. Jose would really like no know; it just seems like really bad targeting. Do the guys wearing Austin 3:16 shirts buy a lot of plane tickets to Riyadh?)
He said, “Jose, if you want your blog to take off, just bad mouth your employer. That always works.”
But, Jose can’t do it. He likes the organization he works for, they treat him well, they pay him money that keeps him in Red Sox tickets. So Jose will just have to settle for a lightly read blog that does not get him fired.
Which finally brings us to the end of the preamble to today’s KEYS. Jose has only been in the workforce for seven years, but he’s worked quite a few different kinds of jobs: stone mason, freemason, Anthony Mason. But he just seems to get bored after 18 months or so and needs to move on. Even at the job he stayed at for four years, he took a nine month leave of absence to run around Europe (Note: And sit around the house playing Madden 2001. It was 2003 at the time, but what do you want, he was unemployed.) Already, Jose has worked in three different sectors public (government), private (corporate) and non-profit (both political campaigns and true non-profits). Jose does not wish to discuss the relative merits of each sector. No, that would be most unJoselike. Instead, Jose would like to discuss the huge glaring liability of each sector. Jose believes that each sector carries one great plague, and anyone considering a change of career would do well to consider how well they can manage the plague. (Note: Or if they are the plague.)
1. Public/Government – Jose spent about 18 months working at the State House of a major northeastern state that is home to the current WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL as a legislative aide. Jose’s boss was a wonderful human being and a serious and energetic legislator, but serious and energetic legislators were a distinct minority, a large minority, but a minority nonetheless. The plague of public service, as you might have guessed, is the hack, that worker, be he elected, appointed or a patronage hire, who simply does nothing, or nearly as bad does something, but slowly and at great expense. Jose knew one committee chairman in is time at the State House who kept hiring people to do the jobs that his existing staffers weren’t doing. He didn’t get rid of the old staffers, he just kept adding new ones. By the end there was one competent aide and about 20 hacks. Jose has no evidence, but it was rumored that there was one staffer for this legislator who spent most of his time out of the country, showing up just a few days a month in order to sit in the back of the office and draw semi-pornographic charicatures of his boss. It’s sort of sad, because government, to Jose’s mind, also attracts the smartest, most dedicated and most selfless people in the world. But the world’s most brilliant, efficient public servant just can’t compete for a space in the electorate’s imagination with the guy who draws dirty political comics two days a month in the back office.
2. Private/Corporate -- Well, these are the guys who are supposed to have their act together, the ruthless efficiency of the market and all. That’s sort of true, Jose supposes, but let’s not pretend that there is no such thing as corporate patronage. At the same time, hacks are not the problem in corporate settings that they are in government. No, the plague of corporate America are those folks who are driven only by money, nothing else, not pride in a job well done, not building a company, not winning the Stanley Cup, nothing. These are the people who do their job only for the immediate financial benefits and would leave tomorrow (Note: Or sell you out) for one dollar more. (Note: Do you hear that Scott Boras? Jose has your number. By the way, if Scott Boras is a profit seeker does that make Ramiro Mendoza a hack? Mendoza did just sit there, doing nothing, collecting a check. )
The key to dealing with a corporate setting, of course, is to assume that everyone is just looking to put one more dollar in his pocket in all circumstances and when making all decisions. Jose knows it sounds cold and calculating, but it really does help. If one never makes the mistake of assuming he is anything more than a number on a spreadsheet with a dollar sign next to it, one is never hurt or surprised. Actually, this is why Jose’s favorite people in any corporation are the accountants. The accountants always know it is only about the money, and they don’t try to pretend it is about anything else. Jose appreciates that kind of honesty. They also tend to run office football/final four pools efficiently.
Corporate Human Resources people, on the other hand, one has to watch out for. Like the accountants, they know it is all about the money, but unlike the accounts, they will never admit it. They will try to tell you that the company cars about the personal growth of its employees, their health, their families, blah, blah, blah. It is possible that a company may care about those things, but only to the extent that it makes workers more productive and therefore more profitable. Some HR people even stop remembering that it is all about the money and start thinking that their job really is to help employees. A tip to HR people out there – cognitive dissonance is powerful, but it is seldom the key to career advancement. (Note: Wait, cognitive dissonance is what allowed Jose to survive and thrive in four years as a PR person…now Jose is having cognitive dissonance about what he just wrote.) (Additional note: Jose should add that there are some wonderful people in corporate PR, and most non-profit HR people are actually quality people, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.)
3. Non-profit – Jose lumped political in with non-profit because political campaigns have much more in common with non-profits (low pay, bad office space, crummy benefits) than government jobs themselves. Most importantly, they share the same plague –weirdoes. Jose is not really sure why this is. He assumes it is because both sectors tend to rely on volunteers. Volunteers tend to bypass all of the screening that employees face because, well, they work for free. Also, non-profits, as one might expect, attract some tremendously self-righteous folks, who have contempt for actual for-profit work. Jose always thought this was stupid. After all it’s mostly for profit companies produce things we need like houses, telephones, and WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS!!! (Note: Of course Jose’s own field, public relations, is completely unnecessary; it is work that does NOT need to be done. More often than not, the entire point of corporate public relations is to help companies look like they are doing the right thing while they continue to do the wrong thing.)
Actually, Jose’s first job was on a political campaign working as a scheduler, and he hated it more than he has ever hated anything in this world. Maybe he hates Hitler more, but not by much. Every day, Jose would leave the office lamenting the fact that he needed to return in just 13 hours. But, it wasn’t the weirdoes. The campaign had some weirdoes, but they were quite likable. He just hated the job. You see, when one is the scheduler for a campaign, everything is your fault. If you don’t budget for traffic and the candidate arrives late, that is your fault. If you do budget for traffic and the roads are clear so the candidate arrives early, that’s your fault too. And if the candidate arrives at an event right on time? Well, you must have done something wrong anyway. Jose hated it so much that the highlight was his daily trip to the dumpster to get rid of the office trash. It was there that Jose made one of the most important discoveries of his life. If you are at your job making copies and the best office fantasy you can come up with is about how awesome it would be to be making copies for some other employer, it’s time to change jobs.
But today Jose is lucky. The non-profit he works for is run in a highly professional manner that seems to largely fight off the plague of weirdoes, and he seldom dreams of making copies. (Note: See Jose isn’t going to bad mouth his job just to become famous.)
On a final note about plagues, did you know that if you go to the actual Hebrew book of Exodus and look at the plagues of Egypt there is nothing in there about cattle disease, hail or boils? Nope, in Hebrew it speaks of hacks, profit seekers and weirdoes. Seriously. You can check on it just as soon as you learn ancient Hebrew.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO WORK.