My alma mater recently invited me back to serve as a Career Week panelist. Along with a temporary parking pass, I've been sent a list of questions I should be prepared to answer. Some seem obscure, while others border on hostile.
This got me thinking about the wide range of possible inquiries. Is it true you were unemployed and ballooned to 230 pounds the summer after you graduated?
Has any career advice you've given ever actually panned out?
"Next question." [Covering microphone.] "Are we screening these?"
Are there any fictional companies, from sitcoms, that you think would make good employers?
"Great question," I'd say, preparing to wow them with my thoughtful reply. "Here are seven places I'd like to make my mark."
Employer: Mr. Drummond's Company
Show: Diff'rent Strokes
Job: Change Agent
Phil Drummond was the Angelina of his time – rich and sexy and adopting kids of other races way before it was cool. While he lived a life of luxury, his company was not always the best corporate citizen. They were behind those sugar-filled vending machines in Arnold's school. And there is very little evidence they valued the rank-and-file, as indicated by the attempt to put Mr. Drummond's old disc jockey friend out of work in Portland.
But where you see tooth decay and disloyalty, I see an opening. As a Change Agent – an intentionally vague and shallow term to minimize actual responsibility – I'd work to sway public opinion. To win us friends, I'd impose a wide range of green initiatives. As an occasional recycler (cans, not paper), I'm uniquely qualified. I even have one of those fancy fluorescent light bulbs. But just one. It's dim and hurts my eyes.
Employer: Malibu Sands Beach Club
Show: Saved by the Bell
Job: Lifeguard/Volleyball Judge
In high school, I was a cashier at our local A&P supermarket. Seven other classmates I'd put in the "good friends" category were among my co-workers. The hardest part of the job was not laughing hysterically in the face of all the unintentional comedy. We had signs and a looping public address announcement imploring customers with special needs to seek our assistance. This was as far as our disability outreach went. When a man who could barely walk demanded help, our night produce manager (later my Best Man) Brett had to push him up and down the aisles on a swivel chair. That man later refused to be checked out by a woman.
What does this have to do with the Malibu Sands? Well, nothing, really. But since I very much enjoyed working a crappy job with a bunch of friends, I'm sure working a crappy job with a bunch of friends in Malibu would be far superior. Even with the irascible Leon Carosi as boss.
Employer: Spacely Sprockets
Show: The Jetsons
Job: Anything available
Spacely Sprockets had a three-day work week. And a three-hour work day. Sign me up.
Employer: MacLaren's Bar or The Regal Beagle
Show: How I Met Your Mother, Three's Company
I've never had a bartender whom I treated like a therapist (Or a therapist who poured me drinks.) One time a male barkeep asked if I wanted to stick around after closing, to "throw back some Irish car bombs." At worst I was being recruited for a domestic terrorism ring. At best, he was hitting on me. I made an Irish exit and stumbled home alone.
Because I feel deprived in this area, I'm willing to play the role of the trusted suds-slinger. I'd love to spend my workdays helping Jack and Larry or Ted and Barney with their womanizing, and out of jams.
Show: The Wonder Years
Job: Chief Talent Officer/Director of Human Resources
NORCOM is a miserable place to make a living. It sent Jack Arnold to an early grave, even though he got out in time to start his own furniture business. As an aspiring Chief Talent Officer/Director of Human Resources, NORCOM is the perfect laboratory to test my revolutionary approach to personnel. This revolutionary approach involves flex-time, nap rooms and Slingboxes.
The traditional company picnic – the one where Kevin's softball line drive smashed his father's nose – would be replaced by activities at an on-site recreation area modeled after Action Park. These measures might not earn us a spot on Fortune's Best Places to Work list right away. But we'd attract more local talent, like perhaps Ed Cutlip.
Employer: Wernham Hogg
Show: The Office (BBC)
Job: Assistant to the Assistant to the Regional Manager
I know nothing about paper, and sales is not my strong suit. But I'm the kind of person who needs constant motivation. David Brent is the Joe Torre of mid-sized British paper merchants. Plus I've always wanted to work abroad.
And as my actual office-mate Phil (of spamosphere fame) told me, it'd be fun to answer your phone by saying, "You're through to Keith." Or whatever your name might be.
Employer: McMann & Tate
And finally there's McMann & Tate. A healthy percentage of today's advertising professionals got their first taste of the business by watching Darrin Stevens lurch up their corporate ladder.
Bewitched went off the air in 1972 and Larry Tate passed away in 1990, but the legend continues in syndication. And in the hearts of young wannabe ad execs. Future stars who want nothing more than a creative job, and a spouse to have their cocktail of choice waiting at home.