You’re interviewing for a job. The interviewer asks you, “What’s the best job you ever had?” Employment consultants will tell you that the best answer is, “The one I have now.” But that begs the question, “Then why do you want to leave it?”
Job consultant advice aside, I can think of three that could tie for the best job I ever had.
Managing editor for my college newspaper: The editor got the editorial page and all the glory; the managing editor got all the responsibility for the rest of the newspaper. All the editors, reporters, and photographers reported to me. It’s a real-time adrenaline rush, five days a week: assigning stories, covering breaking news, finding myself in the middle of student protests (reporting, not protesting), getting calls from top university officials. I wouldn’t have a job of that level of responsibility and importance for another 15 years.
Helping lead a corporate environmental revolution: I wrote a speech, and then another, and then another. A major environmental issue invited corporate change, and the company I was working for ultimately seized it. We turned the industry upside down. Executives inside the company accused the speechwriters of running the corporation. Who, me? What?
The PR guy for an urban school district: It was a governmental upheaval—an outside management firm was brought in to restructure an urban school district. I was hired to be the communications guy. Think downsizings, school closings, massive organizational change, protests—all on top of the “normal” events at urban schools. I was in the news media several times a day, five days a week—and sometimes seven days a week. One TV station tracked me down one Saturday for an interview—at the car dealership where I was getting maintenance work done on my car.
The reality is, the best jobs we’ve ever had can also be the worst jobs we’ve ever had. All three of those jobs I just listed would also make the “worst job” list. Excitement, constant change and adrenaline rushes can easily give way to burnout. But it was only when I started writing poems that I began to understand that good and bad, and best and worst, often walk hand in hand.
I can’t explain why. It was likely because writing a poem is different from other kinds of writing (although it comes close to speechwriting—that is, good speechwriting). A poem can be ambiguous—it usually doesn’t leave you with answers but only more questions. And a poem requires you to look at a subject or a theme from a very different angle; you can shed more light or create fog where most people think clarity rules.
Clarity and fog – more questions than answers – different. A poem sounds a lot like a great job. And its opposite. (And I can think of another “best and worst job” – being a mother, and a father.)
It’s only 9 a.m.
Channel 5 is waiting, cameras
filming is expectation
of a statement, any statement,
it doesn’t matter what it says;
school board members
are leaking emails on each other,
the teacher on the phone
is correcting my pronunciation;
the news paper uses police radios
to follow the school district news
while the consultant is calling
about “a better brand for the schools”;
the parents’ protest is scheduled
for 5:30; the mayor’s office
is sending PR instructions
and I’m told the teachers have
a sick-out today because they
can’t bank sick days any more
and it’s only 9 a.m. and
my first day on the job. I’m
going to love this place.
So consider the best (and possibly worst) job you’ve ever had. Write a poem. Share in the comments here or on your blog (and send us the link). We’ll feature some of them next week.
Buy a year of happy work mornings today, just $5.99. In January we’re exploring the theme Coffee and Tea.
Now you can easily follow our new Poetry at Work posts. Add one of our Poetry at Work badges to your blog or website today!