If I took the time to imagine the perfect office, it'd sprawl on an idyllic, tree-lined campus with a gourmet cafeteria, numerous patios for eating and shmoozing, and a huge gym with spotless equipment of every variety. It'd be next door to a superb pre-school where I'd receive a steep tuition discount.
Every employee would have his or her own office -- no dehumanizing cube farms. You could eat off the bathroom floors, they're so spotless.
My co-workers would be a little older so I'd still have room to grow, but they'd be hip, good-looking and progressive and passionate about the environment and community service. They'd all have kids too, and have a lenient view of working from home, despite official policies to the contrary. They'd insist that job titles didn't matter, everyone's a team and responsibilities shift as needed. The boss hires smart people and then turns them loose -- he isn't into hovering or hectoring.
The firm would allow "time banking" so if you work extra hours one week, you can take a day off the next, or save your days to add onto your vacation. They'd have a generous 401k and an enviable range of benefits.
Sound too good to be true? Okay, let's throw in a couple of negatives: they'd be a bit of a commute and in the wrong direction -- further from L.A. And the pay would be correspondingly crummier.
That's the company I interviewed with today.
I'm going for a copy editing job in the book publishing arm of a software firm. Most of the department's composed of ex-news junkies like myself. And you seriously never saw a bigger collection of hot-lookin' 40- and 50-something hipsters outside of New York.
They loved me. I passed an earlier editing test with "flying colors." But I passed another, more significant test today:
Lack of passion.
Not one person there loved his or her job. Not one. The books are technical and dull, the authors are illiterate dolts, many got their contracts because they're buddies of the owner/CEO, the production pace is glacial.
But they love the company and each other. Everyone goes home after their eight hours is up (people more or less set their own hours) and then their real lives begin, whether it's family time or poetry workshops or painting, among the pursuits people mentioned.
When they asked why someone with a stellar resume such as mine (nice ego stroke, that) was doing in a place like this, I answered instinctively and honestly. I'd burned out on reporting, had enough of 60-70 hour weeks, and just wanted a nice place to work with smart, funny, cool people.
I go back for another round of interviews Thursday, but I'd really have to kill someone to blow it now. I'm pretty much in. But do I want it? Do I want to just pass time and collect a paycheck, however much I like the place?
Is this all there is?