My latest piece on Huffington Post is a reminiscence of my arrival in Chicago many springs ago, and the stumbling, bumbling job search that ensued.
It was Mark Ragan and his late father Larry who ended my post-collegiate desperation by hiring me to work at Ragan Communications.
Larry had his own stories of misguided early employment, none better than this one, which I refer to briefly in the HuffPo piece. Here's a longer version, from Larry's family memoir:
Triangular building at the
intersection of North Ave., Damen and Milwuakee
June to Sept. 1946
This company sold false teeth by mail. I worked as a sales correspondent. There is no other way to put it: I was dumb.
What blindness prevents us from avoiding such dumb decisions? Was there nobody to tell me that surely, int he post-war booming year of 1946, there were better jobs to be had, better companies to work for? Evidently not.
The company had about 50 employees. It was owned by a lawyer whom we never met, and was run by a formidable woman of middle years who herself would not come in more than three times a week.
Most of the employees worked in the laboratory, making the teeth. I was among a handful of clerks who selected form letters to respond to inquiries or selected different letters to respond to complaints.
The company advertised its money-back guaranteed teeth in pulp magazines that I had no idea existed. A small one-column ad would invite inquiries and requests for the molds that we would send with specific instructions as to how to take an impression. The customer would return the impression and our laboratory would make the teeth. The price was vastly less than a dentist would charge. Amazingly, we'd occasionally get testimonial letters.
The company reflected what may have been routine practices of the depression. We began work precisely at 9:00 a.m. with the ringing of a bell. It was my job to pull the chord that clanged the bell. At 10:15, I'd ring the bell for a 15-minute coffee break, then ring it to signal that the break was over. And so on throughout the day.
It took me only a few months to realize that this work was not for me, so I gave a few weeks notice that fall. The general manager asked me to write her a memo making any suggestions for improvements in operations. I did so, though I have no idea what I said. I'm sure it must have been embarrassingly naive. She never said a word after I gave it to her.
But a few months later, when I was already working for Gaylord Products Co., I learned that she responded to Gaylord's employment inquiry that she wouldn't rehire me because I didn't agree with the company's policies. So it goes.
And how did it go for you? Tell the sordid story here!