This Is the Job I’m Looking For
This is how you hire me.
As I’ve been engaging with the job market recently, I find myself in interviews and conversations explaining my work history through the lens of my work future. What am I looking for in my next role? Sure, it’s likely to be something in media, something with technology, something in editorial and writing, probably something in food or travel or lifestyle or various combinations thereof. Or maybe it will be similar work in other subject matter. But those are the obvious details. What about the vibe? What kind of job do I want?
I’ve had versions of this conversation many times, same as most people looking for work. It occured to me that I might as well write it all down and get my thoughts on the matter in proper order. Plus, the next time a recruiter asks me this question, I can simply refer them here and await their feedback. Practical and considerate.
Therefore, in the interests of disclosure, this is what I’m looking for in an employer. If this seems like you, apply today!
Small Organizations, or Small Teams within Larger Organizations
I like agile, nimble, scrappy outfits—or outfits that emulate and prize those qualities (like really prize them, not just throw them up as company culture talking points). Of course many of the scrappy little outfits I’ve worked for have been acquired by massive corporations (Yahoo, Disney, and JP Morgan Chase among others). Circle of life, et cetera. That said, I can be quite content operating in a big company if my team or sub-org lives as a smaller and leaner entity within it.
Not Too Senior, Not Too Many Reports
I have held very senior jobs managing large numbers of people, both directly and through my own direct reports who had their own direct reports. And while senior roles with lots of people reporting to you do come with interesting professional challenges that can be stimulating and rewarding, they are also typically composed mostly of doing management. This means you are necessarily somewhat distant from the actual work, product, or process that you and your sub-managers are managing.
Eventually I found this distance from the work-product-process dispiriting. I do enjoy managing people when it manifests as a form of collaboration and support. But there’s an inevitable aspect of senior management that puts you into the heady space of abstract strategic thinking rather than tactical nitty gritty. As a very senior manager, it often seemed like I would only get close to the work again when my involvement was required to fix a problem.
That’s just no fun, or not as much fun, at least not for me. So lately I have explicitly avoided engaging with impressive-sounding VP or C-level jobs that I am eminently qualified for, but which seem remote from the work—especially when they are positioned as a reportorial collection and distribution valve for the C-suite. I need to be closer to the work.
Note a distinction between direct reports and, say, working with freelancers and contractors. I love working with lots of freelancers even if I don’t want to manage tons of internal folks in their day-to-day operations. Working with a large cast of external people brings in valuable external perspective and variety (more on that below).
Autonomy & Production
While it’s fun to help others make things, I also personally like making things, and in my work I prefer to actually make the things at least part of the time. This is another aspect of not being too senior, but more specifically I want to be involved at a production level rather than only working with other people and resources who are making the things.
I myself really do not require much in the way of management, as I have been doing this (gestures at everything) for a while now. Certainly let us define the stakes, terms, bounds, and goals, and communicate frequently and effusively. But I am most effective when operating and executing as an empowered and autonomous agent. Overmanaging will only slow things down. Trust me to do the things I’m good at, and I’ll do them quickly and well.
Variety & Overlap
While I prefer working autonomously, that doesn’t mean I want to work in isolation. I love working with other people, particularly in other disciplines. This means other types of creative people of course, but it also means those who work in most every aspect of the media industry. I like working with sales, partnerships, marketing, events, and publicity people, as well as other managers and producers. Even executives! And I also like working with people entirely outside my industry.
What I enjoy about a variety of work product is that it inevitably leads to interesting overlap in professional collaborations. I’m omnivorously interested in other people’s expertise, which is one reason I’ve gotten to really love interviewing people in recent years. After all, I once spent almost two hours talking to a butcher about “meat math.” And at minimum, anybody who works in editorial really should understand how their business works beyond their own desk. If you don’t know the math, you’re the meat.
Sincerity, Authenticity, Integrity, Mission
What a boring bunch of buzzwords, but they do actually mean important things. I’m not a huge fan of mission statements, which tend to serve too many masters to function well as authentic and actionable messaging. In a more squishy but honest sense, does the company believe in doing good work? Do the people there believe in doing the right thing, transparently? Do they believe in acknowledging when they’ve done something wrong, and working—transparently and accountably—to fix it?
Perhaps most tellingly, will people in charge of the business do something risky, or even contrary to business goals, if it’s the right thing to do? I wouldn’t presume to define what “the right thing” is, for you. But I know it when I see it. And I know when I don’t.
So that’s what I’m looking for.
If you’re interested in talking about any of this, feel free to reach me in the usual way. Thanks for your time! Good luck in hiring me!