Commentary

His first job had him in the dumps

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2008
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Commentary

His first job had him in the dumps

Marketplace Staff Aug 22, 2008
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

TESS VIGELAND: All these kids with delusions of becoming the next Warren Buffett?
They may not realize it, but most of them in for a rude awakening. Before they score a corner office with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, they might have to brave a windowless room — like, maybe the basement.

Just ask commentator Robert Reich. He tells us that his first work experience went to the dogs.


ROBERT REICH: My first job was as an ad-man. That’s something of an exaggeration. It was a job in an advertising agency that today we’d call an “internship” — a kind of foot-in-the-door that might someday lead to a real job.

In truth, it wasn’t even a foot in the door. More like a big toe. I was a “go-fer” — someone who’s told to “go-fer” coffee, “go-fer” sandwiches, “go-fer” this or that package. I go-ferred for weeks, running around New York City on errands.

But even though being a go-fer wasn’t glamourous, I was fired with enthusiasm. I basked in the glow of the firm’s worldly-wise creativity, its brand-name clients, and the important meetings I’d supply with coffee, sandwiches and packages.

After a time I got fewer go-fer assignments. I assumed this meant I was now primed for the big leagues, ready to join a full-fledged ad campaign. But the real reason was I didn’t know New York well enough and got lost when I went for a package more than a few blocks away. I was so late with one of them I didn’t deliver it in time for an important meeting. So they stopped asking me to go-fer.

At this point the head of the firm gave me a different assignment, but it wasn’t an ad campaign. It was to take care of his dog, which he brought into the office every day. A big Irish Wolfhound named Prince, who had a bowel problem. My job was, well, you can imagine. I told myself this was a kind of promotion. After all, I was now working for the boss.

But I was actually working for Prince. And one day I was scraping Prince’s bowel problem off the small terrace outside the boss’s office — for the third time that day — in the 95-degree heat and humidity of a New York August, and I finally realized something I should have known all along. This job wasn’t going anywhere.
So, I summoned the nerve to tell the boss I wouldn’t take care of Prince anymore, and he summoned the indignation to tell me I had a nerve, and that was that.

I ended my first job just as I had started it — fired … with enthusiasm.

VIGELAND: Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Anybody else wondering what that boss is doing now? Safe bet he isn’t a former cabinet secretary.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

😱 Halfpriced hoodies! 😱 

This weekend only, when you donate $90 or $8/month, you can snag our cozy new Marketplace zipup hoodie. Don’t wait– this offer ends Sunday at midnight.