I was retrenchmed From My First Job
November 26, 2013 § 2 Comments
I lost his first job – and used my cleaning skills to secure the next one.
The office is one of those places that no-one wants to go to after waking up in the morning. The bed is always much more pleasant. Unless you are that guy who is having an affair with someone there. Which can make going to work very inspiring.
I was retrenched from my first job, nine months in – like a pregnancy. My boss at the time called me into his office and told me that the agency was going through a really tough time; we had lost a major account within three months of me joining. I managed to survive the first massacre of retrenchments. I didn’t survive when we lost another account in the next six months.
I was then summoned to the owner and founder’s office. I wasn’t upset by the summons because his PA was hot. I had no idea why. His office had a nice couch and glass table. He pointed to the couch and I sat down, and he sat opposite. Although it was comfortable, I felt uncomfortable on the couch. He told me the agency was going through a difficult time. “Although I think you are very talented, unfortunately you are one of the people I must retrench.” Inside, I was very relieved to hear it. I hadn’t thought of the fact that I was now unemployed.
Looking back, I respect that he told me himself; he didn’t get my boss or one of his underlings to do it. As a fan of the Game of Thrones books, I am reminded of the motto of the Lord of Winterfell, Lord Eddard Stark, when he passes a death sentence by beheading. He said: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword,” although he never took joy in the duty.
He asked me how I felt about being retrenched. Looking back, it would seem I’ve always lacked tact. I paused for a second, thinking of what to say, then said: “I’m glad actually…”
I hadn’t even finished my sentence when he interrupted me with: “Why would you say that?” I told him I felt I wasn’t been mentored; I was being left to my own devices and to teach myself. I felt ignored no matter how much proactive work I did. I felt more like an irritant than someone who was needed.
I still don’t believe I said it because it’s not like I had a job lined up. He looked absolutely horrified and said he hated hearing that. He wanted employees to hate leaving his company – they should never be happy about leaving, he exclaimed as he slammed his fist on the glass table.
He was nice enough to say he would call a couple of agencies to see if any of them had a slot for a younger writer.
A few days later, I got a call on my landline. “Who wants me?” I asked.
There was a stammer on the other side of the line and a voice said: “It’s So-and-So, Executive Creative Director of So- and-So advertising agency.” Had I been a white man, I would have turned beetroot red on the other end of the line.
Fortunately, I am a man of the melanin-advantaged persuasion. He was calling me about an interview because he’d heard that I was retrenched, would I like to come in for an interview he asked?
I met the Executive Creative Director of this particular agency. His office reeked of cigarette smoke. The stench in his office was probably no different from that of Mad Men. He had his Apple MacBook open and there were brown envelopes stuffed with briefs. He rested his elbow on the table with his cigarette hand by his ear. He didn’t care that it was illegal to smoke in the office. It would seem everyone was too scared of him to tell him to stop. His hand would go between his ear and mouth between puffs. He offered me coffee, which I declined, but he had a cup.
The interview hadn’t even been going for five minutes when I accidentally knocked over his mug, spilling coffee all over his desk and the briefs. He had to jump up suddenly because some of it splashed on his crotch. Luckily, I don’t think the hot liquid did any damage to his member. I remembered seeing the kitchen not too far from his office. I thought quickly and ran to get paper towel. When I got back to his office it was quiet and I was convinced I’d lost any chance of getting the job.
I folded the paper towel and started wiping his desk in the middle of the world’s most awkward interview and found myself saying: “As you can see, I’m really desperate for a job, even if it’s a cleaning job”. He suddenly let out a huge laugh. The awkward-ness left the room and returned to wherever the hell it had come from. At the beginning of the interview he had told me that there was a hiring freeze, as they also had to retrench people a month before. At the end of the interview, after going through my thin portfolio, he stood up, shook my hand and said: “To hell with it, rules are meant to be broken, I’m hiring you.” After hearing those words, the smoke in his office didn’t bother me any more.
*this originally appeared on Visi magazine