Wanted: The Perfect Job
To my former and current directors, thank you. I can be hard to manage.
I’m voracious and quick. I eat things in my path and demand more. I’m still refining the subtleties of effective communication I learned in the third grade (remember “I” statements?). I have a sense of right and wrong that often leads me to strange places, like negotiating our rent higher (my partner is still confused about this one) and requiring front desk staff to use slower computers (trust me, there was a reason).
From an appetite perspective it’s funny that I’ve worked mostly in non-profits. The lethargic beasts have a bad rep for putting people like me in cages and sedating them with meetings, process and broken accoutrements. In contrast, companies like Netflix seem to offer the speed and green pastures necessary to house us hungry ones.
I recently came across Netflix’s company culture slide deck from 2009 while researching unlimited vacation policies for our small organization that will be 100% virtual come July. Reed Hastings’ approach is in some ways the expanded version of Jim Collins’ 2001 First Who, then What, and still remains cutting-edge (for non-profits) in 2016: a focus on high performance (mediocre employees get a generous severance package), flexibility, autonomy, innovation, and most of all, trust. In a high-trust environment employees are empowered (and trusted) to act in the employer’s best interest and driven to be stunning colleagues.
From a values perspective however, I have a hard time committing wholeheartedly to a mission of bringing people better television. Sure - everyone loves a little late-nite House of Cards. But it’s a distraction. The problem is one of benefit and purpose. In an ironic twist of fate, the high-speed company culture of Netflix is paired with a product outcome of drugged viewers in armchairs across America dozing to the hypnotic lull of two-dimensional voices and bursts of color.
While many could argue that better television is solving [flat-screen] problems and connecting people [‘s butts with their couches], I need to focus my efforts on decreasing product consumption and increasing social impact by attracting key leaders to triple-bottom-line work through better business model management. I can’t seem to escape my personal brand.
Non-profits are easy candidates for impact work. Unfortunately, consistently poor financial management invites burnout early and often and discourages top-notch leaders from switching over, making long-term service a formidable challenge. This in addition to the caged-animal phenomenon described above makes Longing For More a daily reality in my work life.
Another challenge is finding a role that recognizes the diversity of my interests and talents. As the CFO of a small organization, I rely on math, analysis, critical thinking and interpersonal negotiation skills regularly. The above list represents solid breadth for some, however for the insatiable we might as well be vampires eating tofu. I’m also creative, and visionary, and outgoing, and artistic, and articulate, and relationship-oriented, and I want to exercise those muscles too.
So where’s the best place for a Jack of all Trades, Master of None? While traditional work culture has historically desired Masters over Jacks, it seems we may actually be increasing in value. Editorial pieces scolding millennials for dismissing the value of future pension security are now rampant, but most of them are written by Boomers themselves who don’t understand a key fact about Millennials: they just won’t ever stay somewhere for 30 years. They’re becoming Jacks of the job marketplace.
In fact, Jacks could be more evolutionarily adaptive for a schizophrenic startup world than Masters. Ecology researchers Vamosi and Poisot claim that evolutionary transitions from specialization to generalization are common (and vice versa), yet specialists may experience greater extinction rates due to smaller geographical range. Humans have undoubtedly experienced a radical shift in geographical range; now the entire planet is accessible in a single conference call.
If I could design the perfect workplace for myself, I think I’d take Netflix’s company culture, redraw the organizational chart, write my own “Jack” job description, and apply the whole shebang to delivering More, with Less.
So, have you seen this place?
Wanted: The perfect job.
Wanted: My Bee People.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!