In my own limited experience in Corporate America, I have seen many of the issues presented in these cameos and lived them either first hand or vicariously. I have dealt with the supervisor who isn’t certain exactly what he wants and expects you to come up with ideas and material before you really know what you’re doing. I’ve experienced the frustration of waiting for someone in another department to give you information vital to the next step, someone who really doesn’t care too much about your project. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with supportive helpful people who have good answers and are willing to provide them. I could sympathize with, or at least easily imagine, many of the scenarios in the stories collected by Savage and Sullivan.
Most of this experience comes from my three plus years working for a stockbrokerage. I started there as a high school kid who’d never had a “real” job before and so shredding paper and filing financial statements for minimum wage seemed like a definite step up from baby-sitting the kid down the street. I was also planning on going to Germany the following summer and so any opportunity to make money was welcome.
The dress code hit me right away – I didn’t own clothes like that. The men all wore suits and ties and the women were comparably dressed. Being younger than everyone there by at least 17 years, I was given a little leeway, but still felt a little out of place. When Christine Pellar-Kosbar mentioned her wardrobe as being “the least expensive version of the required ‘dress casual’ dress code” in the text, it definitely struck a sympathetic response in me. I was always borderline in my dress, trying to find clothes that I could wear to work and to school in the same day.
All of the narratives relating to the power structure also strongly reminded me of working in that office. The number of people in that branch office was relatively small – always under 30 in the building – but the power structure was pretty well defined once it became apparent to the newcomer. The two crucial factors were seniority and who brought the most money into the company through commissions. That seems fairly straightforward, but the friendships and personal dislikes that interwove into that hierarchy were what made it challenging.
Shortly after declaring an English major and being there long enough for people to realize I wasn’t a complete idiot despite the fact that I had never taken an accounting class in my life, I was offered the opportunity to do a little writing. I was thrilled by the prospect then and still smile when I think back to it, although I’m sure I would tear my final product apart, knowing what I know now. My manager wanted to make our office look good and broaden its prospects, so he decided that a little volunteering was in order. If the brokers would volunteer their time in high school economic and financial management classes, the company would look vested in the community and would plant the seeds for lots of new little investors and their parents to visit for more information on how to amass personal fortunes. My job was to write up some materials to keep things somewhat uniform from presentation to presentation and to give the brokers something to hand out to the kids with the company information on it. What I actually ended up doing was creating two forty-five minute courses for high school students with a handbook for the students and a presentation outline for the brokers, so that all of the core information was already written down and the broker could participate as much or as little as he chose.
This provided me with the opportunity to nag other departments at our main office for information and permission, wander like a lost puppy from broker to broker looking for information that I had no reason to know up until then, and to enjoy the input of an editor who doesn’t really know what he wanted in the first place, but what I wrote wasn’t it. Overall, it was a positive experience, although I still do not know the whereabouts of the finished product, and it gave me a lot of insight into all of the ridiculous, necessary, annoying, amusing, unexpected steps along the way, very similar to the many stories in the text that were so personally variable, but still not too distant from each other.