This literary trifle, “Bring me the Head of Calixto Garcia!”, was written one evening after supper, in a single hour.  It was on the Twenty-eighth of August, Two Thousand and Twelve.  The thing leapt hot from my heart, written after a trying day, when I had been endeavoring to train some rather delinquent unemployed people to abjure the comatose state and get radioactive.

The immediate suggestion, though, came from a little argument over a job ad, when my girl [one of the Job Club Gurus] suggested that the careful, analytical reader of job ads is the real hero of the Job Wars.  Could I go alone and do the thing — stir up the cosmic dust — and carry the message?


A well-meaning friend (and who would have any other kind?!) sent a job ad the other day for a position to be filled “immediately” – working for the President of a company, no less.  Over the past eight months, I’ve developed a certain expertise in dissecting job ads.  I’m thinking of listing that as a “skill” on my resume, so I read the ad with a somewhat jaundiced eye.   I assume that an equally well-meaning person wrote it, but I wonder if s/he knows just how much it revealed about the corporate culture?

“No one is too good to take out the trash.”  There are two possible interpretations.  The optimistic one is that it’s a democratic place.  The other one is that they’ve already laid off the custodial staff.

“One day you could be inputting data.”  Hmm.  This “executive” position contains some element of the mundane.  Have they also laid off the clerical staff? 

“Another day you could be doing frantic (and we mean FRANTIC!) last-minute errands.”   When I read the word “FRANTIC!”, I have to take off my rose-colored glasses.  They couldn’t plan their way out of a paper bag.

Reading further, here’s what they were looking for:

(1) A person who “always acts first with integrity” – which is a lot more likely when there’s a plan;

(2) A “kind and happy person” – which is even more likely when I’m not taking out trash, doing mundane tasks, or frantically running errands;  

(3) I must “have strong writing, research, communication and interpersonal skills; Your responsibilities will include blogging.” – oh check, check, check, check and CHECK!  And now I think I understand why the friend sent me the ad in the first place. 

(4) I must “be a quick learner, self-motivated (HUGE!), and unstoppable” – oh snap!  My friend knows that the last project I did, conceived and executed in one month, included eight (8) consecutive events, during which time I also put up this blog, started writing again and did a Windows Live Movie Maker slide show as my final report on the project.  (See “Summer Job Camp 2012“)  Indeed, my summer vacation was HUGE!

(5) Lastly, “You must be able to ‘Find Garcia’.  If you don’t know what this means, stop here and hit Google.  We’ll wait . . . .” 

Ok, I thought I knew what they meant, but I bit anyway.

“A Message to Garcia” is a famous inspirational essay written in 1899 by one Elbert Hubbard.  Just the sort of inspirational thing you might expect to find in a pure JEAN!ous blog post – and the subject matter of films and a slang expression synonymous with “initiative” and “leadership”.   Gallant officer Rowan did not question why, but was dedicated to do or die.  He was Dudley Do-Right in an American military uniform.

“Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. . . . [He] took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia . . . .”

Successful in his mission to do the seemingly impossible, Rowan was eventually awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism.

Intellectually, I understand that the real “Garcia message” is that the “ideal” worker should be available for any assignment without hesitation; be reliable;  figure out how to get things done on his/her own;  take action; and be diligent.  But now my business school formation kicks in and I’m reminded that  “doing the right thing” is only ever half the story.  To succeed and survive, one must be both efficient AND effective – both in Job Search and job performance.  (Prelude Lobster Company)

In the environment of the 21st century job market, while I am still a quick learner and hugely self-motivated, a lot of the inner Rowan has been sucked right out of me.  It’s not so much that I’m not the ideal worker, but that it’s become such an un-ideal workplace. 

The job ad went on to ask, “So, think you’re perfect?  GREAT! Let us tell you what’s in store if you’re selected . . . .” 

Perfect?  No, I’m not perfect, and I’m not Spartacus, either:  I am Warren Oates.  Indeed, General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias in Mexico, not Cuba.  I’ve seen the movie and know exactly what’s in store for me if I apply and get this job.

At least Elbert Hubbard acknowledged that doing the right thing without being told doesn’t always result in proportionate pay.  If I am foolish enough to do this el Jefe’s bidding without question (to bring him the head of an already-dead guy to feed to his pigs and frantically run last-minute errands), not only will I not win the Distinguished Service Cross, but I won’t get the $1 Million bounty (in this case, a pre-tax annual salary insufficient to cover my rent), either. 

And I sure won’t be doing a lot of what the ad describes as “rolling with the punches”.  I’ll just end up tucking and rolling in a hail of bullets and probably end up dead – or laid off – for my trouble.  Been there and done that.  Not interested in the sequel.

Message received?

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