Sometimes, the job’s the thing …

In our desire to embrace employer branding, we have forgotten that for most candidates, the first and foremost consideration is the job. Now, hard is it may be to believe, I could blather on and on about what it takes to engage in successful job marketing. But in a rare moment of restraint, I will instead share the best example I have ever come across – an example that was created in 1920.

Brown’s Job

by Robley Feland, c. 1920

Brown is gone, and many men in the trade are wondering who will get Brown’s job.

There has been considerable speculation about this. Brown’s job was reputed to be a good job. Brown’s former employers, wise, grey-eyed men, have had to sit still and repress amazement, as they listened to bright, ambitious young men and dignified older ones seriously apply for Brown’s job.

Brown had a big chair and a wide, flat-topped desk covered with a sheet of glass. Under the glass was a map of the United States. Brown had a salary of thirty thousand dollars a year. And twice a year, Brown made a “trip to the coast” and called on every one of the firm’s distributors.

He never tried to sell anything. Brown wasn’t exactly in the sales department. He visited with the distributors, called on a few dealers, and once in a while made a little talk to salesmen. Back at the office, he answered most of the important complaints, although Brown’s job wasn’t to handle complaints. Brown wasn’t in the credit department either, but vital questions of credit got to Brown, somehow or other, and Brown would smoke, talk, and tell a joke, untwist the telephone cord and tell the credit manager what to do.

Whenever Mr. Wythe, the impulsive little president, working like a beaver, would pick up a bunch of papers and peer into a particularly troublesome or messy subject, he had a way of saying, “What does Brown say? What does Brown say? What the hell does Brown say? – Well, why don’t you do it, then?”  And that was disposed.

Or when there was a difficulty that required quick action and lots of it, together with tact, and lots of that, Mr. Wythe would say, “Brown, you handle that.”

And then one day the directors met unofficially and decided to fire the superintendent of No. 2 mill. Brown didn’t hear of this until the day after the letter had gone. “What do you think of it, Brown?” asked Mr. Wythe. Brown said, “That’s all right. The letter won’t be delivered until tomorrow morning, and I’ll get him on the wire and have him start East tonight. Then I’ll have his stenographer send the letter back here, and I’ll destroy it before he sees it.” The others agreed, “That’s the thing to do.”

Brown knew the business he was in. He knew the men he worked with. He had a whole lot of sense, which he apparently used without consciously summoning his judgment to his assistance. He seemed to think good sense.

Brown is gone, and men are applying for Brown’s job. Others are asking who is going to get Brown’s job – bright, ambitious young men, dignified older men.

Men who are not the son of Brown’s mother, nor the husband of Brown’s wife, nor the product of Brown’s childhood – men who never suffered Brown’s sorrows nor felt his joys, men who never loved things that Brown loved nor feared the things he feared – are asking for Brown’s job.

Don’t they know that Brown’s chair and his desk, with the map under the glass top, and his pay envelope, are not Brown’s job?  Don’t they know they might as well apply to the Methodist Church for John Wesley’s job?

Brown’s former employers know it.  Brown’s job is where Brown is.

 

Brown’s Job first appeared in The Wedge, an internal newsletter of the George H. Batten advertising agency.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

1 Comment

  1. Dave

    Hey, Rob.

    I have always loved that piece without knowing exactly where to place it in the continuum of paid media. What it’s really about, to me, is the folly of modern branding. Everywhere you go, people claim to be experts in giving companies a great brand – yet logos, color schemes and vision statements are no more the stuff of a brand than Brown’s desk was the stuff of Brown’s job.

    In this fictional person we have a metaphor for institutional esteem. Status is derived not from trappings or the job itself … but from the public memory of promises made, promises kept and unwavering commitment even when inconvenient. Brown’s job is indeed where Brown is, and branding is no different.

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