Journalism Professor Recalls Dream-Nightmare Job

A very funny New York Times essay from Ted Geltner.

TedGeltnerPicOnce upon a time, author and journalism professor Ted Geltner (pictured) had the Seinfeld of full-time jobs. In a very funny New York Times piece, he recalls what it was like to be tasked with eight hours a day of nothing.

At the time, Geltner was burned out on the daily newspaper beat. He secured a job at a company that created monthly in-house magazines and annual directories for professional associations. Each editor was responsible for a distinct group of associations. When Geltner started, the sales staff had yet to tee up his purview with a single charge:

I approached my supervisor and several co-workers about how I was expected to fill my time. Should I assist other editors? No, I was told, they work independently with their associations, so that wouldn’t be necessary. Should I study up on the publications I would produce? No, each association was different, so that would serve no purpose. My supervisor pointed to my cubicle and the employee manual, making it clear that at this point I was infringing on her valuable time.

While no one at the company seemed to care if Geltner spent hours at the smoking-area picnic table, there was at least one workplace rule that could not be ignored. This editor of nothing had to be ready for no work at 8:30 a.m. sharp:

One morning, I entered my cubicle at 8:35 to find a note on my desk from my supervisor. “We expect everybody here on time,” she told me. “Please don’t make me ask you again.” My idle presence would apparently be needed for the full eight hours.

Shades of Office Space. Geltner’s New York Times piece does a great job of delineating how a perceived dream job can gradually turn into a nightmare. He wound up exiting the company before anything close to a full association workload arrived.

When Geltner subsequently started working part-time at a newspaper in support of graduate school studies, he was tasked with the most menial of assignments. But in his case, let’s just say it felt more like he had been handed that day’s opinion pages.

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