The Next Level
- Thursday, April 17, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from The Next Level by David Gregory (WaterBrook Press).
Looking for a job was the last thing Logan Bell wanted to be doing that morning. Playing video games, hiking, body-surfing, sleeping in—he could think of a hundred preferable alternatives.
But none paid the bills, and none provided an answer the next time his dad called and said, “So, Son, found another job yet?” That, perhaps, was his greatest motivation: having an answer. Any answer.
His dad, he had to admit, was right. Walking out on his first job after college, even if the boss was a complete jerk, didn’t look good on Logan’s résumé. Better to get another job immediately than take a much-needed break—especially a job at a leading software company. Logan’s undergraduate business degree might never land him where his dad was, near the top of a major high-tech company. But working for one would count for something.
Or so Logan thought as he pulled into the massive parking lot of Universal Systems Inc. “I’m here to apply for a job,” Logan told the first-floor receptionist. She smiled and pointed to a bank of elevators on her left.
“You need to see the Director. Fifth floor.”
“Is it true that you have to apply here in person?”
“Yes. You need to see the Director. Fifth floor.”
“The Director? Director of what—human resources?”
“No, the Director of the company.”
“You mean the CEO? The CEO sees people who just walk in off the street?”
“Is there someone a little lower down I could talk to? I’m not looking for an upper-level job.”
“No. The Director personally interviews all job candidates.”
Logan couldn’t imagine how the CEO of an organization so large could interview all applicants. Universal Systems occupied the entirety of an immense circular building with five unusually tall stories. Behind the receptionist, in all directions, stretched the first floor as far as the eye could see. It was filled with employees sitting at desks and in cubicles.
There seemed to be no point, however, in further discussing whom he should talk to. He stepped toward the elevators, then turned back to the receptionist.
“Where do I go once I get to the fifth floor?”
“You go to the Director’s desk.”
“And where would that be?” Based on what he saw on the first floor, he could imagine wandering for hours trying to find the Director’s desk.
“You won’t have any trouble finding it,” she assured him.
He turned and walked toward the elevators, unsure how her answer could possibly be true.
A few moments later the elevator doors opened to another expanse. Like the first floor, the fifth extended as far as the eye could see. There were no walls to impede one’s view of its massive length and breadth, just desks stretching forever. In fact, unlike the first floor, this one was almost bereft of people. In the distance, a group sat around a conference table.
Beyond them, Logan noticed a man sitting at a desk. He walked in that direction. The man behind the leather-topped oval desk looked to be about forty. He was dressed in a brown business suit with a blue tie. The nameplate on the desk read simply “Director.” He rose from his chair and extended his hand.
“Welcome to the fifth floor. What can I do for you?”
“My name is Logan Bell. I came to apply for a job.”
“Wonderful. Have a seat.”
Logan sat in a leather captain’s chair in front of the desk. “I’m…I’m a bit surprised to be directed to you. Do you really interview all applicants?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Do you have any openings? I’ve heard that this is the place to work.”
“We always have openings.”
“I’d like to see if I’m a match for any of them.”
“You will be.”
“What do you mean? You don’t know what I do.”
“All our job classifications are always open,” the Director replied.
This had quickly become the strangest interview Logan had ever experienced. Not that his experience was that extensive: a couple of summer jobs in high school, one all four summers of college, and his first post-college position.
“You mean, you are always hiring for all jobs?”
“Universal Systems must be growing by leaps and bounds.”
The second Logan said it, he cringed. That sounded so…juvenile, and it betrayed the fact that he hadn’t bothered to do a lick of research on the company before arriving.
The Director, however, didn’t seem to react adversely. “Yes, we are always growing.” He leaned back slightly in his chair. “So what is it you would like to do, Logan?”
“Well…” Logan couldn’t believe he was being asked such an open-ended question in an interview—assuming this really was a legitimate interview. “My degree is in business management. In my first job out of school, I was a human resources generalist at a chemical plant. But I’d like to work for a company like yours. My father is a senior vice president at Vescon Technologies, so…I figure high-tech is a good direction.”
“Why don’t you go to work there?”
“I just don’t know if that would work out so great, long term.”
“So do you have any HR jobs available?”
“Of course,” the Director replied. “But let me ask you a question. Did you enjoy human resources?”
“Well, I realize my first job was entry level, and I would naturally be advancing into positions that would be more…”
He stopped. It was all BS, he knew. And something about this place and this man told him he could drop the BS. “No, not really.”
“Then there’s no point in having you do that, is there? What do you enjoy doing?”
Most of what he enjoyed doing, Logan figured, would be of little use to a company. But within his field of study, he found one topic especially interesting. “I really like OD—that’s organizational development.” He hesitated. “I suppose you know that. Anyway, I like to examine how a group or an organization works and figure out ways it can work better.”
“Then let’s have you be an organizational analyst. We’ve needed someone to do that kind of assessment here for some time. You sound like just the man.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I don’t have any real background in that. I just liked it best in
“That’s good enough. You’ll learn more on the job.”
“Do you want to see my résumé?”
“No,” the Director replied. “You strike me as a bright, capable young man. I’m sure the quality of your work is fine.”
“Should I bring it for my second interview?”
“There is no second interview. You’re hired.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. I always trust my first instinct.”
Logan stared at him, dumbfounded. The Director leaned forward in his chair. “Do you wish
to accept the job or not?”
“Yes. Absolutely. I mean…I just can’t believe…” He shut up while he was ahead.
“So,” the Director continued, “let me further explain your job to you.”
Logan was to start on the first floor. An HR person named Kyle would set him up. He was to assess operations on that level—talk to employees, attend meetings, observe processes. Kyle would arrange access to everything he needed. He was to determine the biggest problem on the floor and report back to the Director.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to assess the organization as a whole rather than level by level?” Logan asked.
“In most organizations that would be the case, but in this one the various levels operate independently. Each division of the company occupies a separate floor. They don’t have much interaction.”
“Maybe that’s a problem.”
The Director smiled. “Yes, I’ve considered that.”
He wrote something on a Post-it note and handed it to Logan. “You can simply e-mail me. Nothing long and complicated. Just your basic observations. You don’t have to impress me with your report-writing ability.”
It all sounded simple. His job was to hang out, see how things worked, and determine what the problems were. Nothing could be easier. If he had written a dream job description himself, it wouldn’t have been this good.
“Do you have any questions?”
He hated to interject anything uncomfortable into the discussion, but certain issues hadn’t been addressed.
“You haven’t mentioned salary…”
“I’ll let Kyle go over that with you. I’m confident you’ll find the pay acceptable.”
“Ours are top notch. Kyle will review them with you.”
“And who will be my supervisor?”
“You’ll report directly to me.”
“To you? Always?”
“Yes. You’ll be my right-hand man, so to speak. My eyes and ears in the organization.”
“What would be my opportunities for advancement? That’s pretty important to me.”
“I understand. If you successfully analyze each of the first four levels, you will have the option of joining me here on the fifth. If you do”—he nodded toward those at the conference table—“you will be in pretty exclusive company. You will be rewarded commensurately, of course. But first you must succeed at your assignment.”
“So all I need to do is tell you the biggest problem on each level.”
The Director nodded. “Correct. Things around here are pretty simple, aren’t they? But don’t expect it to be easy.” He stood and extended his hand across the desk. “I am pleased to have you with us.”
Logan shook it. “Thank you, sir. I hope I can live up to the trust you’ve placed in me.”
“Come back and talk to me anytime,” the Director replied.
“Tell me how things are going. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to come up.”
“Who should I contact to set up an appointment?”
“No one. Just come up to the fifth floor.”
“Your secretary doesn’t screen people?”
“I don’t have a secretary. Just drop in. I’ll be here.”
“Okay…thanks. I mean, thank you, sir.”
Logan turned around, hiked past the conference table to the elevators, and descended to the first floor. He didn’t have the nerve to ask what he was really wondering—why the Director had the entire fifth floor virtually to himself. It seemed an awful waste of space, a problem he might note at a later date. But that wasn’t his concern at the moment. He was just glad to have a job—and a better one than he had ever imagined.
From The Next Level. Copyright © 2008 by David Gregory. Used by permission of WaterBrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved.
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