by Chris R. Morgan


Chet from HR: Okay guys, we’ve reached it, the final day of orientation. I just want to say for starters that you’ve all been super and it’s really invigorating to have such a bright group of recruits at Tiberius Media. I think our fiscal year vision is really coming into focus already. Def give yourselves a hand.

Audience: [claps]

Chet from HR: Now I know you think I say this to all the new hires.

Audience: [laughs]

Chet from HR: And you’re right. But I really mean it this time, I swear!

Audience: [laughs, mildly claps]

Chet from HR: Anyway, in accordance with the human resources outreach policy, we’ve invited another guest speaker to talk to you about some pretty important stuff as you all get your careers off and running. I’d like to introduce Chris Morgan, the founder and chief consultant for Idle Hands Strategies. Chris, are you ready for these guys?

Audience: [applauds]

Chris: Thanks, Chet. [pause] It is Chet, right?

Chet from HR: Myron, actually.


Chris: Chet from HR, everyone.

Audience: [applauds]

Chris: So in spite of appearances I’m not actually the strongest lecturer. In most cases I’d make a brief introductory statement of purpose and then immediately open the floor to Q and A. [pause] But I’m not going to do that today, because in preparing this presentation, it dawned on me that there’s something that young people in general, and forward-motioned young career-starters like you in particular, should be made clear of.

So I guess I’m basically the last in a long procession of “media consultants” who’ve come to talk to you this past week. You have heard the presentation on finding opportunity in failure, on finding hope in adversity, and on why muting your dad is good optics. People who, in effect, make a living telling you things you guys already know but that seem to please the shareholders; people who did not start off life with the intention of becoming such a thing until they found themselves with no more appealing options than taking a word and a vague definition and attaching it to them. They kind of roll with it and many suffer. But you accept this, because this is the hazard—perhaps even the penalty—of your situation; of being the few, the proud, the gainfully employed and upwardly mobile young. That sound about right?

Audience: [nods approvingly]

Chris: And for me to go up here and say “This is going to be different” is a very consultant thing to say. But that, in this case, is the truth. My journey towards consultancy has been one of laser focus. True, I didn’t major in the subject, but I did find a stronger taste for it compared to my previous pursuits. It is my calling, and I set about forming my consultancy with an aim towards providing consultation that is needed on a more practical than theoretical basis. It is also a very consulting thing to mention other important people one has consulted, like, I don’t know, Rex Ryan, Cher Lloyd, Chipotle customers, Corey Lewandowski. I’m not saying I necessarily have consulted them on a recognizable basis, but my intentions and their results have what I’d like to call tandem actualities.

I am here to talk about your brand. [pauses for groans] Which I’m sure you’ve been hearing a lot about over the past week, mainly the vitality and resilience of the Tiberius brand and how your presence within it reinforces both. It’s a compelling story, to be sure. But I’m here to tell you a different story. A story about people who aren’t you.

Mind you, the people I’m talking about could be, on the surface, very much like you. You could have roughly the same appearance, the same sartorial quirks; you could have the same taste in bands or film, the same alma mater, the same neighborhoods, even the same politics. These sound like great people, right? Maybe not. These people, I’m not quite sure what to call them—sirens, how about?—are very enticing. They will lure young urban upstarts like you with deep, cultured talk and strong drink. They work at, or eagerly retweet pieces from, that highbrow-but-voice-relatable website firing up the iPads of your demographic. Finding such a person in the otherwise vast sea of [YOUR CITY HERE] mediocrity is a blessing; people who, in spite of divergent career paths (however slight), surely share the same aspirations: to do good work with good people, to seek independence and self-worth, to live in an apartment complex that is spacious, allows dogs, and with rent and utilities you can pay almost entirely out of your own pocket. That is, until they wreck you—I think you know where I’m going with this—back into that sea.

There are many ways in which they can do this, though it always starts with their song: “What do you do?” Your mentors will know it well. It’s hard to resist, particularly when you are certain you have an answer worth sharing. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for since maybe your junior year internship; to say you work for [YOUR CONTENT AFFILIATE HERE] producing [YOUR CONTENT VERTICAL HERE], of which you are very proud. From there you would ideally talk about the varying joys and nags of your work here, and they will trade similar war stories, which then lead to dreams, which then lead to switching Twitter—and if things go especially swimmingly—IG handles. And that may happen. But that is the trouble. The song may go sour at any point. It could be an offhand comment early on: “Oh yeah, I applied there, but past the second interview I didn’t really think it was for me” or “This reminds me of something I read in The Baffler the other week. Let me DM you the link.” Or it could be the more than frequent retweeting of @ProfJeffJarviss. And these are the best case scenarios. You wouldn’t believe the horror stories I’ve heard of truncated, unfavorable Tumblr versions of conversations they’ve had, or posts of theirs shared with a derisive indifference to the fully appreciable art of matching punchy, humorous copy on Malia Obama’s first semester at college with GIFs from Smallville. This, I’m afraid, is your new reality. And here I’m going to help you to manage it.

One way you can handle this is to brush it off, to accept that not everyone will see the importance of what you do, including someone in the neighboring ideation cube from time to time, but that you should be contented that your station in life is much higher than it could otherwise be. A lot of people will tell you this, people like family members or high school friends you see on Thanksgiving who you aren’t sure ever left town.

My industry form-fitted solutions, on the other hand, are twofold. First is what I call the “knock” approach, or rather … Chet do you mind if you use the dry erase board?

Myron from HR: No, go ahead.

Chris: Thanks. [takes a marker and writes NO N E  C A R E S] So … N.O.C. Now this is not to say that this is literally true, or indeed that it is even figuratively true. But it is a good mental framework to have in forging a path through this industry. This will, in all likelihood, be the first of many positions you will hold. You will find yourself with new people, heeding new editorial standards, for new—and not necessarily improved—incentive. Yet no matter where you end up, N.O.C. must be foremost in your mind. The days in which it was taken for granted of even your immediate supervisor knowing your name exactly may yet live in fact, but that doesn’t mean the psychological toll of that reality is affordable. And once the N.O.C. mindset has taken its hold, you will be able to extend it as far as you can manage to other hazards.

Once you’ve achieved that, you can do the legwork of honing and, more importantly, owning your brand. Now I’m not talking about the brand in the Tiberius Media—or any other Media—sense per se. The idea of the “brand” as it is approached now isn’t entirely fresh; as I see it, it’s a convenient modern day terminology for what in another time might have been called purity of spirit. So if my host doesn’t mind …

Myron from HR: [nods while playing Candy Crush or whatever]

Chris: Okay … we can sort of lift ourselves out of the cage of dimension-two branding and ascend as many as two or three dimensions higher. Whereas at the simplest level, branding is how you congeal within the market, but looked at in another way, brands get made in ways both easier and more conclusively by how the market engulfs you. We’ve been standing around here talking to you as though you are perpetual candidates for rations, when really it is you who are the nutrients for the organisms. It is through your skills and choices that you feed or starve a particular hive, and it will be that which shapes you going forward. And you’ll find you’ll have a lot of flexibility to your brand and how it assists your advancement in your career. Take my example, for instance. My brand is mortification. It’s not something I created or really cultivated but which came out of me and made itself wholly manifest in whatever I did as a public person. It could be seen on my face, in every physical tic, and around every hair follicle. It’s kind of a flush-over sensation that kicks in after every interaction, every decision, and every project. No one told me at the time but I’m fairly certain it was unusual when I was making my way at the beginning, but it stayed with me in such a way as to become an inseparable element. It indicates a certain stability with every undertaking I am allowed to be a part of. Were that to change, to sort of clear, even exorcise, itself, would, I think, bring my dependability into question. Pivoting, even compulsory pivoting, is a delicate thing that requires a whole other talk. I am confident, however, that my mortification will hold strong well into retirement. It is a part of me, it takes shape in me. We are codependent. I’m not saying that branding should be exactly like this, but it involves more trial and error than is admitted to, wherein one doesn’t so much hone it as one comes to terms with it.

Myron from HR: Thanks so much Chris. And I think I speak for all of us in saying I hope that this was a truly mortifying experience.

Audience: [claps]

Myron from HR: Guys, this concludes our orientation week. Please go to conference room F where we have frozen hot chocolate and assorted macaroons.