“Where should we go first?” i asked my lover Amanda when we were leaving college and embarking on what we thought would be a world tour.
“We should go to San Francisco, because the Grateful Dead play there more than anywhere else,” Amanda said smiling.
That response was the feather which tilted the balance and i ended up spending several amazing years in San Francisco – but that is a different story.
When we got there i took a temp job working for Standard Oil of Ohio. What was Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) doing with a skyscraper in San Francisco? The back story here is that in 1973 there was a huge oil discovery in the north slope of Alaska. By most estimations the Prudhoe Bay oil field was the largest natural resource deposit in the Americas. BP was one of the big winners in the bidding for leases and then the Arab oil embargo hit. The US gave BP the option to sell the leases to a US company, acquire an American affiliate or have it nationalized out from under them. Sohio was that affiliate. San Francisco was somehow halfway between Cleveland and the North Slope.
When i interviewed with Mac Creveling, he was excited and crazy busy. We spoke about his special projects group which was picking up all the loose ends of this office which had expanded from a dozen British geologists to over 500 professionals, in less than 3 years. [4 years later BP/Sohio would actually close these offices.] We talked about volumetrics and computer simulations. He needed someone flexible and someone comfortable with technical things. At the end of our interview he said i needed to do one more interview, but that he thought they would bring me on quickly if that went well. I did the second interview and then a month went by.
i decided to take a chance. i decided to write a really pushy letter to my prospective boss. The letter started something like this:
It has been over two months since you told me that you wanted to make a quick decision about me working for you after my interview with Pat Calhoun. Pat said in our interview he was excited about working together more than a month ago. So my guess is that you are crazy busy and just not quite convinced that i am the right fit. So i thought i would send you this letter to help you decide. Enclosed are two sample letters. They both take the form of letters i am writing to you. But i am not actually sending either of them to you.
- The first letter was a very polite and compelling letter about all the things i had learned working as a temp within Sohio that might be useful to the operations he was involved with.
- The second letter was a very diplomatic letter slamming him for bumbling the interview process with me, reminding him what he said, pointing out that he was unlikely to find someone better qualified, that they were in a crushing hurry and that if it did not work out i would gracefully vanish.
After these two unsigned but otherwise complete letters, i added this.
Please remember i am not actually sending you either of these letters, they are simply samples of my work to help you make your decision.
E. Schuyler Flansburgh
PS Have you considered hiring an administrative assistant?
Because i was already a temporary employee working in the same office complex, i was able to put this letter on Mac’s chair so he would see it first thing when he got in. When i got in to my office the next morning there was a short note taped to my chair. “Come see me immediately. – Mac”
i went to his office with some trepidation. When i got in he said.
i have a job for you, actually i have two jobs for you. The first is the reservoir engineer position you were applying for. The second is i want you as my administrative assistant.
“i have not seen the job description for that job” i replied
“That job description is easy” he said “you must always answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Can you make this problem go away?'”
And thus in the bosom of corporate America i began my real training as an organizer.