The Dream Job is so simple I’m wondering why I’ve never heard anyone propose it before.
I’m going to start off describing The Dream Job by the most inconsequential and most easily changed details because, well… you’ll see.
The Dream Job pays one million dollars per year and only one is offered every year. Every application for The Dream Job must be made public. Once you’re hired, the only power the employer has over you is firing you. That’s it, those are the only overt constraint for The Dream Job, everything else flows from there.
You don’t apply for The Dream Job by sending in a resume. Well… you could but you’re not likely to get it. There’s only 1 Dream Job a year, you need to dazzle. The Dream Job is only for people who first of all love that company very very much but that love is tinged with a deep channel of ambivalence. It’s for people who are driven with the desire that this company, while great, could be so much greater if they could only fix this one thing and you are the right person to fix it.
I would be deeply, deeply tempted if Newegg offered The Dream Job (There are a half dozen other companies with which I would apply for a Dream Job without hesitation but I’m holding those closer to the chest as they’re related to stuff I’m actually working on). Classic usability isn’t even my field anymore but The UI behind online computer buying has essentially remained static since the mid 90’s and every time I want to purchase a computer online, it makes me deeply angry that the user experience is still so poor from a pure usability standpoint. I have so many ideas bursting in my about how you could revolutionize the user interface to make it orders of magnitude more productive and fitting with the tasks that people have. Give me a week to prepare and an hour to present to Newegg and I’m utterly confident I could convince them hiring me at a million dollars a year would be a bargain. Here’s a simple idea Newegg: Build a braindead reliable text parser so that I can paste the shopping cart from any other web store and you can tell me how much identical or similar items would cost at Newegg. Why should price comparing systems be a laborious half hour of hunting for equivilant components on multiple sites when some simple engineering could reduce it down to seconds?I managed to come up with 8 other ideas inside of an hour before I got bored at how easy it was.
The Dream Job is not for everybody. The freedom offered by it sounds alluring but when you consider the full implications of it, can also be slightly terrifying. Once you get in, you can do literally whatever the hell you want but that also means not a single person will actually know what you do until you sell them on it. By definition, you’re hired to do something at that company that’s never been considered before so you’re starting off with nobody obligated to give you the time of day. It’s up to you to build up the support within the company and selling people on your vision or your mission is dead before it’s even born. There’s a reason why a company full of otherwise smart people hasn’t been able to see a problem that’s so obvious to you and it most probably stems from a complete difference in cultures. You need to be not only a visionary but also an anthropologist and a translator. On top of that, you need to constantly justify your $1 million dollar expense or you will be swiftly canned. The Dream Job requires not only brilliance and passion but also deft people skills and the ability to work around showstopper obstacles.
So, given all this, why one million dollars? Simply because, even in this day and age, one million dollars still means something. It still has that allure when those crisp syllables roll off your tounge. The actual number is meaningless, mostly symbolic, and the bargain of the century to boot. Anyone that brilliant willing to work for one million dollars a year is clearly not in it for the money. Instead, the requirements for The Dream Job are simply the natural result of the observation that hiring only for the skills you know you need is a rather stupid way of doing things.
The conventional way of hiring is you first figure out what resources you need, how much you want to pay them, where they slot in the org chart and then you search for a candidate. This was great when your grandparents were busy climbing the corporate ladder but why don’t we shake it up a bit. How the hell is a company supposed to know what it needs anymore? If you’re a process nerd, then you’re going to hire a bunch of other process nerds and build a great process nerd company culture but how can you ever know what you really need is a deep design aesthetic as well? Similarly, if you’re a design person, how are you going to find out how an obsessive A/B tester can transform how you build? The simple answer is that you never will with a conventional hiring model. Instead, you need them to tell you how they want to do their job.
Everything about The Dream Job stems from transferring the onus of responsibility of defining your job from the employer to the employee. The limit of one a year is what gives it the specialness, the prestige and the cache neccesary to attract the rare people who could handle such responsibility. The million dollars and the enforced hands off approach is what gives them the confidence that The Dream Job is something the company is taking seriously and is committed to integrating as a core part of how they do business. The requirement that applications be public is a filter that screens out the chuckleheads and leaves only those who have a credible chance of deserving it. The requirements are not carved into stone, they’re simply my interpretation of what would be the minimum required for The Dream Job to even work.
The Dream Job is so stunningly obvious that it must be wrong. I can’t possibly have been the first person to have come up with this. But if it’s wrong, it’s probably at least going to be wrong in an interesting way. If you’re in a position to, do you have the balls to offer a Dream Job? If so, you better hurry because I know the first chance I get to scrape a million spare dollars together, this is what I’m doing.