Day Job: A Workplace Reader for the Restless Age


It's 9:34 a.m. Do you know where your career is headed? Do you have one? More likely, you'd never call what you do from 9 to 5 a career. You'd call it your day job.

And what if you were given a single day to record it all, to ask the important questions about life and career, to air out your strongest and most private opinions and thoughts-what would you say? That's the question that has been put to customer service rep Mark Thornton. And his answer is Day Job, a darkly comic, ...

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It's 9:34 a.m. Do you know where your career is headed? Do you have one? More likely, you'd never call what you do from 9 to 5 a career. You'd call it your day job.

And what if you were given a single day to record it all, to ask the important questions about life and career, to air out your strongest and most private opinions and thoughts-what would you say? That's the question that has been put to customer service rep Mark Thornton. And his answer is Day Job, a darkly comic, high-velocity run through the modern workplace.

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Editorial Reviews

Rob Spillman
Day Job...[is] a sneaky little book that's dead-on hilarious and whose pages are sure to be xeroxed stealthily and posted over water coolers in hypermanaged offices everywhere.
Victoria Griffith
"[As] a commentary on modern corporate life, it's brilliant. For anyone who has ever spent any time in a corporation, the dialogue has us alternately giggling and squirming, as we recognize ourselves and others in the book.
Financial Times
Gavin Leigh
Day Job is a work of enviable clarity, and offers much, not least a long-needed double-take at the office environment of the 90's....Sharp, dry and intellgient, this book deserves to go on and on, gaining recognition for what it is; a necessary commentary, with all the makings of a modern classic.
Joel Kurtzman
This is a quirky, strange, lovable book written and wonderfully illustrated and designed by a Gen Xer for Gen Xers. Its subject is work, and though it purports to be a novel, it's really a commentary on the plight of men and women in corporations. Some will call is screed; others, near-poetry.
Alissa Lara Quart

Day Job bears the axiom: It only looks like a book. A better one might be: It only looks like a Gen X book. After all, Day Job shares the homegrown, hard-to-read quality of Gen X zines. Here's the book's gimmick: It's ostensibly a real journal, accessorized with a fake coffee-cup ring and margin doodles. The narrative itself is "typed" on mock blue lined writing paper. But unlike most texts of this genre -- cyber memoirs, kiddie capitalist tracts, "Dilbert"-like rants from cubicle dwellers -- Day Job is actually worth the effort it takes to read it.

The book's narrator, Matt Thornton, is a young, white wage slave who's wasting his photographic skills as a customer service representative. Our hero pokes sad fun at cubicle culture and arrives at uncommonly acute observations, noting such things as the terrible inspirational puns ("Here We 'Grow' Again!") and the mindless workplace martyr ("Whether she leaves the building at all, in fact, is a secret of the third shift and the cleaning crews"). There's a biting taxonomy of a middle manager ("What human jerky would look like if they were to make such a thing"): "He knows how weighty an adversary he's got in our apathy, and he knows his fear-and-money management style won't eliminate it, only put it off in some dark recess where it'll anneal into something permanent and truly sinister." Day Job really shows its teeth and its inventiveness in a chapter on management gurus. A speaker, Jay Gathers, visits Matt's office bearing props, among them a fan-blade entitled "winds of change." Gathers finally gets the company's managers to write their groups' flaws on the sides of melons and then sledgehammer the melons to bits.

But this novelty novella is not just a parody of corporate life. Matt gives voice to the desperation so many feel when confronted with the fruitlessness of their labor. He admits that he longs for that feeling of "belonging or correctness" in his job and winds up concluding that, somewhere else, "People are finding their rightful place in the working world."

As it happens, Day Job isn't the work of a hard-luck middle manager. The author, Jonathan Baird, is a 26-year-old who was formerly art director for the publishing consulting firm Allen & Osborne, which published the book. (Baird wrote and illustrated it as part of his own "day job.") His aim seems entirely true, however -- especially if you discount his attempts to trick the book up with gratuitous quotations from the likes of Emerson, Proust and business Svengali Steven Covey.

Baird's a lively writer who's got a gift for depicting the unhappy, dull materials of life, the stuff that fiction usually tries to help us escape. If Allen & Osborne wanted to find a real selling point for Day Job, it should have peddled the book as what it is: a unique piece of fiction. After all, how many good recent novels have tackled office culture? In today's literary climate, with authors competing to gross us all out, digging into workaday realities might be the most transgressive act of all. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This refreshing approach to the conventional business book, a combination of text and illustrations in an unusual format, is guaranteed to grab the reader's attention -- and may furnish some insights, chuckles and a lesson or two about satisfaction in the job market. Mark Thornton, whose notes about his job and his life form the basis of the story, is your typical recent college grad. He's got a useless political science degree and tons of student debts and has landed a job as a customer rep for a graphics company in the throes of Total Quality Management (TQM) training. TQM has driven Lon Baffert, Mark's boss, bonkers, so that he periodically pops into people's cubicles and tells them to "get psyched." Mark has latched onto management's limitless appetite for psychological fixes by getting the company to underwrite his Syscorp Journal program. Offered by a rival to TQM, Syscorp's morale and retraining program requires that, for a day, Mark jot down random observations on his life. Baird, who has been a magazine art director, gives the ostensible results of this project a distinctive journal-like look by rendering much of the text as though it's a typed manuscript-in-progress, including marginal doodles, sidebars (for instance, "a Select Inventory of Management Office Furnishings," listing the baffling knickknacks with which middle-managers tend to clutter their offices) and an array of quotations from such masters as Nietzsche and Steven Covey (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame). The trick by which Mark gets to join the design department is the funny payoff for this quirky look at workplace anomie in the 1990's.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312263072
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/6/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Baird graduated from Harvard University, and wrote and designed Day Job while working as a designer for Allen & Osborne, Inc. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he designs the magazine Tin House.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2000

    From Stephane Brutus - Assistant Professor at Concordia University

    This book is unlike any book that I have ever read. First, it doesn't look like any book I've ever read. Its hard cover is held by an elastic band (like a personal journal would be), its 156 pages contain type-written notes, drawings, quote captions, and scribbles in the margins...The book consists of the personal journal of Mark Thorton, a young college graduate working as a customer service (CS) representative...I'll let Mark explain his job: '[there] are five types of...calls I get, in endless repetition and in only slightly varied form, all day. 'Hi this is Mark...?' I carol my greeting an average of 53 times a day into the receiver.' Mark sees his future as a CS rep as his worst nightmare sprung to life. Basically, Day Job consists of...Mark's musing about his aspirations, his job, his views of management's TQM, and the responses of the so-called management consultants hired to motivate him. The writing is witty and refreshing...humorous in nature but of deeply sarcastic variety. Overall, this book makes for a good read....a good way to grasp the flavor of the book is to look up its Web page, Although Day Job will not stimulate academic thought...I do plan to use it in some of my classes.

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