One of my favorite pastimes is applying for high-profile jobs for which I have no qualifications, knowing that there is no way I will ever get hired. I have noticed that Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson seem to have a very similar hobby these days.
I like the self-discovery that comes through the job application process, the cheap attention from Human Resource professionals, and the opportunity to give sarcastic and inappropriate answers during job interviews.
Luckily for me, there are plenty of high-profile open positions around this region these days. Most recently, I have been tempted to apply for job of Executive Director of the Chanute Regional Development Authority. I know that Murray McGee left very big shoes to fill in this position, and I certainly wasn’t interested in it when I saw him in action, doing things for which I have no skill at all. He was regularly called upon to flatter and butter-up businessmen, finesse politicians, and keep such wheeling-and-dealing discreet. As someone who tends to be a little too honest for my own good, those are three things that I probably wouldn’t be very good at doing.
Plus, I've always been a little confused by the subtle differences in the mission statements between this weird trinity of Chanute business organizations - Main Street Chanute, the Chamber of Commerce, and CRDA. It often seems difficult for citizens (and even City Commissioners) to determine which group is supposed to handle which aspect of promoting the Chanute business community. Whenever I ask people who belong to these groups about this, they get the same confused and annoyed expression on their face as my childhood Sunday School teacher had when I asked her what exactly the Holy Ghost did all day.
Still, I gained interest in the position as head of the CRDA when I heard that the organization decided to pay McGee $25 an hour to act as a consultant by Skype, email and phone, even after he left and got another gig. Being able to leave for another job, and still get paid by the old job for doing far less actual work, seems like a pretty good deal – if you’re the one getting paid.
I can’t help but wonder how McGee’s new employers feel about this setup. It must seem a little bit like being in a romantic relationship with someone who is a little too cozy with one of their exes, which probably isn’t a great sign for the future of the current relationship.
I wish that I had this kind of option available at some of the jobs that I’ve left in my life. I experienced much discontent while making fries at Arby’s when I was a teenager. If the management there had given me the option to leave and still would pay me to talk about that job on the phone or the computer, I probably would have taken them up on that. Communicating with people electronically is much easier than having to deal with them in person.
With this kind of perk being publicly announced, it’s no wonder that even the Chanute Recreation Commission now makes statements about wanting to be involved with economic development. If all one has to do to make money in this field is to Skype, answer emails, and take phone calls in between working their day job, I suddenly feel qualified for the position.
I already attend all of their meetings and the city’s meetings anyway, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a CRDA Executive Director gig interfering with my daily schedule.
As far as ideas that I would have on how to actually lead the CRDA, I would just directly send the message to Chanute citizens that they have more to do with keeping and attracting businesses here than any community organization does.
Businesses in a community like Chanute depend on the support of local consumers to keep their doors open. The loyalty and patronage of customers in our town inject money into these local establishments, helping them compete and provide a greater array of products and services. These locally-owned businesses offer jobs and tax revenues to the community, as well as giving customers access to various goods and services that enrich the qualities of our lives. A population that regularly spent its money at such local establishments would be very attractive to business people looking to relocate.
So if regional development is something this area is truly interested in, we could all stand to spend a little less time at the huge department store that is going to send most of its profits to Arkansas, and instead support those businesses who will keep their profits more localized. Maybe we could take note of which local businesses donate to local fundraisers, help out at food drives, or sponsor youth sports teams, and give these businesses some support.
I know that plenty of us spend time out of town, experiencing richer restaurant and shopping options that are available within a two-hour drive. I would advise that people here who care about the future of this community and want to expand options here do that a little less often, and offer support to businesses that operate here to provide the lifeblood of our community. If we did that a little more, our region could develop more organically and more successfully, without needing to either hold poorly-attended meetings or pay former employees to Skype.
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