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John O’Brien Responds to Dalkey Job Post

By Harriet Staff

Laurence Mackin posted parts of his email correspondence with John O’Brien in this article on the Irish Times website.

Here’s a taste. Make the jump to read the rest. Curiouser and curiouser.

What many people may have missed on first reading (myself included) was the satirical edge in the post, something that perhaps we’re not used to in the current age of sterile online recruitment. Here, John O’Brien, the American director of Dalkey Archive Press and the man responsible for the advertisement, offers some context. It comes from a recent email exchange I had with O’Brien, and is reproduced here with his permission. He began the exchange by pointing out that the advertisement was written in a manner he viewed as appropriate with Irish literature: that of Swift, Joyce Beckett and, perhaps most pertinently, Flann O’Brien.

“The advertisement was a modest proposal. Serious and not-serious at one and the same time. I’ve been swamped with emails (I wish they’d stop: I’ve work to do), and with job applications. I certainly have been called an ‘asshole’ before, but not as many times within a 24-hour period.

“Strangely, no one (except the applicants) seem to have noticed that jobs are being offered: when does this happen with internships? In brief, I take internships very seriously, and take on only people I think might be a future employee. Since coming to Ireland, I’ve seen so many applications to Dalkey in which CVs list upwards of six internships, which tend to smack of ‘we looked, we evaluated, and didn’t think the person was good enough to keep’. And my 25 years of experience with interns has been very mixed: the most common problem being that they aren’t prepared, don’t know what to expect, hope that a job might be at the end of the rainbow, and yet don’t have a clue as to what an employer is looking for. Employers wind up frustrated that they put in so much time, and the interns wonder why a job wasn’t forthcoming.

“Employers do not offer internships out of the goodness of their heart (well, perhaps some due); they want the internships to be the grounds on which people prove themselves. And yet they are strange situations: interns aren’t employees; they don’t quite fit into a well-defined category at the company; they have to do something worthwhile for the company or why else have them around; but, at the same time, they don’t have much to offer because they don’t have the knowledge or experience to do very much.

“So, the tongue-in-cheek advertisement was a call to apply for the internships (and the two possible positions) if you’re going to be serious and are ready; if not, then let’s not waste each other’s time. Usually this is couched in the sanitised language of ‘must be deadline-oriented, well-organised, ambitious’, etc. But as I think we’ve known for a long time, the age of irony is dead, and I’m a fossil.


Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, December 13th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.