Sunday, November 22, 2009

The $120,000 apostrophe

On Tuesday I was at work at my desk and I got a call from the chief recruitment officer at Nearing (my company) to come see her at 2 p.m. When I get there, she's on the phone so I go over to chat with one of my friends in the HR pod, and she congratulates me for getting a full-time position. I tell her that I actually haven't gotten an offer yet and she realizes that she's just spilled the beans about the offer I'm about to get.

Loose lips sink ships, I always say.

Anyway, after two months of what was basically a tryout, I accepted an offer to become a full time Nearing employee. I feel like I've been "made" - like a Mafia boss. There are several advantages to this, not the least of which is feeling like I'm a bona fide member of the team and not an outsider, which means I can work on more confidential things. I'm also going to be doing less writing and more PR work, including media work, which is fine with me.

But mostly this is good because Nearing's benefits are better than being a contractor, and I'm eligible for a sizable annual bonus. I'm also eligible for a 3% match on a 401K contribution, an employee stock purchase plan, and most importantly, paid holidays, sick leave and vacation time off. So now I can take days off without impacting my paycheck, although my overall compensation is probably about the same, assuming I didn't take any days off as a contractor.

There's a story going around the communications department that part of the reason I was offered the position was that the communications senior vice president appreciated my attention to detail in editing documents. She is one of the most detail-oriented persons I've ever met, and unfortunately, many of the staff are not so much.

So I was editing a press release one day, and I notice that one of the apostrophes is a straight up-and-down apostrophe and not a "smart" apostrophe - one that is different for open and closed positions. I noted it, and the SVP even found another one in the same paragraph that I missed. But clearly she was impressed that I edit to the same level of detail as she does.

Later on other press releases the SVP would ask staffers if I had reviewed them yet, which people interpreted as me having "editing cred" with her. I also created a flyer for a technology expo that she reviewed with no changes. I didn't think much of that at the time, but later I found out that having something come back from her with no changes is like winning an Olympic gold medal at Nearing's communications department - most people have that happen maybe once or twice a year if they're lucky. She's quite a demanding boss, but she's actually a pretty nice person. She reminds me of my old boss in Houston at TxDOT in a lot of ways.

Anyway, the takeaway for this is that when you do your best, sometimes good things will happen, and with certain people, sometimes a thing so small as changing an apostrophe can land you a six-figure paycheck. You have to know when to sweat the small stuff.