Handover notes for new starter — Marketing Associate
Strategy + Research
Meetings take place in 118, the one with the coffee machine and the slanted windows. Preferably, you’d bring your own coffee mug because the spares in the kitchen are sacred and memorable.
You can also get water from the dispenser. The water is very cold and you can drink it standing next to the window. The view is the wall of the adjacent building, which is an optometrist's clinic. Above that, a rectangle of sky which is where I look. Looking at the sky is beneficial for serotonin production and can allow you to imagine yourself somewhere else. For a moment, maybe you can pretend you’re not in Meeting Room 118.
There is a Post-It on the water dispenser that says: ‘Think of the environment before you use a paper cup!’
I think of the environment often: the liminal place where we live just before the environment turns on us. I’m talking about natural disasters.
Here are some natural disasters you can think about if you like:
a) The poisonous gas cloud of Lake Nyos. 1,700 people suffocated. Most were sleeping when it happened.
b) The flooding of the Yangtze River. 2 million people drowned, caved in. Another 2 million dead from the ensuing famine.
c) The Vargas storm of Venezuela. 30,000 people were buried alive, ripped apart, swept out to sea.
d) Mount Tambora’s eruption. Wiped out an entire island of 10,000 people in an explosion of ash, gas and liquid fire. The climate changes caused by the Year Without Summer destroyed all vegetation in Sumbawa and created a peel-yellow sky like something out of a classic Turner.
Are you also afraid of nature’s hunger for death? The ruthless preoccupation with an ad infinitum cycle that must keep moving? The fact that those people were alive didn't matter at all.
Yes, I use a paper cup.
Perhaps you’re the kind that can see the bigger picture, the kind that doesn’t like taking chances. You also disapprove of humanity’s preprogrammed middle finger to all the laws of Earth. The civilizations we build on the jaws of the ocean, the lip of a volcano, the tongue of a snake-infested jungle.
Come get me, fucker. We say again and again, just before we get got.
2. File locations
All Marketing files are located in the C:/Marketing drive. The ongoing work is in the ‘work in progress’ folder. It’s important that, if you add to it, you adhere to the colour code. It’s blue for internal, pink for external, green for anything Finance must approve. ‘Status Reports’ are updated every week. It should probably be done last thing on a Friday. We want to make sure we’re observing the limits, catching all the fish in the net, as it were.
‘Targets’ will be updated by upper management. Not you.
‘Marketing Coordination’ is my folder. It’s not much, my lowly digital fingerprint and I know no one looks there except me. You will have to look there, of course. You will have to open it every morning while sipping the tea you made in the breakroom.
This job is what they call ‘low-level’, a cut above collecting coffees and buzzing guests into the reception room, but the pay is reasonable. I’m in my late twenties and not very smart. My parents had no money, worked as cleaners, nannies, gardeners, and building security their whole lives. I averaged Cs in secondary school and couldn’t afford to go to university rather than work. I was lucky to land this job, really. All in all.
I’m sure before you dive into the role, you want to know when I came closest to death.Just to make sure that there’s no need to say a prayer every morning over my keyboard, to wipe down each surface with holy water or put your hand on your forehead before every Zoom call to ward off the Evil Eye.
Not last Christmas, but the Christmas before, I was driving a rented car near Bodmin. There was a thick soup of fog in the side roads and I got swiped in the darkness by a truck carrying piles of 2x4s. I rattled into the gutter of the road that had become almost invisible. My hands were shaking as they gripped the wheel.
“I’m alive. I’m alive. I’m alive.” Were the words I said to myself before I began to cry. I cried for myself, my parents, all the very unremarkable ancestors predating me, the small, the insignificant, the forgotten bodies buried in the moors around me who had become fertilizer for weeds.
You might also want to visit ‘Survey and Market Research’. When it gets to the end of the quarter and they start collating the data to create a new game plan for the financial year, you’ll be expected to contribute to the final Powerpoint presentation. Use the Excel Sheets in there to create your slides.
Your key contact for Events will be Gertie Willowby (ext 622). It’s not officially our department, but they will be relying on us for the print advertising/merch orders/PR.
You will assist in proofing the advertisement copy and raising purchase orders for the merchandise. Candice, my manager/your manager, will be the one to approve every move you make. As she says, if you make a mistake, it’s her arse, not yours. Candice, as you’ll come to find out, is wasted in this role. She really should be a motivational speaker or the CEO of an MLM, up on a stage with a mic attached to her silk shirt. She doesn’t believe in medicine or, as she calls it, the ‘easy way out’, so bring your own paracetamol. When she gets a migraine, she reclines in her chair with her Beats headphones on, listening to whale song. Her motto is: grind today so you can feast tomorrow. Candice is very keen on the ultimate ‘feast’, where she will reap the rewards for her self-discipline. Like a Seventh-Day Adventist that dreams of the Second Coming, she is unsure when her Time will come but knows that it will.
When I finally broke up with my boyfriend, Candice snatched the Reese’s Pieces out of my hand and told me that if I wanted peanut butter (empty carbs) then she could teach me how to make protein-filled Butter Balls. Her words: “Just because he dumped you,that doesn’t mean you have to become a Fatty Patty.”
My ex-boyfriend was the first real relationship I had ever had because university is just a social experiment. He wore a suit to work and had essential oil diffusers in his luxury apartment. He gently corrected the way I pronounced ‘aperitif’, bought me a better dress and a better pair of shoes so he wouldn’t be embarrassed when we went to dinner in Covent Garden. He weaned me off dressing in red and yellow because a girl with my skin and braids already attracted too much attention. He timed how long I bitched about work on his phone and showed me the number after he had paid the cheque with his black credit card. “Only seven minutes, forty-one seconds. Although you did drink too much limoncello.”
Relationships are about give and take. He was the give and I was the take. I wanted him to ask me to marry him, but he didn’t.
4. Strategy + Research
This side of the department doesn’t have much to do with you. You’re entry-level, so any suggestion you make will be summarily ignored, but they still want you to appear as if you have things to say.
My advice is to go to Ryman and buy one of those professional-looking black binders and sit in meetings, looking slightly concerned. Every now and then, you can turn the plastic page of your binder (which you will have filled with print-outs from your favorite magazine or a PDF of a good book) and nod to yourself. That’s more than enough out of you.
If you do decide to print out a magazine, make sure it’s your horoscope, but keep that you read horoscopes to yourself. If Candice finds out, she’ll call you a ‘slave to the money-bags astrology cults’ as she points out that birthdays are a method of lizard-brain social control. All this from the woman who believes IUDs are tracking devices.
Today I am ruled by Jupiter (a cold world I cannot see), but am being captured by asquall of lesser stars, Betelgeuse, Capella, and other children of Auriga. Lucky numbers: 9, 76, 90. This week beware of the false charm on a friend’s hand, redbangles, loose Tupperware containers and unexpected lights following you from a distance. For wisdom, consult fire. Amber is lucky.
What is amber? Traffic lights. Autumn leaves. Fresh honey. Cat’s eyes. Seashells. The yolk of a brown egg.
Last October my horoscope warned me of mercurial shifts, clouds of emission nebulae gathering behind Algol, which is sometimes known as Medusa’s Star.
The next day there was a deadly earthquake in Haiti and my mother died of a brain aneurysm. I went to Dr. Dutta’s office in Maidstone where he showed me a map of the brain and explained to me the avalanche, the flooding, the quick destruction of the nervous system like a concierge pulling a big red handle down and all the lights in a corporate building going out at once.
“She did not feel pain,” Dr. Dutta said and the way he said it made it sound like my mother had spent her life vacuum-wrapped and plugged into a wall.
My mother felt plenty of pain while she was alive, much of it self-inflicted. She scrubbed the floors of white people’s houses and cried when people remembered her birthday.
Do you have a mother you can talk to? Is it like looking at an ocean, full of mystery? I took a week off work and stayed at my boyfriend’s house. He plunged a hand under my pajama pants every night, grasping for a reason not to dump me.
“I’m the prison warden,” he whispered. “And you’re my little brown bitch.”
I took words of comfort from October. Medusa’s sad eyes turned me to stone.
Strategy? I’ve already told you what to do.
5. Key contacts
I want to ease your fears for the path ahead. Attached to this email is a PDF of all the company's professional hierarchy. You’re at the bottom of the pyramid but the sand is a comfortable place to sleep.
Before we finish up, I’ll answer some of your questions to make sure you have everything you need for the role going forward.
Question: What are you going to do after you quit?
Answer: I’m not going to do anything. My mother left me her house in her will, so I’ll live there. It’s outside of London, in a quiet village that has a low population, lower than the death toll at Lake Nyos.
Question: Seriously? You’re going to hide for the rest of your life?
Answer: I know people do it, although there’s a limit to how long someone can survive without any money coming in. I’m exhausted. It would be nice to stay inside until the money runs out. I’m not too far from the sea, so maybe I’ll keep a lookout for a tele-tsunami? I’m joking.
Question: You’ve hardly told me anything about how to be a Marketing Associate. I'm not prepared for this role.
Answer: You’ll be fine. The human body is a trap for positive reinforcement and gained knowledge. You’ll find your way to the correct font, the fastest A3 printer, the ideal timing for a respectable PowerPoint. You might even be selected to accompany the essential staff to Chelmsford to take tea with the suppliers. The world is full of wonders.
Question: How do I raise a purchase order?
Answer: When I was seven I wanted to be a ballerina like a lot of little girls do. My mother bought me an ugly chartreuse leotard that I wore around the house. I would spin instead of walk, make my mother count how many seconds I could stand on my tip-toes. She took me to an Edgar Degas exhibition in the city, where I stood on tip-toes to see the recreations of his work, women gentled by white dresses and flowers that didn’t look like me at all. Not long after, at ballet class, the instructor told me that if the other girls were swans then I was a penguin and I went home and cut up my ballet shoes with kitchen scissors. My mother cried and I never went back.
Question: What’s my horoscope?
Answer: Let’s see. You rise in Mercury, don’t you? This week, Venus makes its descent, Vega wars with the rest of the children of Lyra, creating dissension. You will be able to feel this dissension in the sudden chill coming from windows you didn’t open. Lucky numbers for you: 15, 44, 65. Expect meteor showers and sleepless nights. Stay away from empty-looking crosswalks, keep your money in a pouch lined with cashmere (if not cashmere, rayon). Add pepper to all your meals, especially breakfast.Strawberries are lucky. Be beloved on the earth.
Question: Are you going to kill yourself?
Answer: New starter, there is a deviation inside me. Let me ask you something. When a clock stops, do you replace the batteries even if it’s bad luck to fix a broken clock? Aren’t you essentially spitting on the laws of Earth and the will of the planets? Aren’t you looking for signs that we might be foreign matter? Are you going to start your new role as a Marketing Associate or wake up from a dream?
KATHERINE GUTIERREZ is a Texas-born Londoner who has been featured in Fincham Press anthologies and shortlisted for The Masters Review. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short fiction.