My Ideal Workplace Has Nicolas Cage, Spinach Free Teeth, and More.

I’m still really early in my career, but I’ve had the privilege of working in many roles across many industries. With the variety of experiences I’ve had, I’ve come to realize that my ideal workplace can look pretty different wherever I go. But since I’m a data driven guy, and when it comes to metrics, I have five for determining if I truly enjoy working at a certain company. They are:

  • Do I have any fun stories, or inside jokes from work?
  • Could I call a co-worker if I were hospitalized?
  • Am I reluctant to leave work, but looking forward to coming in the next day?
  • Do I have spinach in my teeth?
  • What have I learned today?

At my ideal company, I will be able to answer all five questions thoroughly and easily.

Do I have any fun stories, or inside jokes from work?

I truly believe that a positive story is a powerful metric to measure our happiness and when there’s a plethora of them to share with others, chances are the place is really fun to work at. After all, your job should be engaging and fun to a certain extent, especially if you’re going to be doing it for a while.

Nicolas Cage memes never get old.

At one of the places I’ve worked, one of my co-workers pranked the entire office by plastering Nicolas Cage head cut outs all over the office– in legal pads, on computer screens and even on the ceiling. I know that at one of the places I’ve worked at, a lot of people would have been irked by an office “prank” like this, which is why I eventually left. In both places, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most driven and enlightened minds in their respective industries, but one work place knew not to take itself too seriously, and to have some whimsical fun that made even a regular day I particularly fun and memorable one!

Or this one.

Could I call a co-worker if I were hospitalized?

Okay, so I do have close friends that I could call if I were to be hospitalized and yes, I know this question is somewhat morbid. But it’s a great way for me to gauge if I trust the people I work with as if they were my family. Trust, because I would have to put my faith in them actually picking up the phone and helping me, and seeing me in a pretty vulnerable state.

When I was working as an RA, there was a time when I was going through an extremely tough episode of PTSD– it was one of my co-workers who came to support me despite her heavy workload that evening. If I didn’t have her at my side through that episode, I’m not sure how the rest of that night would have ended up. But because I had people like her that I worked with, I fell even more in love with my team, and my work.

Am I reluctant to leave work, but looking forward to coming in the next day?

I use this question to understand how passionate I am about my work, and how meaningful I make it out to be. I really don’t want to spend my time doing something that I’m not fond of even if there’s a handsome salary/commission involved. I’d rather have someone else do that work (if they’re passionate about it hopefully), and take a job with lower pay, but I truly enjoy doing.

This is how I imagine Dave from HR might react to me.

At one of my previous jobs, I would actually work during a lecture (I find some of my lectures unbearably boring from time to time), or on the BART while commuting past the hours I was supposed to. I’m pretty sure I was breaking some worker compliance stuff with HR. But I couldn’t help myself– everything I was doing at the time was so fascinating and I was learning so many cool things. And the thing is, I could have well used that time to do something else like nap or read, but I didn’t. Of course, there’s a need for moderation (and compliance), and that’s a topic for another day, but to me, my willingness to overwork is both an ironic and healthy sign of engagement. I mean, at the end of the day, we all want to be working on things we’re passionate about, right?

Do I have spinach in my teeth?

Ah yes, everyone sees it, but no one wants to say anything because they don’t want you to feel bad. But at the same time, you’re upset because you’ve been talking this entire time with spinach in your teeth, and no one has told you. I really like this question because it reveals not only how comfortable people are with me, but also how open communication is at a workplace. A lot of people don’t like confronting others, but when a situation arises, it will be the degree of communication that will determine whether a conflict or stronger co-worker relationship will arise. A good co-worker will realize that by pointing out there’s spinach in my teeth, they’re putting both of us in a vulnerable position, but at the same time realize that it will help both of us– I will no longer have spinach in my teeth and go around and embarrass myself, and we will have a stronger, more honest working relationship.

I recall working at a company where the CEO actually had spinach in his teeth, and when I ran into him in the halls, I let him know. His face went bright red as he attempted to pull it out. I wasn’t fired. Rather, I was thanked! He told me how that must have been there for at least four hours since he had spanikopita for lunch, and among the countless people he met with that day, no one told him about the spinach. Maybe they didn’t say anything out of fear, but hey, I took the risk and communicated, and it helped him out for the rest of the day. I think another positive consequence was that he remembered who I was, and as a result, we had some really wonderful conversations.

What have I learned today?

I have a ritual where once I’m on the BART commuting back home, I like to think of at least three new things I’ve learned at work. It could either be a technical skillset, something about my company or industry, something about me, or the tragic backstory of one of my co-workers (don’t we all have one?). If I struggle to find at least three things that I’ve learned that day, I am in the wrong place. I’m the strictest on this metric because constantly learning, and growing help me improve myself, and that’s important to me. Plus, it keeps me from being bored (just kidding, or not)!

Here’s three things I learned today: one of my co-workers has a passion for volleyball and wants to tour Europe on their volleyball circuit, succulent dish gardens are on average $40, and I need to be better about communicating to my manager over our project management system.


An ideal workplace can quickly become non-ideal, and a non-ideal workplace can become ideal. I do what I can to make a place better, but if it’s not possible, it’s okay to move. But again, as long as my workplace has a few funny stories, co-workers I can really on if I’m to be hospitalized, HR that’s upset by the fact I want to work more, people who will confront the spinach in my teeth, and learning opportunities, it is ideal for me. What’s your ideal workplace like? I’d love to hear your stories!

Kunal has volunteered at an elephant and rhino orphanage in Kenya, was a nationally ranked video game player, and has taught a university accredited class on Mean Girls. Currently, he is the founder of a research based non-profit, and a student at UC Berkeley double majoring in rhetoric and psychology. He enjoys writing about the intersection of people, business, and psychology. You can follow him on Twitter or send him any wonderful insights you may have to

#StudentVoices #WhereIWork

Originally posted on Linked IN by: Kunal Kerai

Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! or 860-387-0503


Posted on July 27, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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