Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Aaron's iFAQ #3
"Have you ever been fired from a job?"
Wow, what a timely question! This month just so happens to be the 10th anniversary of my dismissal from my first paid post-college gig.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
In the fall of 1997, I was finishing up the greatest individual year in academic history. I'd taken four units during the abbreviated winter session, seventeen units in the spring, seven units during the summer and, for dessert, thirteen units for fall.
As a degree in marketing was within reach, I spent the last few months of '97 sending out dozens of résumés – while finding new and inventive ways to ensure each job interview was worse than the last.
There was the interview with an office supply company. I met with two of their regional managers and nerves got the best of me. It might've lasted 15 minutes and I'm pretty sure I rambled on for about 14 of 'em. I literally heard them laughing out loud the second I left their office and closed the door behind me. I didn't get the job.
I interviewed for a media relations position a few weeks later. The first words out of the interviewer's mouth were, "I don't think you're qualified for this position, but I'm open to changing my mind." I didn't get that job.
Sometime after that, I flew up to San Francisco to meet with a finance company. I spoke with the guy who would've been my immediate manager and killed it. He insisted that I talk to his boss and I was even more awesome. They showed me where I'd be sitting "if" I got the job and told me all about their Friday Happy Hours and Saturday softball league. Then, I met with the president of the company. "We don't normally do this all in one day", I was told, "But, we'd really like him to meet you."
Three minutes later, by my guess, I was heading back to San Francisco International Airport. I didn't get that job. BTW, here's some unsolicited interviewing advice: When the president of a company asks you define something (let's say, "marketing"), then tries to correct you midway through your explanation, let him. And, don't try to correct him. They don't teach you that in college, kids.
By now, it was early December and my last final was on the 14th. I was facing the prospect of real unemployment and I'm not talking about the acceptable kind that's inherent in the word "student". So, I interviewed with a company called Blue Data.
They were a small outfit (maybe 10 people, total) that specialized in something called "data mining". I was told that I'd be working in sales – business-to-business cold calling, with the requisite ridiculously low base and 4% commission.
I absolutely did NOT want to work in sales or telemarketing, but they offered me the job right there on the spot. This was all phenomenally humbling, as I'd gotten every job I'd ever interviewed for to that point. Admittedly, we're not talking CEO or anything, but I vividly remember popping off to anyone who'd listen, "Just get me an interview…" Now, in an inexpensive and ill-fitting wool suit, I was reduced to sweaty-backed desperation. I got the job.
After my first two sales calls, I knew I had made a horrible, horrible mistake.
Sales requires a uniquely nuanced personality…someone who won't take "no" for an answer and can sell (natural element) to (something/someone who lives near natural element). It also helps if you don't tear up when a lead hangs up on you.
So, for the next seven weeks, I surfed the internet, made fake sales calls to my pager's voice mail and tagged along on everyone else's on-site presentations "just to get my feet wet". I had been called on the carpet once or twice and told to close a sale, but they were in no hurry to fire me and I was in no hurry to restart the sh*tty interviewing process all over.
Then, in early February, I decided that I'd had enough. I brought the want ads and a stack of online job listings into work on Monday, with the intent to send out resumes all day, every day, until I was out of there.
Now, why does my computer say: "ACCESS DENIED. CAMERON_AJ IS NOT A REGISTERED USER"?
I immediately knew that the jig was, as they say, up. But, why didn't they just call me sometime between Friday night and Monday morning to tell that I was sh*t-canned?
My manager was at his desk, so, of course, I feigned ignorance. He told me to sit tight until the owner got in. And, I would've took my medicine like a man, if my manager hadn't condescendingly gestured to the stack on my desk and said, "Why don't you read your little paper for awhile?"
The nerve! Sure, I was essentially stealing money from a small start-up company for a few weeks, but (1) it wasn't that much money and (2) that didn't justify being mean to me. So, I quit. OK, so it was the ol' "you can't fire me, I quit" kind of quitting, but let's not pick nits.
A short time later, I got a call from the owner – a genuinely nice old man who retired from IBM, cashed in a mountain of stock to start the company and gave me a chance when no one else would – to let me know "this wasn't working out". He never used the words "fired" or "letting you go" or "sh*t-canned". He even thanked me for the seven weeks and wished me well.
To this day, I still don't know why I was…well, why I don't work there anymore.
I mean, I know why, but I was never officially told. Best guess is that my manager got my phone records, saw about a thousand outgoing calls to (619) 904-7612 and put two and two together. Although, only an idiot would've needed the second "two".