Your job is one of your most important assets. It gives you earning power. It can bring you personal fulfillment. But what happens when you’re stuck in a job you hate? Here’s the true story of the worst job I ever had.
Unlimited Income Potential
I made some poor choices at the end of my college career; as a result, I graduated without a prospect for work. No matter — I lived off my credit cards for a few months, basking in the glow of adulthood. Eventually I realized that I needed to find a job.
My father, a life-long salesman, and always a sucker for other salesmen, set me up to meet with an insurance guy who had tried to sell him a policy. We met in a Denny’s on the far side of Portland early on a Saturday morning. The guy gave me long, slick pitch, touting the job’s “unlimited income potential“. He needn’t have bothered. I needed work and was dumb enough to think that this was a perfect. I signed up.
I underwent two weeks of training, during which I learned how to sell crappy insurance (though I didn’t know it was crappy insurance at the time). I spent two days learning why this was the most marvelous insurance product in the world. I spent another two days role-playing the door-to-door sales technique: I’d pretend to be the salesman and the 55-year-old chainsmoker seated next to me would be the customer. It was so easy! I sold him a policy every time.
I spent a couple more days learning “rebuttals”, the magic scripts that would turn a prospect’s objections against himself. Our goal was to sell the customer whether he needed the insurance or not. We were to create the need.
Awakening the Giant Within
This training period was life-changing. I had awakened the giant within. I was a new man. I began to cast aside the skin of my existing life and take on that of another:
- I broke up with my fiancee.
- I bought a brand new car. (A car that I could not afford, obviously.)
- I bought a new wardrobe, paying full price at trendy stores.
- I ate out every morning, every noon, and every night.
- I bought a brand-new Super Nintendo and a Gameboy.
In one training session, we were required to cut up magazines to make a collage depicting our goals. I cut out a big photo of a log cabin in the woods and declared, “I’m going to retire a millionaire when I’m thirty.” The older folks in the class — they were all older, and all over thirty — stared with vacant, hollow eyes as I made my presentation.
That night I went out for a fancy dinner.
After training, I spent a week shadowing my manager (the man who had hired me), watching how door-to-door insurance sales worked in the real world. We drove to rural Oregon (Enterprise, in the far northeastern corner) and set up shop in a motel. That Monday morning, we met for breakfast in a local coffee shop. I bought my manager eggs and coffee. We drove out and began knocking on doors.
At every house, we’d introduce ourselves: “Hi. I’m J.D., and I believe this will interest you also. For only fifty-eight cents a week, should any accident whatsoever require hospital confinement…” and so on. My manager was slick. He signed up three people that first day. He’d made $120!
The next day, it was my turn to try. And suddenly my enthusiasm ran smack into the reality. [Read more…]