“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
For years I bitched and moaned about how I wanted to finally quit waitressing and get a real job. I fantasized about waking up early with purpose, listening to talk radio on my morning commute, having a fancy job title, and wearing cute outfits to work each day. Much better than wearing clothes infused with french fry grease, with pasta sauce dripping off my no-slip shoes, and being subservient to a bunch of asshole costumers. I mean I have a college education, I’m better than this – right?
After many attempts, I finally landed a great job as a Production Coordinator at a new company. How cool does that sound? Production Coordinator, ahh. I could feel my mom getting prouder by the moment.
The first week of my new job was great! I drank my coffee out of a travel mug, attended early morning meetings, contributed my thoughts on pressing issues, and came home at the end of the day feeling as if I’d accomplished something.
Then, I ran out of cute outfits and realized- hey wait a minute… this actually sucks ass.
I work a minimum of nine hours a day, usually more. I never see my family anymore and when I do I’m too tired to have any fun, and I’m not sure but I think I’m starting to get Secretary Spread (a.k.a. a fat ass!). Not only does my butt hurt, but my creativity has been sucked out of me. I’m suppose to be a writer, how can I write when I have three hours of time to myself before bed and the idea of any more sitting makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and die?
Not only is my new job draining and a giant time-suck, but now I have to go through life like everyone else. No more grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings and yoga in the afternoons. I went to the mall on Saturday and it took three Beyoncé songs just to find a parking spot!
This is what normal people do on the weekends? Grocery shop, laundry, and traffic? I always thought they went out on their boats and partied. Isn’t that why everyone’s always talking about how great it is that Friday’s almost here? Why are they so excited about the weekend if all they’re doing is running errands in the worst traffic possible?
Okay, so there were tons of cons to working this job: the mall on Saturdays, Secretary Ass, creativity sucking, and not to mention– I really missed my dog. Was waitressing really as bad as I’d made it out to be all those years?
I had a friend who quit acting, and thus, quit waitressing too– to become a scientist. She came into the bar I worked out several years later and told me she made more money when she worked with me at The Cheesecake Factory than she does as a scientist.
A mother fucking scientist!
Not only was the money better waiting tables, but I made it in one-third of the time than I did at my new job. Sure as a waitress I always worked weekends and missed parties, but I had time to be creative, see my friends (my waiter friends anyway), go on dates with my boyfriend and play with my dog– I had a life.
I was starting to realize that I’d been lucky all along. I actually loved my life the way it was- I was just too hung up on what I thought my life should look like at 30-something to enjoy what was right in front of me. Life’s too short… if I drop dead next week wouldn’t I be happier knowing that I’d only spent twenty hours a week at work rather than fifty?
So I did the only thing I could think of, I went crawling back with my tail between my legs and asked my restaurant boss if I could have my job back– the same job I’d quit a mere two weeks ago. It was a truly humbling experience. Luckily I hadn’t flipped everyone off and said, ‘F%$# You!’ when I originally quit. (two weeks notice is your friend, people). And, I’m a pretty good waitress– a touch snarky, but fast on my feet– so they took me back with open-ish arms.
The following day I went in to my ‘real job’ and sat at the morning meeting one last time as I doodled in my notebook ‘Last Day!’ and pretended to care about what my boss was saying. At the end of the day I quit a job for the second time in 2015. (Yes, I realize it’s still January.) I’m getting pretty good at this– also there’s no greater feeling than quitting a job you don’t like and celebrating afterwards with margaritas.
Even though I knew it was ego that had lead me down a path of unhappiness in the first place, I was still nervous to tell my friends and family that I’d just quit my fancy job before the end of the first pay period and I was going back to the same restaurant job I’d bitched about for the past four years. I was sure they’d think I was just being a whiny irresponsible baby, afraid of the real world, (which is only partially true) and equally afraid that my poor mom would die of emotional embarrassment when she had to tell people that her daughter, a college graduate, is back at it, cleaning up other people’s slop. As I braced myself for their criticism, I was stunned and overwhelmed by all their love and support. Every single one of them encouraged my decision to quit my ‘real job,’ pursue my art, and be happy. ‘Life’s too short.’
So now I’m going back to those dreaded no-slip safety shoes that I loathe and sucking up to dumb people who pronounce it “Mer-Lot”… only this time I’m okay with it. I realize that even though I’m covered in grease and ugly clothes, I get to go home at the end of the night and be with my family. I can write all day long and do my grocery shopping during non-peak times. I am truly thankful for this. Do I plan on waiting tables forever? Absolutely not. My feet can only take so much, but by doing it a while longer, I can give myself the time needed to let my passions lead me where I’m suppose to go. From now on, the grass is no longer greener on the other side, because I’m watering it on my side now.
I believe that every person could benefit from working both in the customer service sector and the sales sector prior to pursuing any other career. This was my path– six years in retail followed by two years in outside sales. Both experiences taught me invaluable skills relevant to my job every single day. If you didn’t have the luxury (or as some might describe “horror”) of experiencing a sales job like I did, allow me to impart upon you some of the key lessons I learned that could benefit you today– immediately– in your own career, no matter the industry.
This is an ongoing series focusing on different topics… starting with what I consider the most valuable lesson I learned: which is that rejection is no big deal.
Let me paint a picture for you of a young girl, clutching her audio recorder with sweaty palms and practically hyperventilating at the thought of interviewing sources (a.k.a. her own classmates and peers) about their opinion about hard-hitting news topics like the health benefits of drinking Jamba Juice smoothies. This was me at 20, studying journalism at Arizona State University and working myself into a crumpled, neurotic mess whenever I needed to approach strangers to engage in small talk, covering “serious” college concerns like on-campus style or whether Emo culture was a passing fad.
I’m glad to know that I had enough self-awareness to realize that my crippling shyness was going to hinder my career as an aspiring journalist/writer. This awareness was the most prominent factor that drove me to pursue a sales position in the first place, thus making fearlessness the single most importance lesson I learned from my outside sales experience.
So I went from sweaty-palmed college student, to an even more sweaty-palmed (but well dressed!) salesperson, masking my insecurities with a winning grin while convincing small business owners of the value of my company’s payroll administration benefits. It was a masochistic exercise in personal development. In the beginning I would hype myself up before walking into a building several times before actually entering. I choreographed what I like to call the “dance of apprehension” as I entered, left and re-entered offices, my car, etc., backing in and out like as if I were an SUV being maneuvered into a compact parking space.
Courtesy of Giphy
I’d say that the worst moment I ever experienced was when a business owner screamed at me in front of all of his employees. The lumbering red-faced man bellowed at me, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see how important I am? Get the fuck out of here!”
Okay, actually that never happened.
In reality, I think the worst reaction I ever received (a result of an unannounced in-person visit) was when a man assertively told me, “I don’t have time to listen to your sales pitch.” Fair enough. Of course I fled outside where I could burst into tears in the privacy of my car.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
– my cousin, Kelli.
(Also, apparently, the motto of Jimmy Choo CEO Tamara Mellon, according to The Guardian).
Here’s the thing– once you get used to the initial shock of rejection, it almost becomes fun to embrace failing– just because you had the guts to go for it. I’m not here to tell you that fear goes away– it doesn’t, actually. But as a salesperson, you learn to embrace the fear and roll with it. My cousin has a great mantra that has always stuck with me: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” A great one because, for me at least, my sense of fear of talking to strangers never really diminished completely. But saying this mantra is like saying to yourself, “fuck it” and allowing your drive to overcome the discomfort you feel.
A sales career teaches you how silly it is to worry about rejection because you are rejected almost on a daily basis– typically in the form of polite, straightforward let-downs versus whatever your worst nightmare is. Once you get over the fear of the “worst case scenario,” almost any task seems worth pursuing because you’re no longer afraid of what the outcome might be. The thought of being rejected seems harmless once you’ve been there so many times.
Often people are so overwhelmed by their own fear of failure that they become frozen in circumstances that make them unhappy. Scared of what they envision to be a negative outcome, they take no action whatsoever. When you are rejected on a daily basis as a salesperson, you realize how much emotional baggage is tied to the notion of failure and rejection, and you learn to shrug it off. You shamelessly and unabashedly approach situations with a new sense of calm and detachment.
Today you might be afraid of not closing the deal or not booking the appointment (if you’re in sales), or perhaps you’re afraid of something more personal– scared of starting a new chapter in your life, worried about hurting someone’s feelings, feeling vulnerable about having your ideas criticized, or launching a project that turns out to be a bitter failure. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to be rejected– it burns, it stings… but it diminishes over time. And eventually, the thrill of the audacity of trying outweighs the bad.
And I’m not saying you won’t fail. You probably will. A salesperson knows that after experiencing various types of rejection, you realize that there isn’t ever just one opportunity to “succeed.” In my experience, one usually encounters multiple opportunities to achieve their goals. Which means even after you totally embarrass yourself at a meeting, botch a introduction, put your foot in your mouth, or hear “no” for the first or zillionth time– just know that you have many more opportunities to try again in your future.
When it comes to interviewing strangers, I’m not saying I’ve completely eradicated the sweaty palms from my method of operation, I’m just saying I now enjoy the thrill of it. And honestly, sometimes I do totally embarrass myself– but at least I have the guts to try.
Image: Death to the Stock Photo, Giphy