Seven things job hopping has taught me —
I was a 20 year old young single mother when I answered an advertisement for a straight commission sales position at a Nissan dealership. I found the possibility of making a butt load of money alluring, as would the majority of us. But after two years of spending twelve hours a day trying to sell people cars that were out of their price range, I was feeling emotionally burned out.
After I left automotive sales, I spent a week in telemarketing and then landed myself a outside business sales position for a large cellular company. Maybe I needed to try a different type of sales? Maybe, if I were providing a service, I’d feel less slimy. Let’s be fair here, cold calling local businesses, trying to weasel my way in for a meeting, was not ideal, but I gave it a go. Afterall, I needed the money.
From my entire run with that company, I can only remember visiting the corporate office for training. After the first day, the trainer asked me, “Why aren’t you a trainer? You have all the right answers!” I quietly thought to myself, “Well, those who can’t do, teach, right?!
Because I suck at sales.
You see, I’ve always played both sides of the coin in my head. I am the salesman & the consumer. I cannot, in good conscience, push something on you that you’re unsure about. I’d much prefer making a connection with someone before doing business. That’s the only way I’d make a sale. Oftentimes, after I made a deal, I’d be invited to dinner with the customer’s family. And I thrived on that.
I tried outside sales one last time with a big box retailer. Yeah, I quickly realized that I’ll never be good at any variation of sales. Ever. Ever. Ever. You can’t quickly make a connection when someone views you as an annoyance at first glance, nor can you make a connection believing that this person views you as the annoyance, either. It just doesn’t work.
Trust me, I admire the hustle, but I do not have the mentality to be a salesperson.
I decided to transition into business development for a local dealership. After all, I was very comfortable with the camaraderie within the dealership setting, I was just beyond awful at sales.
What I had to do was easy — leads came in and my job was to get those leads through the door. I convinced myself that I was helping people. These people had bad credit and wanted a car, but just couldn’t get financed through a normal bank. A handful of local dealerships got the same leads, and we all had the lame same script, but I had a schtick that would guarantee me the appointment. I’d tell them that there must be some sort of mix up if another dealership had called them because they were pre-qualified for only our dealership. It was, of course, a lie, but I was able to justify it because, a lot of the time, I’d get a call back thanking me because they were able to drive off in a car. That made me feel good. Plus, the commission I turned a $10/hr job into a $5K a month job.
I was living the highlife. I was having money & praise thrown at me. That was, until my supervisor let me know he only hired me for my lips and he’d love to see what I could do with them. He was what you’d imagine if I said “married, creepy, overweight, former high school football star.” Everything he said to me was sexual and I was stuck in an office with him, alone, for hours on end. This endured for months before I broke down and told the higher ups about him and was immediately thrown in a closet. Literally, I was ripped out of my cushy office and put into a closet to work, far removed from everyone.
I became depressed, missed two days of work, and was fired for not calling out, even though I had phone records proving my case. I love wanted to fight. How dare they do this to me?! But, at the end of the day, what was I fighting for? I’d been in “the business” long enough to know that the old boys will be boys mentality trumps what’s right, even though mindset desperately that needs to be changed.
I withdrew for a while. I worked a low-demand temp job to make ends meet, and eventually, found myself back at a dealership, again in business development. After some time, I became overwhelmed with old feelings from my previous experience. I quit. I had no plan, no idea where I’d end up, but knew I needed a change.
I applied for a receptionist position at a local coffee producer through a placement agency. I did not get the job, but was called back to the agency. They liked me so much that they wanted to offer me a position as a receptionist.
Knowing that I needed to work my way up from the bottom in my new industry, I gladly accepted. I caught on pretty quickly there and became best friends with the girls in my office. I was the receptionist, the payroll clerk, a recruiter, a pit bull, and best friend to employees. I decided to start hosting drives and giveaway for our employees because they weren’t earning much money as temporary employees. This is where I blossomed. I got such satisfaction connecting with these people and doing things to brighten their day. I’d provide some families with Thanksgiving dinners, host coat drives for winter, and would make sure to have candy or donuts available to brighten their Fridays. They became my family.
After some time, I was offered a recruiter position. I knew I could do some good here. Being able to give people a job, allowing them to feed their kids and give themselves something to feel proud of fed my soul. I absolutely loved my job and the company I worked for. I was using the company as a platform to do great things within the community. And there were talks about creating a regional position just for me and my community efforts; I was on cloud nine.
Then, I got very sick. So sick that I almost lost my life. I actually continued working while hospitalized because I felt this fierce loyalty to my company and didn’t want to leave them hanging.
I learned very quickly after the head of Human Resources had my desk boxed up, and moved someone else into my spot within two weeks of my medical leave (while there were two other desks available), that they did not share in the same fierce loyalty that I did. I was crushed, but I was too sick to fight.
I ended up losing my leg to the infection that took me out of work and found myself collecting a menial SSDI payment. Honestly, as devastating as this would seem to any given person, this was my ‘tabula rasa' and it propelled me to go after what I wanted for myself.
About a year ago, I took my love of history and the area that I live and created a social media account to highlight & educate others, South Jersey Adventures. Within months, it grew into an actual organization. And from that, spawned a second successful organization, South Jersey Made! I work hand-in-hand with political figures, the press, local businesses, and other organizations to really make a difference in the area that I live.
I’m really building something amazing because I believed in what I was selling to the public —myself and my passion. Everything I learned from my various career choices, I utilize today.
The takeaway from these experiences are obvious, but need to be said.
- Be a sponge. Absorb skills, techniques, and mannerisms of the people you admire and make them your own. Know the ins and outs, from the most mundane task to the most celebrated. You will learn something worthwhile out of any title that your hold, but only if you allow yourself to.
- Don’t set goals. Goals imply there’s an endpoint. Why would you limit yourself? Just keep moving forward.
- Know your brand. I know it sounds cliché, but a strong sense of self does wonders for your psyche. And if you carry yourself how you want to be perceived, it will become reality.
- Don’t stretch yourself beyond your limits. Feel it out; you know what you’re capable and not capable of. If you’re feeling depleted, there’s a reason behind it. Know that you have so much potential within yourself and that you deserve far more that what you’re given.
- You will be let down. You will put your heart and soul into something and end up getting crapped all over. It’s going to happen; don’t react emotionally and do something damaging to your professional reputation.
- Realize when it’s time to walk away. You know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel like the position or company doesn’t suit you anymore, don’t waste anyone’s time. Understand that your time and energy are more valuable than a paycheck (even though a paycheck is necessary to survive). Sometimes, you may need to work just to make ends meet. That’s commendable.
- Take breaks. Your career is not a marathon. You want your career to grow into something you can be proud of. Immediate success is great, but you cannot sustain that pace forever. You need to step back every now and then to evaluate where you want to go.
I still work to earn a paycheck. I’m lucky enough that through all my networking, I have made opportunities for myself to earn money while building my reputation and career. I handle social media for a friend’s tech company and am looking to add more companies as clients. And I love seeing the direct fruits of my labor.
You know, I look back on the 12+ years of ups and downs; all the knocks, the turns, the lessons, and I have nothing negative to say about any of it. Each opportunity, no matter how short the run, gave me a certain set of skills and made me realize, bit by bit, who I am.
I’m proud of myself and my time and energy is appreciated. I have found my hustle. And it’s the best feeling.