Unanswered Prayers Part 2 of 3?
Back to PART I
When I arrived in Denver, I immediately headed to the agency Mac Temps to get on their placement roster. Back East, I had been working in the new world of desktop publishing. Designing collateral material and magazine ads. Focusing on a new program called Photoshop and a design program called QUARK; both a layout program and my dad’s favorite sitcom growing up.
When I arrived at the agency, I had to take a written test for QUARK. Even though I showed up to the interview with a college degree and a solid design portfolio you were placed based on how you did on a standardized test. I failed miserably. I had contributed to award-wining campaigns, proficiently using the tools, but the test results splashed me into the receptionist pool of candidates. To say I was embarrassed is a massive understatement. I declined to be considered as a receptionist and I struck out on my own.
Because there were no cell phones, I kept calling into the agency via pay phones, to see if they would reconsider my test results. They said I could come in and use their training and try again to take the test. I was desperate and agreed, but also agree in the meantime to be part of the receptionist pool. It had been months since I left Connecticut and was desperate to get a paycheck. Besides, the positions were all just temporary and no one in Denver knew me.
When the first temp assignment came through, it was for a long-term assignment, answering phones, doing “light data entry” and “other duties as assigned” — the receptionist-trifecta of the temporary staffing world. While I knew I needed the money I really wasn’t ready to actually be a receptionist. I honestly thought by saying yes to the pool, something else might come through.
My ego was still holding me back. I just couldn’t see myself as a receptionist. I had done it early on, but now it felt like a step backwards. I left Connecticut and New York City to find my fame in the West! What? Now I was being offered entry-level receptionist positions. I felt like a complete failure. I had neglected to recognize that I might need to establish and rebuild myself in a new place half way across the country. I expected red carpets and guaranteed reservations anywhere I wanted. I was in demand back East. Of course these folks in the west would fall at my feet. I was an idiot. What narcissism. What ignorance. I neglected the need to rebuild myself in a new location and earn what I earned back home; both in reputation and salary. I did what so many coastal people do when they come west, I brought too much of myself and wasn’t ready to listen to my new environment. All of this would become one of the biggest life lessons I would ever learn, but it would still take me quite a while to realize it!
I turned down a phone interview 3 times. However, finally, the need for food and money grew stronger than my ego. To be honest more than that, two other things on the job description really grabbed my attention. I could wear shorts and there were two dogs in the office. This is fairly commonplace now, but in the mid-90’s, I had not seen anything like it. I could get rid of my blazers and ties? Count me in. I did a phone interview, followed by an in-person interview with the owners of the company, a husband and wife, Bob and Jill.
I wore a denim dress shirt, to show my new Colorado spirit, and a Norman Rockwell Tie with a picture of him painting himself, to show that I was creative. It was the same tie I wore on my very first post-college job interview. While I no longer wear it, I still have that tie today hanging in my closet next to all the other ties I never wear.
When I arrived at the company headquarters, a small blue house with a garage for a warehouse, I parked next to a basketball hoop. The woman I would be replacing as well as Jake and Blue, the companies labradors, greeted me. During the interview, Bob was affable and looked like Jimmy Buffet. He sat back, occasionally asking questions, but mostly watching. Jill was kind, but she was all business. She and I hit it off during the interview. I explained my situation of being dropped into the receptionist pool, and tried to upsell myself. Even bringing my portfolio. Bob was convinced I was an east coast homosexual, a misconception I was used to hearing.
He wasn’t sure I would fit in. The sales team was all young 20-something males. I was replacing a well-liked and friendly gal with a lot of years at the company. Besides, this is Denver not New York, receptionists are “girls” not East Coast “Gay-Pony-Tail-Boys.” Fortunately, Jill championed me, and the result . . . I got the trifecta. A job at a company called Systemation, answering phones, doing “light data entry” and “other duties as assigned.” Bob got himself a “Gay-Pony-Tail-Boy Receptionist.” In my home office, I still have an engraved award to prove it. Even though they have moved away, Bob and I have remained great friends. At the very least, I know he still has a crush on me!
The company was growing fast and I found my interest in IT growing. The Web was just starting to become a thing and I felt my relationship with creative work and technology could make me a real asset to the company beyond the trifecta. After a few weeks, I asked the agency for a $1 per hour raise. They approached Systemation who promptly declined the request. Bob thought I was a little two “East Coast” in my phone manner and not a very good receptionist. WTF I thought. I am wicked friendly! I rock this thing. There was that ego thing again.
But my internal protesting was all for not. The Company countered with a full time offer and full benefits, along with a new position that removed me from the trifecta role. This greatly benefited the organization as well as our customers and me! I went from broke, to a receptionist to a marketing/technology role in less than 3 months. Within a year I was Vice President of Operations and the company had doubled its revenue, thanks to the strength of our products, our amazing sales team and our ability to deliver.
Within 18 months I was assisting Jill as the Project Manager in breaking ground and designing every aspect of a new building from a hole in the ground through to completion. Last but not least, within 2 years, I entered the 6-figure club in salary and bonus. Something I never expected in my life, unless the whole rock-star thing worked out.
I learned so much at Systemation. Over the years, I made countless mistakes; I had numerous successes and most of all I discovered that I could do anything I put my mind and effort towards. I had the privilege to reinventing myself repeatedly over the course of 20 years. I was able to write, make videos, and even contribute original music to promotional pieces. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t checked my ego at the door, worked my way up and rebuilt myself again, Steve Austin Bionic-Man style;
Another lesson that would stick with me, and come in handy many times in my future.
My life had taken an unbelievable shift! All because
- I took a risk . . .
- My “job prayers” were not answered in Kansas and . . .
and the girl? Oh, yes . . . the girl . . .
To be continued . . .
On to PART III