At age 24, after messing around with a 5th year of college and a year traveling around the US doing some promotional work, I decided it was time to “get serious” about life. So I set out to work in the field that so many in my peer group were already entrenched: Financial Services. It seemed like the right thing to do. After all, a former President of our great nation had said that we were now “The World’s Bankers.” What a life we Americans had carved out for ourselves! To be honest, a six figure salary by age 25 or 26 didn’t sound bad either. Of course, that was one of the big promises that came with starting a “career” in financial services tele-sales.
What can I say, I jumped at it. I’m an ambitious individual and saw this opportunity to cash in on a booming economy. I always had it in the back of my mind that after about 5 years, I would bail on the “career” and start something on my own that was more creative and entrepreneurial. What’s 5 years of selling my tail off over the phone and building up a savings? As it turned out, it was more than my idealistic young mind could handle. I wasn’t real comfortable sacrificing little bits of my morality and soul every day just to sell financial products that I didn’t think were very sound anyway. I don’t mean to bag on the profession that I spent 5 years in, but as a sales person, you realize very quickly that what makes you the most money isn’t necessarily good for the customer, or good period.
I decided that was it! Enough with Company A, happiness will be found at Company B! I thought Company A was just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. At company B I would have more freedom, didn’t have to sell those awful products I had been selling and would now be at a place where employees are treated like real people. Is this starting to sound familiar at all? This is the little dance that all the lost souls in the world of banking and investing do so often. Let me tell you that I didn’t really figure out what was happening until years later. In effect, I was being sold. My employers did a much better job selling their employees than their clients, because most of us were miserable. Yet we inexplicably stuck around until finding a new pursuit. The problem is that so often the new pursuit was doing the same job around the same type of micro-managing little corporate junkies.
The day that my outlook started to change was when I was put on a “final warning” for not meeting some bizarre metric that I couldn’t even explain to you now if I tried. Instead of “buckling down” and trying to meet that metric, I decided to make the people in charge as miserable as I was. I complained often to Human Resources and made myself harder to fire because I had dirt on middle management and they knew it. I was playing a game that I had nothing to gain in except time. I decided to use them, instead of them using me.
I know this is all starting to sound over-dramatic, but I felt I was doing what I had to. My employers were doing their best to push me out of a job I “needed” because of some arbitrary call-center statistic that nobody even understood. To make it worse, I was licensed and getting fired would be a black mark on my record for the licensing body. I used that as an excuse to make any type of complaint I could and bog down their little corporate bureaucracy.
At the same time, I was doing all the things you’re told not to do. I was using my computer for non-work related tasks. For shame! I finally bought a Blackberry and would text and email while on the phone with a client pretending to care about their complaint or question. Honestly, I didn’t care anymore. Time was definitely running out, but getting something lined up that was lucrative enough to make my escape was of the essence. I don’t have a family yet, so benefits were not a huge priority. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t even come close to making that six figure salary I had been promised. In fact, five years later, I was worse off in so many ways than the day I finished college because of the economic conditions we all find ourselves in and the rising cost of living along with falling wages. To put it lightly, I was frustrated and had lost any appetite for fitting in or being “corporate.”
My attitude had completely changed since age 24 and I had no idea where my life was about to go. Part II will conclude the little story of my exit from Corporate America as well as some inspiration for doing so.