governor's island

Governor’s Island

Six years ago today I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina from Long Island. Today I flew from Raleigh to New York to present a blogging seminar at the American Society of Journalists and Authors in Times Square.

During my travels I thought about the first job that I had when I moved to Raleigh. It was at a direct mail company working exclusively on marketing with their real estate clients. It wasn’t until I started working that I was informed the job was a sales position. I was told during my interview there would be potential for commissions, but after starting I was told to get out of the office and go cold calling – having to meet weekly quotas. Every day I was “pounding the pavement” (This phrase makes me cringe!) walking into offices unannounced with only one goal: To sell. Within a month I was sending my resume out every night.

One of the interviews I had was with a local magazine publisher. They were looking for an account executive. From the description it sounded like a rep to handle their current advertisers. During the interview I learned it was just a façade for advertising sales. They needed someone to go cold calling – with weekly quotas. They said my car would be my office. They told me, “Maybe we’ll even let you write an article from time to time.” This was the most enticing part of the interview. I really wanted to move my work life toward writing, because at that point I had not started freelancing—or even knew freelancing was possible. I tried to be convincing to the publishers, but after an aggressive conversation they started that I understood was a test of my selling abilities, I didn’t hear from them.

It took six months to find the right job. That’s all it was, a job. During my first week, my manager (who later asked to be fired so she could get unemployment and then charged thousands of dollars on the company credit card for personal use) told me, “When they say jump, you jump.”

She was speaking about the owners. It’s a saying that’s surfaced in your typical office culture lexicon. Someone trying to make themselves feel important in the smallest way they have possible. It was an insulting piece of advice, as I had not done anything to warrant the “wisdom.” Little instances of cubicle bureaucracy like this made me write whenever I was told to jump.

If I had not resigned from that job to write, I would still be there today. Actually, I would not. My boyfriend and I drove past my old office earlier this year. It was dark. No sign was up. Vacant.

Everyone jumped.