I got a job last week. And then I quit it.
After spending a Sunday afternoon vigorously applying to the first six “admin/office” job postings on Craigslist, I got called in for an interview the very next day. It was described as an Account Executive position at a sales and marketing firm, which sounded vague yet prestigious enough to be worth my time. I had enjoyed my marketing writing job in Honolulu, so I assumed that anything related to marketing would be just as fun. I was wrong.
My interview didn’t seem to go very well. As usual, I felt fake and repulsively peppy as I tried to sell myself. I left the building exhausted and spent the train ride home convincing myself that at least I was gaining job interview experience. However, that afternoon I was shocked to get a call back from the company to come in the next day for my second round of interviews. The caller explained that this round would be different; I would be working with my potential coworkers at an event in Times Square.
Standing around in Times Square? In the heat? This was not at all what I signed up for, but my initial disgust was overshadowed by my excitement to have made it to the next round.
The next day, a coworker briefed me on our assignment: to pitch our client’s product to as many people as possible. We spent four hours roaming around Times Square, starting conversations with random tourists (or unfortunate New Yorkers who happened to be in Times Square for some odd reason), trying to get them to purchase gift cards. We were basically glorified salespersons. [One of] my worst nightmares had come true.
My coworker assured me that they only do these types of events about once a week because the rest of the week is spent doing “business-to-business.” I didn’t know exactly what this meant, but I imagined a group of us going into office buildings and meeting with large companies. While still not ideal, this was much more appealing than the Times Square stint, so I decided I should give it a try. By the time the interviewer called me back into her office a few minutes later and told me I was hired, I wasn’t surprised. Nor was I excited. But I thanked her for the position and exuded as much gratitude and enthusiasm as possible.
I wandered over to Bryant Park and pondered what I had gotten myself into. I needed a job, so I convinced myself that accepting the position was the right thing to do. I only hoped that the next day of “business-to-business” would be better.
When I returned to the office, we were assigned teams and neighborhoods. My four-person team was assigned to a neighborhood in Queens, which is exciting because I love exploring new neighborhoods. However, that’s when I realized that we wouldn’t be going into tall skyscrapers and mingling with high-powered clients. Instead, we were going to bodegas and hair salons, trying to convince recent immigrants, who were hardly making ends meet, that they needed our gift cards. It was soul-crushing. Not only did I have to sell an unnecessary product, but I had to sell it to people who could barely afford it. It’s one thing to promote excess to the middle class who willingly defines themselves by the items they consume, but to sell it to the working class was more than I could bear. Many of them were misinformed and didn’t know how to say “no” to our smooth-talking, professionally-dressed sales team.
I had a weekend before my next day of work and spent that time pitying myself. Finally, the night before I was to return, Anthony and I agreed that something making me this miserable wasn’t worth continuing. Being employed isn’t nearly as important as being happy. And, sure, I don’t expect to stumble into the dream career that I’ll want for the rest of my life tomorrow, but I do expect to wake up slightly excited to go to work every morning. I quit after one day at work.
It’s easy to pigeon-hole me as just another twenty-something-year-old who is too picky, too arrogant, and too idealistic for the working world, and that’s why I am jobless once again. But I don’t think I’m any of those things.
It’s not hip for someone of my generation to want a typical nine-to-five office job. However, sitting in a black swivel chair facing a computer in an air-conditioned cubicle surrounded by middle-aged people has never been something I abhorred. I just want to use my brain and the knowledge and skills I’ve accumulated over the years to create something fairly beneficial to the world in a relatively comfortable environment.
Is that too much to ask for? Let’s see what society thinks.