Friday, 5 December 2008

Who answers the weird job ads? Weirdos like me!

Ever wonder who answers those ads in the paper that offer ‘Great Earnings Now - No Experience Needed!’? Well, with everyone either trying desperately to hang on to their own jobs, or find one to apply for, I think it’s time to share with you a cautionary tale. Unlike most people, who diligently work their way along a career path, earning steadily more as they age and gather experience, I had at the tender age of 24 the highest-paying job I might ever want.
Back in 1984, the Japanese photocopier giant that I was working for thought for some reason that I was the future of UK marketing, and were streamlining me along a fast track outside of the regular company structure. They were paying me a whopping salary, and commission linked to the entire sales force. They gave me a flash car, a petrol card and an unlimited expense account. Today’s equivalent on-target-earnings would probably be in the region of €200,000, and look what happens as soon as my brain starts to think corporate: all of a sudden I’m spouting about ‘on target earnings’ and coming out with phrases like ‘in the region of’.
I simply do not fit well into the corporate wold. Sure, I’ll always do my job as well as it can be done, but a giant coporation’s profit means zilch to me. The more they told me I was a success, the more empty I felt. Did I really give a crap about the 6040 copier with its 120 cpm? Indeed, would I ever care about any of it, save for the fellow human beings at my side?
By paying for everything in my life apart from rent, the company made it impossible for me to spend money, allowing me to save vast heaps of dosh, thus hastening the blissful day that I walked out of there, and onto a plane to New York.
Eleven years later, I was moving out of my little Connemara house, where I had lived alone and happily in peace for a year and half. In the intervening years, I’d lived and worked in Barcelona, London, Melbourne, Kinsale, Galway and Bradford, West Yorkshire, and was now heading off to live in San Francisco.
Trouble was, I had no idea how far I’d evolved from that sharp little zippetty-dippetty whizz kid. If I’d taken a wee look at my life before I moved to America, I might have realised that while simplifying my life, shedding unnecessary needs and saving greed for my cakehole rather than my wallet, I’d also simplified my head. That’s not to say I was a grass-chewing local yokel, but I think I’d wanted to be one for a while.
So by the time I hit the wonderful city of San Francisco, my job skills were less honed and more non-existent.
So I stared at the jobs in the San Francisco Chronicle, wondering how to make my yankee dollar, when lo, my eye settled upon one of the aforementioned ads, offering so much return for a simple phone call.
The phone call gave me an address, so I journeyed far out of the city centre, to a corporate estate where yellow brick and glass buildings stretched for miles.
After finding Building B57, I arrived into a small auditorium, where a group of fellow applicants were sitting in rows, looking just slightly more excited than I thought they should be.
By the time things got going, there were about 200 of us: people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, but evidently, not economic groups. We might have had different colour skins, but our clothes all came from the same discount stores, and we knew it.
Lights dimmed, leaving just enough for us to be able to see each others’ expressions, and a man and woman walked on stage. There appeared a white felt board and a flip chart, and before I could say
“Yikes I think I’ve made a terrible mistake!” they started their spiel.
“Do you all have any idea what kind of chemicals you put into your bodies every day?”
I shrugged, but was taken aback by an enthusiastic cry of “No!” from all the other applicants.
Blimey! Maybe I should look a bit more keen. But how can I, when the two presenters, salespeople, recruiters, whatever they were, proceeded to read out the list of ingredients on the side of a toothpaste tube, each long-sounding chemical name succeeding in whipping my fellow job applicants into a loud fervour.
“Mono flourophosophate!” they cry.
“Noooooo!” the crowd yell back.
Mumma, please can I go home now, please?
But there is no escape. I am wedged into the crowd, and anyway, having spent the day getting here, I’m still curious.
How are they going to make me rich? Might as well stay and find out that much at least.
We go through the ingredients of mouthwash and soap, and head into shampoo and conditioner. The longer it goes on, the louder everyone becomes, until by the end, as if Jerry Springer and his audience were on Crystal Meth, the presenters are yelling at us, and everyone else is yelling back, until - ooohh aaahhh yeeeh, I’m coming - they reel out their product range, which for a small downpayment, we can buy and then sell, and make our fortune. Free training and support services will be provided, but we all understand, don’t we, that you have to speculate to accumulate; that you have to invest a little to make a lot.
“Yes yes!” cry most of the crowd, although now, thankfully, one or two others are looking as forlorn as I feel.
They cannot be serious!? They want us to buy their own products and sell them for them? Sure, I might be a Connemara feckin’ pixie at this stage, but I still have a brain.
“No no!” I cry, “Don’t do it! Don’t you see, they are taking no risk whatsoever! It’s all of you who have to take all the risk! Don’t you see? Come on, wise up!”
At which point I am promptly ejected from the so-called Seminar, gasping with relief as fresh air hits my lungs.
Whatever pressures you may be under in the present financial maelstrom, remember that we never need lose either our perspectives or self-respect.
If the job ad fails to inform you of what the job entails, proceed with caution. Oh, and stay sharp!

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