Misery in the advertising world


As I mentioned before, this newspaper where I worked had four sales teams: two teams splitting the geographic area of the paper’s local market; new business; national. When I came to interview at the paper, I was initially interviewed by the manager of the national team, but for some reason she decided not to go with me. Then I met with the “new business” manager and somehow got that job. So, I was a bit intimidated to interact with the assistant for the national team, thinking she must be a major office whiz.

I remember an opportunity I had to work a little bit with that assistant. We were trained together on how to manipulate the database information to generate various reports for our respective teams. It surprised me that the other assistant seemed to have no idea how databases worked. She wasn’t computer savvy at all, but she dressed more corporate. And I couldn’t help but think that was a major reason why she had gotten that position. It’s all about appearances, right?

It’s funny. I was capable of doing many things yet lacked confidence. This other girl came across as very confident and yet didn’t know what she was doing.

Well, soon after getting there, the sales assistant I initially shadowed quit. I was asked to fill in for her. That position remained open for more than a month.

During the chaos of Christmas holidays and early deadlines, that position still hadn’t been filled. And then another sales assistant took some vacation days. So I was responsible for covering both teams plus my own. I was not a happy camper.

And it was during the Christmas rush that my supervisor informed me a new assistant for the open position had been hired and would start in January. They wanted me to train her.

I, of course, panicked at the idea. There was so much information to share, so many steps to explain. How do you really begin to piece that together in an orderly way? Where do you start?

Well, I knew one thing. I knew I had to do things differently than the training I received. There was no way I was going to explain the steps of the job out of order. That was ridiculous. So I began making lists of what needed to be covered and sorting things out. Then it occurred to me that you can walk someone through the steps and they could take notes, but it would be quite handy to have something tangible to reference.

I began creating a PowerPoint presentation. I didn’t bother with making lecture notes. Each slide was meant to be something that could be referenced later and understood. I included screenshots of the various programs. I broke down the steps and offered visuals for how to create reports and search for information.

It was incredibly detailed, but it was logical and organized and visual. And yes, I went overboard; there were more than 100 slides. But I wanted it to be the kind of resource that, if someone had a specific question later, they could flip through and find the answer. I was the kind of person who looked for solutions to problems on my own first before asking someone else to step in. And I assumed other people should behave in the same way. But I learned that’s not exactly realistic.

Time to train

The day finally arrived when the new assistant came and I was expected to begin training. I was so proud of the PowerPoint and excited to be able to share it.

And this girl totally didn’t care. She commented on how easy and boring this job was. I think her parents knew her boss and she got hired that way. But she had no interest in being there. In fact, within the first week, she even vocalized to her supervisor that she wanted to quit, but the supervisor insisted she give it more time.

I don’t remember if I made it through the presentation or not, but she clearly wasn’t interested. She took a copy and went back on her way. Later on she asked me a question, something that was clearly explained in the materials that I gave her. I had a brief moment of satisfaction that she could put on a tough act all she wanted, but it doesn’t mean that this job was completely intuitive.

Phone call challenges

I believe the overall director of sales implemented this new idea before Christmas. He wanted the sales assistants to sell ads for email blitzes, some email marketing campaign. Before officially interviewing for this job, he was the one I talked to about what the job required. He assured me there would be no selling or cold calling involved. Yet, two months later, that totally changed.

The sales reps were instructed to create a list of clients who had advertised with us before. The idea was that these were meant to be easy sales. Follow a script and invite the businesses to reach new people through this digital effort. I’m sure it was also matched up as a way of promoting Christmas shopping.

Making any kind of call like this stressed me out. I didn’t care if there was a script. No script seemed to be natural. There was no way someone was going to hear my dinky little pitch and be immediately sold on the idea. I guess the sales director expected people to cut me off mid-sentence and insist, “Sign me up! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before! Yes, please allow me to throw money at you.”

None of my phone calls went that smoothly. In fact, the first business I called said they had never advertised with us before. At all. So instead of doing an easy sell, I was cold calling. The next business I tried told me the same thing. When I pointed out to the sales rep that he was supposed to give me current clients, he turned around and gave me more leads of businesses that had never advertised with us.

I did a lot of deep breathing exercises before attempting these calls. It was an effort to calm my nerves and prepare myself for what was coming. My boss, in an office next to my desk, overheard my deep breathing and asked if I was ok, wondering if something was wrong with me. She didn’t understand that making these calls stressed me out. It just made me more self-conscious to know that someone was listening. Yet, I don’t recall her offering suggestions of how to improve my approach with these calls. People kept insisting I follow the script.

As the weeks went on, the managers tried to motivate the assistants in making these calls and sales by offering a gift card to the person who made the most money. I just gave up trying. There was no point in putting myself through that. It seemed laughable to me that they thought offering some money would be enough incentive to go through that stress. Nope. I didn’t have the time or the interest to pursue making more of those phone calls than I needed to.

Journal entries

I found it interesting that at the same time I was going through these frustrations at work, that I recorded the following in a journal.

12/30/07: I feel like a failure every time I come home from work because I just hate my job. It’s aggravating. People keep telling me I have so much to offer. Why can’t I see that in myself? Why is it so hard to see the good in myself? Why!

It was absolutely a struggle to see the positive in myself. To look beyond the negative that I encountered. To see that my work ethic (and I clearly had a strong one) was a valuable asset that not everyone possessed. Generally speaking, I couldn’t see the good, the small steps of effort and accomplishment.

When you live your life focused on your insecurities and plagued with doubts, it can easily lead to feeling like nothing you do is enough. That’s the mentality I lived with. It was easy to become an overachiever because I felt it was necessary to prove my worth. I had to do more than was necessary and strive for perfection because I was convinced that was the only way to measure up.

A little bit later in the entry:

I have always had a desire to teach, thinking it had to take place in a classroom. It doesn’t. Writing/journalism is a form of teaching/informing the community. Yet, I’m hesitant to pursue that because I’m afraid that I won’t enjoy it. Afraid it won’t work out.

There’s that fear of failure creeping in again. That’s a hard thing to shake. But I like that I was beginning to realize that these deeply rooted interests and desires could take different forms. And I was thinking about how it might fit for me.

I was on to something here. There was some recognition that I needed to focus on writing. I just didn’t know how to make that a reality.


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