Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New year, new career and 40 virgins

I should have known something was up when I got an immediate call-back. Job hunting just hasn't been that easy in London.

Until now, call-backs only ever came for jobs typically set aside for immigrants like me, read: pubs, call-centres and fundraising schemes. Or there'd be some catch. Like the Z-list celebrity entrepreneur who hired me as a Marketing Assistant, and turned out to have a Jesus-complex, only a really scary sort of Jesus. The kind that intends to change the world based on a plan developed while taking LSD in Los Angeles. Come to think of it, it was more like a Koresh-complex. Anyway, I quit.

Or the Notting Hill club and All Star Bowling Lanes owner who interviewed me to be his personal assistant, but didn't hire me on account of my insistence on wearing clothes while at work.

But it's a new year, and after a nice six-week respite in Canada, I was determined to return to London with a fresh perspective. I'd no longer see it as a damp, soul-sucking metropolis with a relationship to nature limited to consuming free range organic meat and eggs, that banishes its population to at least 90 minutes in smoggy underground chambers per day. No, I'd see it as the city of endless opportunity and free galleries, steeped in rich tradition.

So I updated my CV, started applying for jobs, and got an immediate call-back. Maybe it was true. Maybe the credit crunch was on the wane. When I arrived for my interview with the marketing firm the next day, the waiting room was crawling with wired, young suited hopefuls. Fifty. I counted. It was what would be the beginning of two full days of interviewing – a veritable competition for the coveted title, Employed.

The firm handled direct marketing campaigns, and they were looking for managers to lead their teams of front-line workers – the immigrants and new graduates lucky to have pretty enough faces to land shitty promo jobs. That used to be me. I was looking forward to leaving it all behind, to making a fresh new step into the communications and marketing world in London.

The pitch was fantastic. I bought it. I ate it. I got up at 7 AM and paid £9 to follow a street team to a London suburb to see it in action. I completed four writing tasks and quizzes on marketing and strategy to prove what I know. And I thought because I passed them all with flying colours, at the end of the day, my Kiwi interviewer invited me to the final assessment.

But first, they needed to know I was ready to commit myself fully to the company. We want you to know the company inside and out, said my interviewer, so you see why it's important to start from the ground up.

I looked at the sales booth and began to shrink inside the corporate casual outfit I'd so carefully chosen the night before. You'll be learning about direct marketing by doing, she said. I'd be peddling make-up in shopping centres, she meant. But the harder you work, the faster you'll advance to the next level. I'd be a peddler, just a little higher in the pyramid. And then when you're ready you'll be a team leader, and when you reach the top you'll manage an entire division, earning £75,000. I wondered if there were also 40 virgins awaiting in this paradise. Then she said something about 12-hour days, 6-day weeks and endless training sessions. And of course your earnings are entirely commission-based.

Two hours by train away from home, two days of interviews.

But there is excellent earning potential.
She said it with a little less confidence. My pretty enough face isn't good at hiding emotions, and this variety was pretty obscene. I didn't lie to you. And she didn't. When I asked about salary, she'd said 'earnings'. She didn't lie, she tricked me. I fell for it, and I felt really, really stupid.

She looked nearly as sad as I did while I packed up my things to leave, but I won't fool myself into thinking it was because she liked me. I was part of her commission.

So I'm working in a pub again.


UnBob said...

Man, that bites. To leave that little detail to the end of a brutal two day interview process is unacceptable.

I've actually started adding "I'm unable to accept an equity-only position at this time" in cover letters to somewhat suspicious sounding job advertisements. I drove an hour and sat through a (fortunately brief) interview only to be told that the job didn't pay anything, and that they weren't anywhere near making money. Put that crap in the advertisement, puh-lease!

Maybe I should look into pub work.

Kate Savage said...

Pub work would be more profitable in the US. Here tips come only from travellers and men who wanna do you.

I'm definitely getting clear answers about pay and such before hopping on a train to an interview again. Good luck with your hunt!