A few years ago, I was a young naive graduate. Having attained a bachelors in English, I was eager to get myself into the ‘grown up’ working world. All my experience up to this point had been voluntary so it makes sense that I would have spend hours a day applying for various roles. One of them in particular stuck out to me – it was an advert on my university’s graduate page asking for individuals with a degree to apply if they could see themselves in management. The rest of the ad was inviting; the way it was written drew me in and made me feel like I could accomplish anything.
Just a day after applying, I was offered an interview. Extremely excited, I turned up to this interview, dressed to impress with my CV and qualifications at hand. A man dressed in a smart suit who introduced himself as a business executive held the interview. He glanced at my qualifications and told me a story of how he grew up on a council estate, was always put down as a child only to grow up and now manage his own company. He told me instantly that I had the job. Being new to the career world I didn’t really have much of an idea of what was to be looked out for in interviews, but I still had a slight sense of unease as I wasn’t quite sure what the job actually was. Upon asking, the question was abruptly avoided and I was told it was an ambitious position that would lead up to management and eventually the ownership and running of a company. Out of a desire to get a job rather than have to sign on, I took the position.
Three days later I turned up for work, after being given a short introduction to what my responsibilities were (to promote and encourage people to upgrade their internet package). I was driven to Manchester. Going around an unfamiliar neighbourhood, I was instructed to knock on people’s doors and ask them who their internet supplier was and if they’d like to upgrade their package. I was told that customers wishing to opt in would only have to pay £5 a month for a landline. I soon found out that this would only last for three months and then afterwards there would be a charge of not only the £5 line rental, but a further £55 for internet connection for the rest of the contract. The contract itself was for the minimum of a year. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I pushed aside the feelings in my gut and continued to turn up to work. I was promised that I’d be paid at the end of the month, which was three weeks away but until then I’d need to spend money on my own travel expenses. This was a tough thing to do, but I was encouraged and advised that all entrepreneurs have to give to get.
For the next few weeks, I ended up spending £300 on travel. I was fortunate that I still had remaining student finance left. I was bussed about and being driven to places such as Birmingham and cannock. I would have no break and sometimes not return home til past midnight after an 8.30am start. The strain was particularly excessive during a week of extreme heatwave, walking around for 12 hours often with no time for food or drink began to make me feel really sick. It was during my final week there, after seven weeks of working, that I began to notice the sort of people that would sign up for the product they were offering. They were fragile people, such as the elderly (who no doubt struggled to read the terms and conditions) or parents who were busy with their children and too mithered to read the contract properly. I also began to kick myself up the butt and came to the realisation that the ‘no sales/cold callers’ signs on people’s doors didn’t deter my colleagues. It didn’t feel right to me. Something in me snapped when I saw my trainer knock on a ‘no cold caller’ door, only for it to be answered by an elderly woman crying and after telling us her husband was hooked up to a breathing machine and that’s why she doesn’t take cold callers, he still continued to sell her the product.
I stopped turning up to work after that.
A few weeks later, I began to feel a lot of things. Disgust, at the company and shame in myself. So eager to get somewhere and so confident in myself, I’d completely dismissed the idea that I couldn’t just walk into a quick management position. Receiving a degree had given me a case of slight self-arrogance and as a result, I had let my naivety of the working world skew my perspective and common sense. It goes without saying that a lot of other graduates had complained about the company and the university removed their advert from their page. Upon further research I discovered that the company was renowned for moving from office to office, drawing in the vulnerable and ignorant and having them work for them in a false pyramid scheme. A few weeks later, their office was closed down. And of course, I was never paid.
Despite it being a negative experience, I was still able to draw some lessons from it. I had a better understanding of how job interviews should really go like, a better stance of my capabilities and an improved hold of my ego. I’d also learned about the various types of people in the world. On a positive spin, my ability to converse with strangers and friends alike improved and my belief that people should remain as people rather than a means to increase profit was strengthened.