The offices were three rented rooms in a mid-rise building, the artwork on the walls cheap, the furniture nondescript. I was asked the usual “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” type questions, and then told, “We have quite a few people applying for a limited number of positions. We’re only taking the best of the best, you see.”
So, wow, was I excited when I got the call back. I dressed in a suit and heels and headed out ready to land that job, whatever it was. See, they had never really told me what I was going to be doing. All I knew was that today I would be shadowing someone and that at noon all of the second-round applicants would be taken to lunch. Fancy.
I got into a car with a guy named Chris and while we drove to “the site,” wherever that was, he asked me questions about myself, including whether I spoke Spanish. I told him I took 2 years in college and joked that I could comfortably ask where the bathroom was in any Tex-Mex restaurant. We drove farther and farther and finally parked in a neighborhood full of one-story stucco homes, with rusted cars in the yards and buzzing A/C units in the windows.
Chris grabbed a clipboard from the back seat and said, “Let’s go.” We stepped into the 98-degree summer day and started going door-to-door selling AT&T long distance. After 30 minutes I had blisters on my toes and my suit jacket was soaked with sweat, but we pressed on, trudging up and down the cracked sidewalks, trying to convince young mothers with babies on their hips that they needed to upgrade their phone service.
At one house, a teenage girl sat on her front stoop, stripping the copper wire from hangers. She barely spoke a word of English, and kept trying to tell us, “We don’t have a phone.” Chris had been doing all the talking up to this point, but he was having a hard time understanding what the girl was saying. Finally I translated for her, and at the next house we went to where the occupant did not speak English, he stepped aside and said, “My partner here speaks Spanish.” No, I most certainly do NOT, I thought, then proceeded to completely botch the sale I never wanted to make in the first place.
After three hours of this, we hadn’t sold a single long-distance plan. My hair was plastered to my neck and I was utterly consumed with the fantasy of burning my evil shoes. But more than uncomfortable, I felt dirty. These people were struggling to survive, and here I was trying to convince them that what they really needed was to be locked into a contract with a monthly fee.
As we climbed back into Chris’s car, he was all smiles, ready to take me to lunch. “Then we’ll come back here and go around the other half of the neighborhood.” I looked him in the eye and demanded he take me back to my car. “But the restaurant is just a couple blocks away,” he said. “Don’t you want to eat first?” I’d been eating cheese sandwiches for dinner for a month, but I just shook my head. “This is not the job for me,” I told him.
Tell me about the most awkward situation you’ve ever been in at Kate@KateLanders.com.