Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My worst job ever: Part 1

So the story of my worst job ever is a long one. That’s why I’m breaking it up into multiple posts. But it’s a good story, full of tragedy, comedy, betrayal, life lessons, profanity, some nudity, and detestable douchebagery. (Anyone want to help me spell that?) I promise you’ll have a great laugh at my expense.   

Many years ago, I worked at Victoria’s Secret for a couple months while in between jobs. I have some interesting stories from that short time, like when a brazen Brazilian woman showed me her breasts in the middle of the store. (That was the nudity I was talking about. Sorry, no pics.) And there was the time I had to kick an amorous couple out of the fitting room. But that was not my worst jobs ever.

Years later, I worked for a woman whom I dubbed P.F.H., which stood for Psycho Freak from Hell. She would send out meeting requests at 10:00 on Sunday nights for 7:00 Monday morning and then berate you in front of the entire office if you missed it. I started waking up several times a night to check my Blackberry for fear I would miss something. She would also adamantly deny we had conversations that I knew we had, and she would insist that we had conversations I knew we didn’t have. Her nickname was well deserved and the reason I only worked there for six months. I was also going to grad school at night during this time. My hair began to fall out, I lost a sick amount of weight, and yet, it was still not my worst job ever.

Thuy, Emily, me and Stacey: June 2001
My worst job ever was my first job after college. Let’s go back to 2001. (Yes, I know that was ten years ago, math whiz, and no, I don’t want to talk about it. Moving on … ) It was spring time, and graduation was just a couple months away. Not to toot my own horn, but I looked pretty damn impressive on paper to potential employers. Toot, toot. I had worked my ass off for the last four years. My G.P.A. was quite impressive, despite having transferred halfway through college and carrying over twenty units most quarters, and I graduated with honors.

I was a financial aid kid, so I also worked as many hours as humanly possible all four years of college. The last two years, after I transferred to SCU and moved to California, I interned at a prominent semiconductor equipment company in Silicon Valley. (For those of you outside of California, a semiconductor is basically a computer chip and has nothing to do with small trains. And it’s Silicon Valley, as in an element on the periodic table, not Silicone Valley. That would be Orange County.)

I worked full-time in the summers and over breaks, and 30 hours a week during the school year. Let me pause here for just a moment. If you are lucky enough to have parents who could afford to pay for your college education, stop what you’re doing right now and go worship your parents. I don’t care if affection was never shown in your house growing up. Go plant a big fat kiss on your dad and swing your mom around the kitchen. You’re one of the luckiest people on the planet. Of course, my parents would’ve paid for my education if they’d had the money. But alas, not everyone can be so lucky, and I still have an astronomical balance on my student loans. 

Anyway, my point of that little tangent is that I not only had kick-ass grades, I already had kick-ass work experience. Employers loved my “paid my own way” story, and they admired my work ethic, drive and determination. Ah, it was all finally paying off. Life was good.

I was in second- and third-round interviews with some of the biggest corporations in the Valley – Cisco, HP, Intel, Adobe, just to name a few. I thought I was hot shit, and one of these big companies should pay me big bucks for my hot shitness.

And then, about a month before graduation, the economy took a dump. All over me and the cheap business suit I bought for all those interviews. Suddenly, every position I was interviewing for closed. Companies just stopped hiring. In one week, I received apologetic phone calls from every single recruiter that I thought loved me. F**k. 

Life lesson #1 – as soon as you start thinking you’re all that and a bag of chips, the universe has a way of reminding you that you’re not.

At that point, I was left with no choice but to swallow my pride and call back some of those smaller companies that had been pursuing me and I had snubbed. None of them were hiring anymore either, except one. This small, start-up recruiting firm whose name I will not mention. Not because I want to protect the innocent, but because the name still makes me think violent thoughts. So let’s just call it Hellhole.

The director of Hellhole was very excited to talk to me (let’s call him D.B. for reasons that will soon be obvious), but he thought I should know that the terms of my employment had changed since our first conversation. In light of recent economic events, I would no longer be offered a salary. Instead I had the choice of straight commission or a draw. The idea of straight commission and not getting a steady paycheck terrified me. So in a foolish act of desperation, I chose a draw, which terrified me only slightly less. Let me back up and explain how this shitty deal worked.

Basically, the recruiting firm helped job seekers (our candidates) find work and helped businesses (our accounts) fill their open positions. When one of our account’s openings was filled with a candidate, it was called a placement. Businesses would pay us a mark-up for the placement, and the two recruiters who worked on the deal (the one who managed the account and the one who found the candidate) received a percentage of that mark-up as their commissions. A draw was simply an advance on commission that I would have to pay back out of future commission checks. So I got my steady paycheck every two weeks, and every time I received that paycheck, D.B. reminded me that I owed him money. Yep, I worked twelve hours a day in a place called Hellhole, and at the end of every day I owed the boss money. Awesome.

The people who worked in this firm called themselves recruiters and account managers, but it was really a sales environment. No one had the candidates' or businesses' best interests in mind. They just wanted the sale. I am not a sales person. I cannot bring myself to convince some poor soul that he needs something he really doesn't need or that some hiring manager is getting some benefit by paying me when he really isn't. I totally sucked at this job. Not to mention we specialized in technical recruiting, and in the economic downturn, engineers were getting laid off every day. Businesses didn't need my help finding an engineer when there was one on every street corner with a cardboard sign that read “will code for food.”

Sales started dropping. And what happens to sales people when sales start dropping? They turn into vile, back-stabbing little bitches. And who was the easiest prey? Oh, that would be me, the 22-year-old recent college grad who didn’t know a damn thing about technical recruiting, sales or office cannibalism. I was too naïve to know that I should’ve watched my back....

In the next installment of “My worst job ever,” you’ll find out how D.B. got his name, why Chingy (that terrible hip-hop “artist”) makes me want to ram a fork in my eye, and the real reason I hate the c-word.

Until next time, what was your worst job ever? Let’s commiserate and share your stories below. 

(See "My worst job ever: Part 2")