I was a 19-year-old college student when I took up a job as a telesales representative.
My job description was to cold-call business owners in the UK all day, every day to sell them landline plans that should, presumably, cost them less than what they were already paying for their current plans.
Our plans were not significantly less in price and we were not any more special than the next telecom company. But my job was to convince my customers to believe the opposite.
I would start my conversation with my potential customer with a pitch that went something like this “X is a telecommunications company that has been operating in the United States for more than 15 years.”
If the customer, naturally, didn’t feel all excited about the fact that our long-standing company has chosen them out of all people to present them with the opportunity of a lifetime, and they cut me off politely to end the call for whichever reason, I would pick a rebuttal out of a variety of ready-made rebuttals I knew by heart to take them right back where they stopped me.
[bctt tweet=”I hated its guts and couldn’t take it more than five months.” username=”wearethetempest”]
My main responsibility was to keep the “potential deal” on the phone until I was done with my script. If the customer had questions I could not answer, I would raise a flag for my manager to come and take over.
My job basically sucked.
I hated its guts and couldn’t take it more than five months. Most of the time I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing, but I knew I just had to persevere until one of us got to the other, and the job definitely got to me first. Despite all the extra hours I used to work, despite hitting the best call records and despite all the sweat and tears, I just couldn’t accomplish anything. And by accomplish, I mean close off as many deals and reach my target like the rest of my peers.
My five months at that company were mostly about beating myself up and feeling that I was a complete and utter failure.
But it wasn’t until years later that I realized that it was not my fault.
The academic and professional experience that I gained afterwards taught me that I cannot do well at something I don’t believe in, no matter how hard I try. It is true that I did not stay for long in that job, but I quit because I had already burned out and I was not used to burning out that fast. Perseverance was just not getting me anywhere, because the cause I was fighting for was simply not mine. As opposed to teaching, for example, there was no higher purpose behind that job.
So instead, my peers and I were fed empty ideals about competition and teamwork as a form of external motivation every day to keep us bringing in the cash.
[bctt tweet=”Perseverance was just not getting me anywhere.” username=”wearethetempest”]
My managers were classic American hustlers and the idea of competition was part and parcel of their culture.
They would gather us every morning before we started our shifts for a brief “motivational speech,” after which everyone would whoop and holler before heading back to their cubicles bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to pounce on their phones.
Every day, I waited for some inspiration to hit me, to feel the urge to pounce on my own phone and get down to business, but it rarely happened.
We were divided into teams – Borg, Gold Members, Synergy, and other business buzzword names that I can’t remember anymore. Every day, we would meet to check where we were in relation to the other teams, and that was supposed to be something that kept us going.
I couldn’t fake excitement because I couldn’t see the end of what I was doing.
I believe if you’re not internally motivated, external motivators can only take you so far. What I was doing at that telecom company had nothing to do with teamwork at all. My following experiences of working in a team showed me that it is about helping each other reach a common goal that we all believed in and drawing inspiration from one another, not confirming the concept of every man for himself through competition.
Competition and external motivation could also not fill the void I felt on their own because I do not happen to have the natural talent of convincing people with something I don’t already believe in.
On top of that, I knew our offers contained a catch and I felt like I was luring people in.
Deep down, I felt for my customers and I knew I wasn’t offering them anything new, but I still had to prove to myself and my managers that I could close off deals like everybody else on my floor. The dilemma was real.
[bctt tweet=”Just when you think you’re the best, there comes along someone better than you.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Fortunately, I came out of that job having learned a few lessons.
Ever since I have not put myself in competition with anybody else but myself. I started doing what I really like and it had to be a cause I believed in. I try to set myself higher goals and reach them, without worrying about proving myself to anybody else, because competition, more often than not, takes me away from focusing on myself and developing my own skills. It breeds never-ending anger and frustration because just when you think you’re the best at something, there comes along someone who is better than you.
The idea of who really is better than who eats away at your peace of mind, when it shouldn’t.
What really matters is that you like what you do, that you do it for a good reason, and that you climb your own ladder of achievement, without sneaking glances at those who might be below or above you.