Presenting at a Mumpreneurs Meeting on the Northern Beaches in 2013.
This is the second part of my article, ‘My Previous Life as a Marketer’. Of course, I sat down to write this article and it kept growing and growing. I guess there’s a lot to tell. So I’ve broken this one up into three parts.
Continuing on from last week, you may remember that I’d gone for a job interview. Totally out of my depth. Thought I’d embarrassed myself by getting teary and failed.
Somehow I ended up getting the job. It was a miracle. A random act of kindness.
I still believe the Sales Director felt sorry for me, but perhaps he also saw some potential in me because I did eventually live up to his expectations and become the Marketing Assistant he needed me to be.
This man, and his wife, eventually became a close friend of mine, though he was old enough to be my father. I think he did feel kind of father-like towards me too, but I think he also recognised that despite the age gap, the years of worldly experience and his success, we were very similar. Or maybe he had been like me when he was younger.
The Managing Director, on the other hand, refused to speak to me for the first two weeks I was there. This was a small company remember, impossible to avoid each other. But I wasn’t deemed worthy.
Working in an office environment – and office politics – were entirely foreign to me. I scrambled to learn everything (you know, thrown in at the deep end, sink or swim) but it wasn’t easy. I was so unprepared for real life in a corporate environment. It was incredibly full on.
Meanwhile, the MD hired every one of his ‘old boys network’ daughters as receptionists. They were nice girls and each one became my friend while they were there… but they never lasted. Even the MD saw that but he still hired them.
We all had to start somewhere... one of my early school photos growing up in country NSW.
I'm in the second row, far right.
It became evident to me that to keep my job I’d have to learn to type properly. Touch type. Computers and preparing documents for submission were such a huge part of my work life. Another thing Uni hadn’t prepared me for.
I was still working at Franklins and, along with two friends of mine from there, we went to a weekly night TAFE course to learn to touch type. I had an old typewrite at home and would practice there and of course at work I was typing all the time so it wasn’t long before I mastered that. The TAFE course continued but all three of us girls dropped out a few weeks out. We’d learned what we needed to learn and besides, the teacher had hit – yes actually, literally, physically – hit one of my friends when she’d typed something wrong. We all decided that after that, it was time to leave…
Back at my corporate job, the MD eventually started talking to me and warming to me. He sent me along to some Photoshop and Illustrator software courses and also paid for me to undertake a financial management course. What fun that was! Not.
When his PA left and the Marketing Manager exited around the same time, that left two people standing. The MD and me.
By then, I’d improved out of sight. I had confidence, knowledge and know-how. I tried to ignore the office politics as much as possible, most of the time we all got along although there was one girl there who was the kind the be nasty behind people’s backs – particularly mine.
The MD and I worked very closely for some time and I finally started to earn his respect.
Many, many hours, we would be working together, me at my computer, him pacing beside me and stomping back and forth, leaning over me to point at a word on the computer screen, gesticulating wildly as he dictated letters and we prepared submissions, pitches, tenders, reports, prospectuses, promotional flyers and more. Through me, he was able to get those words in his head down onto paper.
I was more than just a scribe, though. I became his editor, his word bank, his thesaurus, his dictionary and pitching partner. Our minds worked together to shape the documents he needed to be successful in his role as leader of the organisation. When he couldn’t think of a word or a phrase, I typed it up for him to read on screen, or I verbalised it. If he liked it, we went with it, if he didn’t we kept trying.
Looking back and thinking about it now, I remember how exciting it was to be working with words. It certainly wasn’t like writing children’s books, but it was writing, it was pitching, and it was a connection of minds to achieve a common goal.
We worked long hours, I worked overtime many nights, but he did appreciate this and I was always paid a bonus at the end of the year.
He also took me along to meetings and major events with financial planners, for which I was also the event manager, all around Australia. He even sent me to Hong Kong to see how the company ran over there. I ate very well while I was employed in the financial services industry and really learned to love Chinese, Thai and Japanese food. Our speciality was investment in the eight Asian ‘Tigers’ after all. It was a nice perk.
Even though I left home at seventeen, I still return regularly for school visits. One year, I worked with the local library to create an anthology project that included short stories from Manning Valley students.
When I did eventually resign, however, the MD went back into no-talking mode for my last two weeks at the company.
He was never lukewarm, always hot or cold. To be honest, he was also incredibly disappointed and probably hurt that I’d decided to move on. I'd been headhunted by my old boss, offered work at a bigger company for better pay, with better conditions and more opportunities.
These are the choices we make when we’re young and we have to live with them.
Sometimes I feel regret that I did leave, but if I hadn’t made that choice I might not have ended up where I am today. Everything happens for a reason. And at the time, I believed I was making the right decision.
On my final day, the MD tried to convince me to stay, but I’d already moved on. Two weeks of silence hadn’t helped.
My Marketing Degree is a nice piece of paper to have, it’s three years of proof of hard work and study. Around that are memories of three years of hard work at Franklins so I could get that piece of paper.
While there’s very little that remains in my brain of what was learned all those years ago at Uni, that piece of paper, that qualification, got my foot in the door of my first corporate job. It was the first step on the path that led me in a number of directions that eventually saw me return to the love of my life: writing.
Next week, I’ll continue the story and talk about my Aha! moment in regards to marketing. I’ve felt lost in the wilderness a number of times, but occasionally, the light goes on and things become clear.