This story was submitted by Alice Eldridge to the Work it! Working to Live and Living to Work collection as part of the October SEEQ sessions.
It was the summer of 2007, Id just graduated from one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country, and I’d done pretty well throughout, culminating with an-almost guaranteed position as a strategist in some hot advertising agency. And I got the cool job. And it was in San Francisco. And that was a world away from the family in Virginia that I needed to be near. Because, a few months before that, Id lost my older sister to depression. But I was also trying to prove I was ok. The company I went to work for was a think tank run by a one-man marketing visionary and we spent our days finding out what makes whiskey cool and studying garbage collection as a subculture and bringing in a clown in for a day. It was easy to distract myself and pretend what I was doing was important- because it was cool. Then, the market crashed and the recession hit and my think tank let the last hire go… two days after Id signed a lease on an apartment in Nob Hill. With friends all working for similar companies and thin hiring budgets- no one was looking for a junior planner from a self-important think tank. When I think back on it now, I wasn’t giving off a vibe of someone I would want to hire. I was wounded. I was hurting. I was a little desperate. I was scrambling and alone in a utopic city and masking my insecurity under layers of clothing you can only really equate with winter in Chicago or a San Francisco summer. I saw an ad on Craigslist that was for immediate hire. It turned out to be timeshare sales. I’d soon be working for Shell Vacation Club on Fishermans Wharf – standing on the corner between the guy with the rat sitting on top of the cat sitting on top of the dog and the man who jumps out of a bush, scaring people for tips. Id found the ideal job for the girl who knows a little too much about whiskey and clowns. Id also found myself in a challenging position. SPOILER: No one wants to buy a timeshare in a recession. There was only one way to survive this job – and continue distracting myself from the pain and rejection that I refused to deal with – and that was to find out why. Why do people want timeshares? What were their hangups? How could this setup make sense for them? I approached hundreds of people and had far more conversations than sales. I was horrible at closing the deal. The job lasted about 9 months and it was time for me to get the fuck out of San Francisco. What I took from the experience shaped the path for the dream job I have: talking to people as a researcher, understanding what’s important to them, why they do what they do. Coming from a place of vulnerability. Understanding that our paths are so, so different – for good reason. And making peace that rejection is part of the journey. And sometimes it means stepping back – letting go of what we think we’re supposed to be doing – and like the rat on top of the cat on top of a dog, taking tips and enjoying the ride.