When backpacking around the world, you may find yourself short of cash and in need of a job. During my travels, I have had a few unusual jobs. I am going to share them with you in a new little series called;
‘Jobs on the Road’
When I first arrived in Australia, I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t quite the land of opportunity when it came to jobs. Despite stories of how the streets were paved with gold and people got paid so much money they didn’t know what to do with it, I found that it was hard to get a job.I had assumed I would be able to easily find cafe work to start with. This turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined.
For one thing, you need a qualification to make a coffee. I had spent years working in cafes and as a barista at home and in New Zealand, but in Australia, I needed to pay to do a private course in order to get a job as a barista. It was the same for bar work, you needed a RSA certificate to work in a bar. I found this pretty frustrating, as I didn’t want to spend all of my savings on an expensive certificate when I was already qualified to do the job; I also really needed that money for food and rent.
I applied for different types of jobs and one day found myself in an interview that was going very well. I found this pretty strange considering the job was door-to-door electricity sales!
I had sold strawberries in New Zealand and this apparently impressed the interviewer. Next thing I knew, I was being called in for my first day as an electricity sales rep. On that first day I just had to walk around with a nice English girl. She just so happened to make a sale at the first house we went to, and made it look so easy.
When the boss picked us up he asked if I thought I could do it. I said that I thought I could. There was a base wage and they kept saying I was going to do great because I was a girl with an accent.
That is how I fell into the slippery world of sales.
Looking back now I find it pretty surreal to picture myself in that environment. It’s just so not me.
There were team meetings every morning, where we got ‘pumped up’and patted on the back, or shamed if we weren’t hitting our targets.
It was the type of situation I would normally avoid, but there I was, sitting around a table with my fellow sales peeps, cringing on the inside as I tried to act like the juvenile reverse psychology and the promised treats of free beer or energy drinks (like how you train a dog) were working.
The group was filled with a number of detestable boys who were the epitome of a stereotypical salesman; greasy and sleazy.
On my first real day, one whom I’ll call Daryl, was giving me a sleazy reptilian stare. When I dropped my folder and went to pick it up, he started to make gorilla-like sounds, and got the attention of the entire room by shouting and then squealing about the colour of my underwear.
This was clearly a very embarrassing moment, as well as being mystifying, because everyone wore a uniform of hideous thick beige slacks with high waists, so I don’t even know how her could have possibly seen anything.
Life out ‘in the field’ was not so bad at first. After being ‘pumped’ and stating our ‘targets’ for the week, we drove off to whatever suburb we were going to that day in cars that blasted whatever music the driver chose.
Of course, I was in Daryl’s car and so I had to endure a particularly heinous version of death metal, up full blast and completely shit.
When we all met up in the suburbs, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the first order of the day was to meet up for food. This was meant to be a quick stop before hitting the streets, but apparently there was no one home at this time, and so everyone waited until after 12pm to start.
So, we loitered around outside a shopping centre, which was awkward and made me wish I still smoked.
Then I was taken under the wing of a girl with a nice hippie bag. She was apparently still recovering from the weekend and so did not want to work. We walked around a few houses and she didn’t pressure me to pitch. She sat me on a wall and shared some sales wisdom before regaling me with tales of her weekend. It was a fine way to pass the time and I concentrated on appearing fascinated. She told me some disturbing stories about partying with fellow sales people and winding up in some group sexual encounter that sounded pretty uncomfortable, and possibly lacking consent from all parties. Just another fun night out with colleagues.
‘So, what are your crazy stories?’ she asked, almost aggressively. Perhaps she was still thinking in competitive targets or was still ‘pumped’ from the morning meeting. I smiled and pretended to be thinking, but inside I was thinking GET ME OUT OF HERE.
And that was the start of my sales career.
More on my time as an electricity sales rep next time!
Images featured are taken from my time going door-to-door.