45) Learning and Applying the Principles of Career Fit

In the last post you read about my insane idea – after making so many career missteps by the age of 30 – to examine the relationship of career satisfaction to happiness in life, and how to pick a satisfying career. In this post you will read about the job I selected based on my learnings from The Johnson-O’Connor Research Foundation.

If Loving Your Work Helps You Be Happier, Why Not Intentionally Pick Work You Love?

A Fresh Angle But Same Dismal Results

Flushed with success from my recent graduation in the spring of 1984 (I began college in 1970)  from the School of Business at San Francisco State University, I was pretty sure a potential employer would recognize the true value I could bring to their organization (sarcasm). I had held several jobs in corporate settings before, which should have served as warnings, but I was convinced I could apply the emerging science of “targeted marketing” to the hoards of businesses who were doing it all wrong.

Omnigistics in Salinas, California

I was hired for a position with a company in Salinas, California called Omnigistics, Inc. which was a leader at the time in the then rapidly growing field of helping marketers profit through direct mail, as a Sales Representative.

Feeling like this was my first professional job and determined to prepare myself for success, I invested in a professional wardrobe, was given an office in South San Francisco and purchased a reliable used car for my sales calls.

Known by some as the “front-man” I set appointments and my boss and I would make a presentation, which usually ended up with him trying to “close” a multi-thousand dollar sale.

The owner and president of this small company, dictated every aspect of these sales presentations, from what I wore to what I said.

My First Important Sales Pitch – Late and Very Wet

My mouth was dry, and I was particularly nervous on our way to Sacramento one afternoon, hitting some bad traffic on I-80 out of the bay area, Peter (CEO of Omnigistics) urging me to drive faster to be on time. “Come on, you can go faster,” he said. “You’re barely at 70.” My car was a 1978 Plymouth Arrow, re-tread tires already shimmying. “I’m already pushing it, Peter,” I replied.

Already late and arriving in a downpour, wearing my wool, pin-stripe, three-piece suit, I estimated we had made the 87 mile trip in slightly over one hour, Peter cajoling me to drive faster, laughing and telling stories most of the way. That was Peter. I recall not writing any business that day to the company that sold canvas tents. But it is one appointment I will never forget.

The Pitch – Nuts and Bolts

Omnigistics sales pitches presented a challenge for me that I decided I was not able to overcome. The first phase of the engagement consisted of an analysis of the clients objectives, budget, and the potential markets. The problem was nearly always low or non-existent sales. Our solution – the leading edge in 1984 – was to slice and dice their potential market (marketing segmentation and consumer buying analysis, as it is sometimes termed today) then conduct a direct-response mail campaign “precisely” targeted to the identified potential buyers. Being somewhat limited in my ability to think on my feet, I discovered I had great difficulty pulling-out and quickly synthesizing this information from the prospect in a natural way to advance the sales process. In other words, I found myself getting tongue-tied – then saying something bazaar or unrelated – and derailing the sale.

Again, this was a job I didn’t hold for long and was beginning to see this cognitive limitation as something that might disqualify me from ever doing well in sales.

Low IdeaPhoria – Inability to Rapidly Generate Ideas (even bad ones)

Earlier, at the Johnson-O’Connor Research Institute, I had learned this limitation is closely correlated with the aptitude of what they have name “low-ideaphoria”, or an inability to rapidly produce ideas in succession, which were the results of my own test. I still wasn’t convinced my limitation would blunt my success for EVERY type of sales (tangible, intangible, consultative, retail, technical, etc.) but my inability to tell a story or think quickly on my feet was definitely having an effect on my career choices.

Do you like the idea of working independently but hate the “brain damage” that comes with most direct sales jobs?

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