I Can’t Get No (Career Satisfaction)

Career satisfaction is hard to come by, even if you are the frontman of one of the most successful British rock groups of all time. In the Rolling Stones’ hit “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” Mick Jagger sings:

“When I’m watchin’ my TV
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me

I can’t get no

No no no.”

When Jagger penned the song, he was disillusioned with his use of drugs, sex, and the rock and roll lifestyle, in part because he didn’t relate with the character in the TV commercial for washing powder that he alludes to above. Although I doubt that their target audience was young, male rock and roll stars in the first place, the advertising firm was unable to convince him to buy the goods. However, the team in charge of Mick’s smokes’ advertising was able to foster a strong sense of brand loyalty. With a job well done, they can be content.

I Can’t Get No (Career Satisfaction)

Advertising sales executives enjoy helping clients sell their goods and services, as I am well aware of. After becoming a lawyer and realizing that I did not want to spend the majority of my waking hours drafting and reviewing lengthy corporate contracts or researching obscure laws and legal precedents, I stumbled into the field of advertising sales, which was my first step toward finding a fulfilling career.

Finding the Right Fit

In Paddington, London, my first company was a B2B publisher that routinely hired grads and threw them into the deep end of their sales floor in a “Boiler Room”-style experiment to see whether they would survive. To motivate the sales executives, they even printed out some of “Glengarry Glen Rossmost “‘s well-known quotes, like “Coffee is for Closers” and “ABC = Always Be Closing.” Although it may sound like a baptism of fire, this actually served as the catalyst for my enthusiasm for sales. My very first sales call was with the manager of a luxury hotel in Amsterdam to sell ad space in a magazine for management consultants and, whether it was due to my law school-educated persuasiveness or his laid back whatever-you-are-selling-I-will-buy-it attitude, I closed the deal and earned myself a bottle of champagne and the admiration of the rest of the intake of graduates.

As the high-pressure method of closing deals with sales prospects was not to my taste, this ended up being the highlight of my time with that particular employer. Within a few months, I left to take up an ad sales position at one of the largest media companies in the world, News Corporation, where I worked on the London Times and Sunday Times newspapers in a much more professional working culture and environment. I was looking for a work environment where I felt comfortable because my passion for the profession was not enough to keep me content in my position.

With the help of News Media UK, I was able to put an end to the “Boiler Room”-style hard sell strategy and learn the listening and questioning techniques necessary to engage in consultative selling, which is what I enjoy doing the most when it comes to sales. I developed successful marketing programs in collaboration with my clients.

Satisfied customers made me feel like I was doing a good job, but something was missing. I did not feel my sales position was stretching me intellectually or professionally. I needed to feel challenged in my role and stimulated to perform to the best of my ability, so I found a role that would combine my sales skills with my legal education and require me to use my other languages, French and Spanish, to sell to customers. The drawback was that the employer was an international B2B publisher whose culture and environment was more akin to the “Boiler Room” sales floor of my first employer, and my enthusiasm for the task of selling ads in legal publications to French, Spanish and Latin American customers was quickly tempered in those surroundings. I had left a working climate where I felt comfortable in search of more stimulating work, only to feel demotivated and stressed.

What’s Missing?

I began to fall out of love with sales as I was pressured to sell ads to customers who did not need the exposure, nor would advertising help them find new clients, purely to hit sales targets and decided to take a career break to explore whether I wanted to continue in sales or pursue a legal career. A couple of weeks shadowing Crown Prosecution Service attorneys convinced me that I had chosen the right career, and shortly afterwards I received a call from a recruiter to interview for a sales position at an HR Tech start-up. The creative, innovative working environment of a start-up and the challenge of indulging my passion for sales in intellectually challenging Human Resources and Recruitment technology space ticked every box for me save one: autonomy.

The frustration of not being in control of my own fate or having the final say in business led to me to start my own company, which has brought with it many challenges and difficulties, but I can finally say that I have reached a point in my career at which I am finally satisfied with what, where and how I am working.

Even if you don’t begin your career in the field you want to (I studied to be a lawyer, not a salesperson), or with the employer you want to work for, if you can figure out what kind of work and environment make you happy along the way, it will help you continue on your path to career satisfaction.

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Tim Barry

Tim is an English-born HR technology consultant, speaker and trainer with an African Heart and Celtic Soul. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, he works with global brands, staffing companies and tech start-ups, and is co-host and founder of the first Twitter chat for South African jobseekers and recruiters: #JobAdviceSA Tim is a passionate advocate of organisations embracing technology in order to identify and connect with untapped pools of talent.


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