I just celebrated my one year anniversary at work. A year ago I never would have imagined I’d be where I am, but here we are. As Brian said, I’m in my third Act.
The majority of my working life I’ve been in retail or sales of some kind. My first job was at a frozen yogurt/video store when I was 14. Yogurt Time and Video Hour were side-by-side and owned by a lovely couple. There was a sliding door between the two stores. I was underage so technically wasn’t supposed to work at the video store side, but I did anyway. It was awesome.
My employment was put on pause at the start of the school year, with the promise that I’d work the next summer. Unfortunately, thanks to the brand new Blockbuster Video down the street, the stores went out of business. It sucked, but they wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation so I could find another summer job.
When I was 17 I started working at a movie theatre – Oakmont on Manatee Ave. (Side note: While writing this I wasn’t sure if I was 16 or 17 when I started there. Then I remembered, we watched in awe from the TVs in the lobby as OJ Simpson’s white Bronco raced away from police. That was 1994. Ergo, 17.) I worked there for a very short time, until they decided to cut staffing. I was the last in, meaning I was the first out. Another bummer.
I then got a job at another movie theatre – Cobb Cinemas at DeSoto Square Mall. I hated working the concessions counter, but loved working the box office. I could study and do homework between shows. At the same time, I worked at the dance studio to help pay tuition for my classes. I also worked at the dance store next to the studio – Tutus and Toe Shoes. Adorable name. Never got my final paycheck though….
When I went away to college, I worked at another theatre in Tallahassee called Capitol Cinemas. (Noticing a theme? Movie theatres or bust.) Capitol Cinemas was great for a while. I got to work the projection booth which was the coolest job ever. We got to watch movies for free all over town thanks to the agreement between managers at the different theatres. Unfortunately, it was bought out by United Artists so policies changed in ways I didn’t like. A classmate of mine had a job at Wal-Mart Vision Center. Thus began Act I…
Act I – Opticianry:
I worked at Wal-Mart Vision Center for three years. I got to work the lab, meaning I was the one edging lenses and essentially making glasses. I loved that part. I could go into the lab, close the door and not talk to anyone. I didn’t like the retail aspect, but it was part of the job. Brian and I wanted to move away from Florida and a management opportunity arose at a brand new Sam’s Club Optical in Charlotte. So we packed up and moved to North Carolina.
I was in opticianry for 13 years. During that time I was a lab tech, a manager, a district manager, then a manager again. It was hard and it was stressful. Like, very stressful. Stressful in a way that makes me wonder how I lasted as long as I did.
After eight years at Sam’s Club I was offered a new opportunity at another optical retailer. A store that Shall Not Be Named. I lost my job after two years there. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Act II – Sales:
I was unemployed for a year. After looking and looking and looking for something, anything, a friend of mine helped me get an interview at a sales center in the area. The employer is HUGE now, but at the time it was still pretty small. We were a sales center, but worked with a number of different businesses, which brought variety. I sold quite a few products, including internet, TV, satellite TV, web-based services (domain names, web hosting, etc.), and small business credit cards. In my nine years with that employer I sold products for eight different companies.
Whether or not I liked my job depended on which product I was selling and whether I was doing phone sales or online chat. While I’d love to name names, my paranoid self doesn’t want to be accused of libel by calling out major brands. (Like any of them care about this little blog.) But there were definitely some doozies with questionable sales practices.
Years 4 through 7 were great. I sold a product for a company I respected, and still do. We did things the right way – no shifty sales tactics or walking in the grey. We had our own little space away from everyone else because we were in financial services. Our team was small and we were like family. Then the contract with that company ended and we were thrust back into the Telco world, selling internet, TV, and phone services (that nobody wants but they demand you sell).
The company was very good to me for a very long time. I got to go on a few company trips to Mexico. We had banquets and celebrations. And then the company got bigger and bigger and the sales side got left behind.
My last two years there were terrible. I was crying nearly every day from the stress, and experiencing more panic attacks than I had in years. I was miserable. When I’d come home in tears or call Brian sounding so depressed and upset, he’d always have the right words. And he assured me, my third act was coming. I didn’t really get what he meant. Then a co-worker and friend of mine sent me a text with a link to a job opening at a new company in town.
Act III – Mortgages:
The listing was for a job as a processor at a mortgage company. Mortgages? My only experience was when we bought our house in 2004! But I was intrigued. It would mean no more sales. No more pressuring people into getting products they didn’t want or need. No more being tethered to a phone 8 hours a day.
I was scared. But after Brian and I talked it over I decided to give it a try.
I got a recommendation from a former manager at my previous employer who had since moved to the mortgage company. He was very happy and was in upper management so a referral from him went a long way. I was granted a phone interview then a second interview which, thanks to the start of lockdown, was over Zoom. Honestly, I think that helped me. I was able to write down what I wanted to ask and I think they appreciated my questions. I was over the moon after the interviews. This was perfect for me. After a few nerve-wracking days waiting, I got the call that I was being offered the job.
I could not believe it! To say I was excited was an understatement. So I left my miserable job at a company that used to bring me joy and made my way to Better.
I’ve been here a year. I’ve gotten licensed as a mortgage originator, although I’m actually a loan processor. It’s a great company with an amazing culture, reminiscent of my previous employer before they got too big for their britches. But as I expected, I was made for this job. It can be hard, and it can be stressful. But it’s nothing like what I’ve experienced before. And Brian was right. I’m in my 40s with a new career and have finally reached my third Act. And I couldn’t be happier.