Don’t Sell Yourself Short

you're going to make it, feminismMy first reaction when the new marketing director suggested that I sell myself surprised me.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I asked.

I was being facetious. I hope.

“Because you’re not in charge of marketing and promotion,” M answered with a self-satisfied smile. She was as serious as a successful sale.

We had bonded immediately upon M’s employment as the second woman hired in a non-secretarial positon at the company.

Six months earlier, I had become the first female in the northeast office to sell outdoor advertising space.

Now, each morning when M and I arrived at 8:30, the doors of the bleak old building flew open to our new ideas, fresh enthusiasm, and bold determination tomake it” in a men’s only enclave.Mary Tyler Moore, you're going to make it, feminism

Think of two women throwing their hats at tradition (Mary Tyler Moore-style, for those of you old enough to remember).

I was already halfway there; sales from my visits to Mom & Pop stores were booming.

M wanted to create a crescendo.

“You’re young and pretty. We can use those attributes to increase your sales,” M explained matter-of-factly, throwing out charts and statistics on how my brand of selling could outpace the “big guys.”

“They just wine and dine the same old chaps from the tobacco and alcohol companies to get contracts renewed. We’re going to reach a newer, better market,” she asserted.

M pitched her idea to the President and Vice President.

The two men loved her proposal.

With their approval, M developed a new marketing brochure for the decades-old firm, a promotion startlingly different from their staid black-&-white-font-on-stiff-white-paper that stated: “Outdoor Advertising Sells,” with a bunch of numbers that supposedly proved the claim.

Now, BOLD red letters on the front page of a glossy brochure proclaimed:

Do It on the Road

Underneath the words, a color headshot,

of me . . .

and my name.

Despite my discomfort, I acknowledgd the brilliance of the design.

Short and Snappy

Clever and Cute

Less is More

M mailed hundreds of the brochures to current and potential clients.

I lost count of how many I delivered to small stores in a 40-mile radius of our headquarters.

I received chuckles as doors opened for me to explain how outdoor advertising could help sales rocket, marketing and promotionsales for the gift shop, the garden nursery, the dry cleaner, and the bookstore.

My sales rocketed.

But I heard Pauline’s voice every morning as I drove down a New Jersey country highway to a prospective client (see A Towering Tongue Twisting Career Turn).

Pauline, my first boss . . .

. . . for a feminist newspaper.

“Pamela, what the hell are you doing?”

Her voice got so insistent that I started defending myself, out loud, while alone. Although I never visited Pauline or called her or asked her advice, I knew how she’d answer my lame justifications.

And so,

I listened to my gut. I explored deep inside.

I picked up my hat and ….

… I quit.

 don't sell yourself shortHave you ever left a job because of a moral or value-based decision?

 

 

Thanks to Google images.

84 thoughts on “Don’t Sell Yourself Short

  1. Hi, this resonated with me a great deal. Wherever I’ve worked I’ve been so self critical – to the point that, when I leave to move on to pastures new I’m amazed by the degree to which I’ve been appreciated and respected. So, with that mindset any one of us would ‘sell ourselves short’. Thanks for sharing.

    • Good point, Steve. Those of us who push to be the best at whatever we do may sell ourselves short, thinking we never do it well enough. On the other hand, in my case with this sales job, I think I would have sold myself short if I didn’t leave!

  2. It’s funny…even though I don’t know you, as I was reading this, I was pretty sure you were going to do exactly what you did and that it wouldn’t take you all that long to do it.
    I also wondered, along with Pauline’s voice in your head, if you were ever concerned what she would think if she saw the brochure.
    Also, what was M’s response to your decision? Did she understand? Was she supportive? Is she someone you kept in touch with or do you feel she betrayed you in some way?
    Finally, did Pauline ever know she influenced this decision?
    Sorry for all the questions but it’s a very interesting story..:)

    • Thank you for these great questions. I never thought that Pauline would ever see a brochure, but I knew that if she did, she would be disappointed in me. M shrugged at my decision and did not understand it. She went off to bigger and greater pastures soon after I left. We did not stay in contact. The last question is the hardest-no, Pauline never knew how she had influenced me. But then again, she never tried to stay in contact with me after I left her newspaper. I never had the feeling that she ever cared. 😟 Thank you for finding my stories interesting. It’s been great having you here!

  3. I have worked plenty of jobs (in long-ago times, when women were used) that I wanted to quit, but I had to put food on the table. I have not often had the opportunity to up and quit because I didn’t like politics or attitudes. All those lousy jobs have led me to a job I love and in which I’m respected.

  4. Hmmm…. good question. I have never had a job, before what I do right now which is my profession, that was not a space holder for creating what I do today. Always it was working to support dance. Although some of those jobs were not dancing per se, they were teaching me how to run a business. I imagine everything that comes into my life is here to help me succeed. Making lemonade.

    • I like the idea of thinking that previous jobs were ‘space holders’ for our future ‘just-right’ job. I’ve had a lot of space holders – jobs that ultimately led me to full-time writing. Who knew???? But since our professions are dancing and writing, it makes sense that our previous jobs helped us become who/what we are now. And now, that lemonade tastes great!

  5. Once, while in college, I walked out on a job. I was working for a man who treated people as if they were his slaves. He was a complete slime ball. After working for him, I realized I could work for anyone. Oh…Mary Tyler Moore…loved that show!

  6. This reminds of that ever present struggle between heart and mind. Although I’ve never quit a job because of this struggle, I have certainly made decisions (that I dare say are much more consequential than a career move) that centered more on gut instinct and what was burning inside as opposed to the “logical” and “smart” thing to do. Our moral compasses are certainly a lot more influential than we are led to believe, aren’t they? 😉

    • I’d like to think that my moral compass is what leads my ‘gut reaction’ and my instinct to do the right thing. Or, at least the right thing for me. But you put it even better – that struggle between heart and mind. Makes life interesting…!

  7. What a great post. I’m glad you followed your intuition and had a partner in crime in proposing new ideas to the establishment. I never walked out on a job, but dealt with many differences. I found the women who were more resistant to change, were usually order than me and had to fight their way into the men’s world. I kind of viewed them as the transitory women who allowed for younger women to step in put forward new thoughts, ways and ideas.

    • That’s fascinating, Patricia. I’d like to think/hope that I’ve never been a ‘transitory’ woman. Change is good — most times. When I look at the changes in a woman’s world the past three decades, I applaud those of us who pushed through the boundaries.

  8. Loved your true story and your resolve. Your conscience is your guide and without it your heart isn’t in place to succeed. Congratulations, I am sure you were very young and you still remember your feelings. I sold Coca Cola on moral grounds, lost a lot of money, but when I see expanding jeans walking down the street, my conscience is clear.

    • You constantly amaze and delight me, Jeanette. What a story you have to tell – getting rid of Coca Cola on moral grounds. Now we just wish more people would stop drinking it, on healthy grounds! “May your conscience be your guide” – that was a saying long ago. Wish it came back to the forefront.

  9. What an interesting life you have had Mary Tyler Wight! We head home tomorrow….can’t wait to get the new puppy and bring her home!

  10. I would never allow myself to be imaginarily admonished by someone who eats cow tongue. Never!

    That said, I do admire how you stuck to your principles.

    You have spunk!

    (And now, in homage to MTM, please insert the infamous Lou Grant reply here.)

  11. When I came to the US many years ago I had several horrible jobs that I quit as soon as I could. I just wanted to go back home to my familiar surroundings. But oh how I loved the Mary Tylor Moore show.

    • Homesickness is a painful emotion. Yet you stood strong and kept on trying. I wonder if those ‘bad horrible’ jobs led you to your profession as an amazing cook? As MTM said ‘you’re gonna (and you did) make it after all.’ 😉

  12. Wonderful! I almost stood up and cheered right here in my office! I have not ever had to leave a job, but I have definitely walked out of a club meeting in which I was the only woman in a room full of men, two of whom (one being the presiding president) were arguing with each other at a quickly escalating decibel level and emotional pitch. I got up and left the room, stating that I was not going tolerate such inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. The president later apologized, and I think the others were stunned at my obvious displeasure and action. The meetings have been more civil ever since.

    • Elizabeth, I laughed out loud when I read your comment! Ironically, the first night I wanted to walk out of that same club meeting was a night we rode with you and John. If we had driven ourselves, we would have walked out that night. I am so glad you told them why you were walking out…I would probably have just left without speaking. Your way is much more effective in bringing about change.

    • How I love this scene of you, Elizabeth, stalking out and letting the immature powers-that-be know that you didn’t have to stay there for their little ‘show.’ I’m with Esther, I probably would have walked out, but not said anything. Thank goodness for strong women like you!!

  13. I had to stick with some jobs because I had bills to pay but some of the lessons I learned there helped me through other difficult positions later. Cheers to you, Pam, for being able to walk away.

    • I’ll admit, Esther, that I doubted my decision, but I did end up getting a much better job, in the profession I wanted all along, in writing and editing. I’m not sure the sales job helped me in my future jobs, except it taught me that I did have the ability to make choices. I love your comments here and with Elizabeth – THANK YOU for being here.

  14. I began to say I never left a job because of moral or any kind of reasons, but I remembered that I had indeed. The scariest thing in the world, but I lived and I see you did as well. Bravo for you. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. 😀

  15. yes…when my boss was hitting on me and i felt cornered and afraid. i was young and worked in human resources– the very place you would report
    allegations of sexual harassment!!! i quit and did mention the reason in my
    exit interview..whether it impacted him i don’t know. i learned a lot from that experience as you did, pam. always, always listen to your heart!!!

    • Thanks for sharing this experience, Anonymous. I’ve heard horror stories of women like you working in the very department that’s supposed to protect them from harassment. You were brave and strong to give an exit interview; but how frustrating that YOU’RE the one who had to quit.

  16. Yes, I have left a job when I felt my values were being compromised. I left and found a much better one!! Good for you. It is amazing, when you think back, at how certain people influenced us.

  17. Yes, I did! I left a great paying directorship after 18 years. I just couldn’t deal with the focus on money, money, money. I went back to school and got a job for a quarter the salary, doing something I valued. I never looked back 🙂

    • What an impressive change! I have several friends who did the same. One was a stockbroker who made so much money it made her sick. She felt empty, and she wasn’t impressed with her bosses, who seemed even emptier. So she quit and got her Masters in Education and now is a professor in that field. But, she’s part time because many colleges can’t afford ‘full time’ instructors, so she works for two different universities to make ends meet. Barely. But like you, she never looks back.

  18. I’ve left a job out of a moral decision and it was because they wanted ‘older people’ to leave so they could bring in ‘new blood’. ARGH! ‘Older people’ were those over fifty (which isn’t old at all!) They lost their corporate knowledge when the ‘oldies’ left and it serves them right 😉

    You made the right choice, Pam xxx

    • I’m standing on my chair cheering for you!! How many friends I have who lost their great positions once they reached the ripe ole age of 55. HORRORS. And not too many people stand up for them. You have the right idea now in your job – consult and work for yourself, right? If we can’t change attitudes, we get attitude and change ourselves. xo

  19. Yep, I walked out on a job with a newspaper. I wasn’t writing, I was in the darkroom. I did all the film developing and printing the images the paper used. You really have to be careful when you work in the ‘darkroom’. 🙂 I learned a lot but I knew when it was time to go elsewhere.

    • You’ve got a book in you there. “Lessons from the Darkroom.” I can see the screen credits for it now (of course, you’d be the screen writer for the movie). I think Julia Roberts could be in there? Alec Baldwin would be the creep in the darkroom… :-0

  20. This did make me smile, I can imagine you reluctantly agreeing and trying to justify it to yourself, and then gradually realising that you couldn’t. I’ve never quit a job on any kind of grounds other than moving on because of a better job, or moving away from the area. Good for you, I’m sure it would have niggled at you for ever more if you hadn’t left over this!

    • I think you’re right. But it wasn’t easy to leave the job. Even my 26-year-old nephew texted me after reading this post and said ‘but that was a clever line – Do It on the Road.’ Yes it was, but I didn’t want to be the one doing it!!!!! 🙂

  21. Hmm, I’ve never been faced with the dilemma that you faced during that period. I’m a great believer in going with the gut though and since it was telling you things weren’t right, quitting was a good move for you. I’m sure you must have felt some relief afterwards even though you required a new income. I hope you found one that sited you.
    xxx Massive Hugs Pamela xxx

  22. Good for you, Pamela. I didn’t see you taking in many more of those Wednesday lunches, anyway. Just a hunch.

    ************

    Those were different times. Mostly. In some ways. Maybe.

    Here’s part of Mary’s interview at the station.

    Lou: What religion are you?
    Mary: Mr. Grant, I don’t quite know how to say this, but you’re not allowed to ask that when someone’s applying for a job. It’s against the law.
    Lou: Wanna call a cop?
    Mary: No.
    Lou: Good. Would you think I was violating your civil rights if I asked if you’re married?
    Mary: Presbyterian.

    • And that dialogue is exactly why that show was a bestseller. Don’t we wish it could be revisited by those writing ‘comedy’ shows nowadays, where there’s little to laugh at ???? (Not that I want to sound like a fuddy-duddy…).
      Yeah, I was definitely done with those lunches. Took me years before I could order eggplant parmesan again. 🙂

  23. Wow – she had a nerve right?! Good on you for quitting! I once worked for a year as a classroom assistant and after school club leader in a primary school. I loved it, loved the kids, had some great colleagues…but seeing what was happening to mainstream education made me sick to the stomach. The crunch came when I was warned by a colleague to ‘be careful’ when a five year old girl, who’d been in school since 7.45am (breakfast club) and would be there until 6pm (afterschool club) came to me with tears in her eyes and arms wide open asking for a hug. Of course I hugged her, and sat her on my lap for a bit until she calmed down. Apparently, I should ‘be careful’ doing things like that. That was my cue… Love and HUGS(!!!) Harula xxx

    • Hugs should be on the curriculum. Sad sad. I have a good friend (used to babysit for me!) who began teaching in elementary school and got frustrated with the philosophy also. She quit and worked at a store for a decade! And spent a long time in a Buddhist temple, learning, quieting herself. She’s now back to teaching little ones, and seems to have found a way to make inroads to teaching with love and patience…and hugs. She gives us hope. xo

  24. Good for you for listening to your gut and saying no to something that didn’t feel good for you. I’ve so enjoyed reading about this time in your life… it was like watching a mini-series and wanting to know what happens next!

    • Thanks so much for following my career angst. My mini-series just gets odder with each job. I still haven’t figured out why, but I love where it is now…being a WRITER full time. Finally…

  25. I can totally relate! I worked in luxury retail for five years, and it was straight commission. I made a ridiculous amount of money in my early 20’s, which is the only reason I made it as long as I did. It was catty and we were all wearing expensive jewelry to serve as walking ads to entice the customers to buy the stuff. Every day I felt like I was on display, like the jewelry in the case.

    When the economy went downhill, I was making minimum wage at the same job. That’s when I woke up. I thought, if I can make less money doing something else I enjoy more, now is the time.

    • Isn’t it funny how misfortune (like being ‘downgraded’ financially in a job), can lead to self-actualization and a much better place? Perhaps the more difficult it is to say NO, the better we end up finding ourselves.

  26. Not sure why I didn’t read this. No excuses. I really liked the continuation of the “Perils of Pamela.” I definitely could see why you went along with it. . . To a breaking point! Great way to stand up for yourself and yes! I loved Mary Tyler Moore, her attitude, positive nature and wardrobe. This song will be in my head, “She’s going to make it after all!” This was a great ensemble cast, too. 🙂

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