Prior to my well documented mental breakdown back in 2017, I had been working as part of a telemarketing team for a local company. Although this particular company didn’t call it telemarketing. They referred to our department as ‘Business Development’ and I was known as the ‘Business Development Team Leader.’ A title that sounded quite important and should have been worthy of a half-decent yearly salary. But it was neither of those things. I was a glorified telemarketing bod scraping little more than minimum wage who was actively encouraged to grass my colleagues up for making the most trivial of mistakes and pick holes in how they were doing their own jobs, all the while still grinding away on the phones and trying to sell the dream of some massively over-rated equipment with a ridiculously high markup to those poor, hapless souls that fell for the absolute flannel that we were encouraged to feed them.
That was the real bread and butter of the job you see. Reaching out to businesses within an area and pestering the poor reception staff – or ‘Gatekeepers’ as we knew them – into letting us bother the company directors for a few minutes and encouraging them to accept the offer of a ‘Complimentary site assessment’. This generally involved a sales-person going to their business premises, critisising their existing equipment and offering to replace it with an overblown, ludicrously priced replacement system that they probably didn’t need and more than likely didn’t want. But that’s very much the nature of any sales business I guess. A certain degree of dishonesty will always be utilised in order to get a potential fish to bite.
Anyone who has spent any time working in telemarketing will know just how monotonous the job itself actually is. We were all set a weekly target of appointments that we had to try and arrange, with the promise of an extra financial incentive to entice us into doing so. But this was easier said than done. It was regularly drilled into us that telemarketing was ‘A numbers game’ and that if we put in 100+ calls a day we should have no problem hitting our targets. But when at least 85% of the calls you made were resulting in hard-stuck receptionists who wouldn’t let you through for love nor money – or voicemail boxes that the owner never bothered to respond to – your chances of success became even slimmer.
Then of course there was the constant drain the whole process had on my own fragile state of mind. No matter how much of a positive person you might be, spending 7 hours a day staring at an Excel spreadsheet of business names and telephone numbers and being faced with constant rejection is bound to bring your mood crashing down. I found myself questioning my own sanity most days when I was still in the job. A combination of constant rejection, unrealistic targets and the triviality of small office politics that seemed to be rife within that particular company – a lot of which regularly got thrown my way – it’s not suprising really that one day my fragile mind declared that enough was enough and waved a little white flag of submission.
That’s not to say I’m not grateful for the experience I gained from my three years working in telemarketing. Firstly, being forced to spend several hours a day making outbound calls helped me to overcome my telephone anxiety, which was one of the main reasons that I went for the job in the first place. But more importantly, my time working in such a thankless, tedious role and my subsequent breakdown encouraged me to really take stock of where my life was heading. My time spent in recovery made me realise my love for creative writing – for sharing my life experiences through the written word – and above all, it made me come to realise that I’m through with striving for a minimum wage while a group of shareholders roll around in the profits.
I’ll be my own boss. I’ll make my own money doing something that I genuinely enjoy. But I’ll never forget what I had to go through in order to get there.