I was lucky to get shit-canned. Let’s start there. Thank god someone recognized that I, while happy and motivated on the surface, was just going through the motions. Imagine the person who puts in their two week’s notice and still shows up to the office every day and does the job. Their heart clearly isn’t in it, and they have no incentive other than not burning bridges and looking like a piece of shit. That was kind of me, only replace two weeks with about two years.
Here’s a little backstory: I took the LSAT during my last year of college. That works for a lot of people, but unfortunately for me, I squeezed every last ounce of party out of that year. And it showed. I got my score back, and while I didn’t completely soil the dad jeans I was undoubtedly wearing during that time of my life, I did post a remarkably average score. Average enough for me to put law school on the back-burner and sellout for the almighty dollar. Full bennies and matching, too.
I decided to become a recruiter, or a headhunter if you want to be a dick about it. If you’ve ever posted your resume to a job board, you know who these people are all too well. Like any profession, there’s the good and the bad. For every good company, there are three genuine turd-slingers who don’t give a fuck about you, your career, or your happiness. They’ll help you land a gig and never talk to you again. Just another notch on their Jos A. Banks belt.
Fortunately, that’s not where I ended up. My old company actively took steps to set themselves apart from the riffraff. They hired kids out of school who were either hot, social, or ex-athletes. Check, check and check.
The job came natural to me. Once I got over the hump of learning the IT jargon (shouts to my .NET developers), it was all a numbers game. Make calls, take people to lunch, ask for referrals, stay in touch, rinse and repeat. I was eating PF Chang’s twice a week because Kung Pao is life. I was a fixture at the Brooks Brother’s outlet because you ain’t ballin’ unless you’re wearing a non-iron fit, point collar dress shirt every day. It was dope. Life was one big “Country Grammar” video shoot, and I was a St. Lunatic.
But talent and good looks only get you so far in the world, and I’d learn that the hard way.
You don’t realize that you’ve checked out after it’s too late. Checked out meaning done. Going through the motions. Collecting a paycheck. The thrill of firing up my start song after landing one of my guys a new gig with a client? No where to be found. That was a red flag that never caught my attention. And for those wondering, my start song was “I Get Money” by 50 Cent because, of course it was.
I was in weird place in 2008. This will sound all too familiar, but I was powering through hangovers like Sean Spicer powers through a presser. Amazing stuff. Trolling around the Stockyards in Fort Worth on a Sunday night, only to be at my desk by 7:15 a.m. on a Monday. Just typing that made me cringe. I could chalk it up to being young and stupid, but that’s a cop-out. Who goes that hard on a work night? People who aren’t focused. Every now and then? That’s fine. I’d even call it normal. But routinely going hard all weekend, and even on some weeknights, to the point that you’re feeling it on Tuesday is reckless.
I didn’t realize it, but I didn’t give a fuck. I was doing well enough to be put into the sales training program while operating at what I imagine was 80 percent, but deep down, I didn’t even want to sell. I hate how off-brand that is, but it’s true. I just wanted the prestige. Car allowance? Hit me with it. Client meetings? Let’s shake some fucking hands. Telling people I’m a sales guy as opposed to a recruiter? I need that in my life. But that never happened.
You may not remember this because you were too young and had no clue what a 401K was, or you may have blocked it out because of how life-altering it was, but ’08 was a baaaad year for the economy. Remember that? I’ll save the details for a yet to be named finance podcast, but it’s no coincidence the market collapsed in the same year that You Don’t Mess With The Zohan and The Love Guru dropped. Can’t be. Being a couple years removed from school, I had no clue what was happening or the impact it would have on my career. Some scholars say I was willfully blind to the situation, but history will never know. In retrospect, the writing was on the wall that there’d be major cuts made.
A company wide conference call with the President of the company, and numerous pep talks from our office’s director demanding that we not get bogged down by what was happening elsewhere in the economy. I have to admit, they handled it well. I knew the business was cyclical and that cuts were a possibility, but me? I was in my early-twenties and on my way to sipping good scotch with Brasky at the bar while wearing a houndstooth jacket. That was my mindset.
Then January 2009 happened, and people started to drop. It was surreal seeing people disappear. After the third or fourth person in-house was let go, I just assumed I was safe. Then Monday morning happened, and I got a calendar invite from our director for a 5 p.m. meeting in his office. Alright – in hindsight, I should’ve known what that meant. But I was a kid, so cut me a little slack. I was so naive that I joked with multiple members of the team that it might be the last time they saw me. Good one, dumbass.
I sat in his office for well over an hour after he hit me with it. It was emotional. I held back tears, and I think he did too, and now this feels like I’m writing about a breakup which is technically true, but please stay with me on this. He knew my heart wasn’t in the job, and after that meeting, it finally became painfully evident to me. Everyone in the office knew my law school aspirations, and they took a chance bringing me in knowing that I still had a just okay LSAT score and law school as a safety net. An expensive safety net that cost me some hair up top, but a safety net nonetheless.
Now here’s the inspirational part. I’m better for it. Practicing law was always my dream, and failing like I did was the kick to the dick that I needed to make that happen. It didn’t happen overnight, though. The grieving process was fairly extensive. I thought about the senior people I worked with who probably knew it was going to happen but never said a word. For a while, it wasn’t business, it was personal. But after a few months, and hearing stories of others who got canned shortly after me, I realized how lucky I was. For some, that was there entire livelihood and social scene. But me? I had good friends there, but recruiting wasn’t life. I didn’t have a mortgage to pay, or a family that depended on me.
I was just a kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do.
If you take anything away from this, other than the fact that PF Chang’s is the GOAT, let it be that very few people know what the hell they want to do out of college. Failing is part of the game. I implore you to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re passionate about what you’re doing. You’ll be better for it. .
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