“Why sales?” The national sales manager at the prestigious university press wanted to know. He sat across from me at the round table in this tiny window-less meeting room next to a senior sales rep.

I’d expected this question. Prepared for it. Of course they were going to ask why an ESL teacher suddenly wanted a job in sales.

The truth of the matter is that I didn’t. Well, I didn’t want a job in sales any more than I wanted a job in marketing, rights or editing. I was applying to anywhere that would take me. I wanted a job that could help pay the bills, a job that had medical benefits, concrete hours and vacation pay. This particular sales job even came with a company car. That’s why sales. But I couldn’t say that.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’m a typical sales person,” I conceded, lowering my gaze and smoothing the arm of my red cardigan. “I don’t think I could sell just anything to just anyone. And I wouldn’t want to. But I do think I could sell textbooks.”

“Why?”

“Because I know teachers. And I know students. And I care about education. I care about pairing the right people with the right materials. I care about improving classrooms across the country, helping the next generation learn in the most effective way possible,” I explained, looking at each of them in the eye to show my conviction.

The manager and the senior sales rep exchanged a glance, and I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track or not. The next question that came my way was, “what qualities do you think make a good salesperson?”

I’d prepared for this question too. In attempt to not sound repetitive, I played to my storytelling strengths. “The best salesperson I know is my mother. She sells expensive face cream in a very over-saturated market. She does a great job because she’s always selling. Even to me. If I tell her I have dry skin, a pimple, a burn, a cat scratch, a stomachache, her answer is unvaryingly consistent. ‘Use the cream,’ she tells me. Not because she’s trying to make a sale but because she genuinely believes in her product. That’s what makes a great salesperson. Passion and dedication to whatever you’re selling.”

“What are you most proud of?”

Suddenly my mind went blank. This particular question I hadn’t been expecting. I forgot about my successful teaching career, my published short stories, my nearly perfect grades, I forgot about all of it. I faltered. Expended all my energy on stopping my right leg from shaking and rattling the table. I forced myself to think. Think. There had to be something I was proud of.

“I guess I’m most proud of my life in general,” I finally shrugged. I knew it sounded like a copout, but a zen-like wave of self-acceptance was creeping up on me out of nowhere. Somehow, I knew I would be okay even if I didn’t get this particular job. And I was proud of that. “I’m proud of my beautiful apartment in the city. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked to get everything I have. I’m happy, and I’m proud of myself for taking the right steps to get exactly where I am in life right now. I’m in a good place.”

The sales manager and rep nodded along silently.

After a few more expected questions, another one threw me for a loop. The senior sales rep requested I tell him about a time I had to choose between work and my personal life. Before I knew it, I was telling him all about living in Tolbon. About commuting for three hours downtown in the snow to work for 3.5 hours because I was a new teacher that was so grateful to even have a job. Biting softly on my lower lip, I murmured more to myself then to them, “I knew I couldn’t keep doing it.”

“So what ended up happening?” He prodded. I shut my eyes and paused for extreme dramatic effect.

“I crashed my car.” I proclaimed, before realizing just seconds too late that I was interviewing for a position with a company car that involved tons of commuting. I sped ahead, “and that was the last straw. I moved downtown, just walking distance from the school.”

Another glance between the manager and the sales rep. I nervously twirled the ends of my hair.

The last question they posed was, “on a scale of 1-10, how important is money to you?”

“8,” I heard myself decide aloud before I could even weigh out the impact of that answer. Maybe it was too high, maybe it would sound too greedy, but it was definitely honest. If money wasn’t important, then I wouldn’t be leaving my dream job to go into sales.

Somehow, I got the job. Not the sales rep job with the car, of course, not at first. I had no sales experience and a bad driving record. I didn’t blame them. I started as a sales assistant at the academic press, and within 8 weeks, I was promoted to my new sales rep dream job.

2019

24 thoughts on “The Academic Press

  1. Congratulations, Alexis! No doubt those execs saw a circumspect woman with positive attributes that would serve her well no matter the position. So glad they recognized what you had to offer and presented you with that dream job!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Gosh, you put my interviewing skills to shame (I admit, I’m not great at interviews)! Such awesome and unique answers to the questions thrown at you: I love that your answers are in storytelling format, as they really make your strengths and weaknesses all the more personable and relatable. You deserved getting that job, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny, I thought this was a story about one of my most awkward interviews. I felt really out of my depth in this one! I remember calling my mom from the car telling her I had no idea how it just went.

      Glad to hear you’re content at your job, such a great feeling 🙂

      Like

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