13 June 2024

My Journey Since Graduation [Part 2]


My Job After College

After my starting date got delayed [twice], I began training at a fantastic company with the mutual understanding [for real this time] that we didn’t know if the necessary licenses would be approved by every state that I needed to get licensed in. Therefore, it wasn’t guaranteed that I would be able to keep the job permanently; if any licenses were denied, they would be forced to let me go. I was given only a week to pass the licensing exam that has a 66% national pass rate, which seemed like a bad deal (I was convinced of this when a co-worker said to someone on our team: “Man, doesn’t it seem like he’s getting shafted?!”) but I got an extension for two days which allowed me to pass the darned thing in my first try. As the weeks went by,  I started taking some state exams in order to apply for the state licenses. I started the job at the end of October and we wouldn’t know about all the licenses until mid-January, which meant that I would at least gain some solid income and work experience.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and let me just tell you:  life is GOOD.
I’m making $28.85/hr, barely even allowed to work over 40hrs and I am free to work afternoons or weekends to fill those 40hrs, the people are awesome, customers are [mostly] great… although one of them called me a “condescending asshole” (how the hell did she know me so well after just one phone call?! She’s good!)… there’s an endless supply of fruits, juices, sodas, cheese sticks and snacks to eat at work, and I have a free gym membership to the fancy version of Lifetime Fitness where even the showers provide everything from shampoo and conditioner to disposable razors and Q-tips.

In short: I am making money without even having to spend it.

~Main Stage~
~Main Stage~

Have I mentioned the free Monday lunches? O yeah. We’ve had Panera, Fazoli’s, Mexican food, hot dogs…. we even had a day where they brought Chipotle and we got to make our own burrito/bowl. Yes, that means, chicken and steak with guacamole if that’s what your heart desires. And the Christmas Party? Dear. Lord. They seriously went all-out (as they always do, apparently). The theme was Great Gatsby, and boy, did it live up to it. Some people estimated that the company spent about a million dollars on the party. They had an endless array of ice sculptures, the party host was a relatively famous comedian (Rob Riggle) and they apparently flew in every employee from around the country… so it wouldn’t surprise me if it really did cost that much.

Go ahead, snag a beer!
Go ahead, snag a beer!

When I say that this is the best job that you wouldn’t dream-up after college, I mean that I don’t know anyone who works at a place like this… I don’t even think I know anyone who knows anyone, for that matter.

In case you’re wondering, this is a sales position. Selling mortgages. However, there is no cold-calling, our salary is based on the average earnings of their commission-only employees, and none of the people we work with are cut-throat types that let you fail or step all over you on their personal way to success.
All of this means that my backup plan of going to grad school in Europe is on hold for a few years. I mean, there’s no reason to sacrifice all this right now in order to pay for school. Furthermore, I’m really trying to focus on being good at my job, and the early admission deadline for a lot of the grad programs I’m interested in is November 18th (a couple of weeks after my first day).  The way I see it, I can distract myself with Plan B, or I can keep Plan A alive at all costs and make sure that there isn’t a single state who is going to deny my license for any reason. After all, the only thing that’s going to keep me from keeping this job is if a license gets denied. So if I really want to keep this job [and I do] all I gotta do is stay two steps ahead of every state so that they don’t have a reason to deny my license application.

Fast-forward a few weeks and the person in charge of my licensing has told me “You are so on top of it, it’s not even funny.”
I have documents they don’t even know about and I provide them before they even ask. To this day, not a single license has caused me trouble to acquire, so it looks like things are going to be alright; I can finally focus on my job and start my career at a fantastic company with some fantastic people.
Things can only go up from here.

New Years 2014

We had New Years off (like everyone, duh), so I showed up to work on January 2nd and the moment I sat at my desk,  the HR person I knew best came up to me. At that exact moment, I had an incoming call from an “unknown number” which I immediately recognized as my German friend calling to say Happy New Year (because we hadn’t talked the day before and we always call each other on New Years). But I understood things were serious with HR when she said “can you call them back later” (notice the lack of question mark) and she asked me to follow her.

When I got to the Branch Manager’s office, I saw her [Branch Manager], my trainer, my team lead, and the HR girl that walked in with me…these are all the management people who knew me best, and I will never forget their faces or the way they behaved. It’s one of those unforgettable life moments when everything makes perfect sense and you reach the inevitable conclusion that shit is about to hit the fan, hard, and there isn’t a single damn thing that you can do about it.

The Branch Manager quickly said this wasn’t going to be an easy conversation, which immediately confirmed all of my fears and suspicions.
I had been with the company for two months, but I had only been licensed (i.e. able to do my job) for one month. This was the very first day of the second month. And yet, I was told that my numbers were nowhere near where they should be and according to my trainer there was “nothing he could do” to coach me after listening to tape of my sales calls.
Now, these were all good people and I will always stand by that. I only wish good things to every single one of them but I had some suspicions about potential “business decisions” that were more based on my sponsorship than my performance. From what I’d seen, my numbers were comparable to the people who had been there a whole month longer than I had. I know this because we had actually talked about the numbers on New Years’s Eve, which was the last day of the month and I had also met with my team leader two weeks earlier who said that it wasn’t fair to compare my performance with others that had been there for much longer.
Nonetheless, they had made their decision. And that’s when reality kicked in: I got fired from my very first job after college, a dream job, because apparently I sucked at it so much that there was nothing they could do to help me be good at talking to people.

“How am I going to find another job that will immediately sponsor me in the remaining 35 days?”

Adding to that discouragement, was the fact that I started this job on day 55 of my OPT, which means that it took me 125+ days to find the job that I just got fired from. Well, I suppose it’s a good thing that I end up having to read so much law in order to try to save my own ass, because I figured out that if I volunteered 20+ hrs in something related to my studies, it would legally count as being employed. Therefore I  began to volunteer almost immediately with a small International Relations organization and with the Mexican Consulate. Legally, the volunteer work needed to be ‘related to my area of study’ which means it should somehow relate to Economics and/or Philosophy. As I mentioned, these majors don’t really lead to a specific job title like “accountant” or “engineer” but on the flip-side of that, if you know how to argue you can probably make a case for a lot of jobs relating to these majors. Thank god philosophy is all about debates and I had to learn how to be logical and efficient with my arguments because if you really want to debate with an argumentative Philo major that  International Relations isn’t related to Econ&Philo, especially for a guy who is trilingual, then my response to you is this (except you can substitute “daughter” with “argument”).

So that was my next step. Volunteer Work. Unpaid volunteer work. I went from about $3,500 a month (post-tax) to a whopping $0 per year. If you’re thinking “that’s what you get for talking all that shit about your money” then touché, believe me when I say I learned that lesson very quickly after I got fired. Going from rags to riches back to rags really does a number on a person and makes you realize how messed up our culture is because the amount of money you make correlates quite highly with your self-esteem because of how others perceive you, which I could see before but it’s is so fucked up in my eyes now.
[Besides, it’s not like I was showing off any money considering this is probably the first time most of my friends hear about how much I actually made/lost].
I am not one to cry and seriously complain about things to other people, but after I lost that job I can’t tell you how many times I heard friends say “Shit man, you are getting so fucked over” or “this makes all my problems seem like nothing.”

How bad was it? Let’s review the facts:
-I got fired from my job after just one month of actually doing work because I royally sucked at it
-I still needed a $2,000+ sponsorship from an employer at a time when unemployment was through the roof
-I had roughly 35 days to find a job that would sponsor me or else my choices were:
a) become illegal
b) move back to a country I’ve only visited twice since I was 12 years old

(Sidenote: the reason we don’t go back to visit much is because last time we left the U.S., the immigration officer in Mexico denied my mom’s three-year visa after it had already been approved. The lady gave my mom only a one-year visa saying “you’re asking for a work visa, but it looks to me like you’re trying to immigrate, since you’ve only been back to Mexico once in 8 years”… Fair point, and believe me when I say I understand the argument to a certain level, but this comment just screams we don’t want you to immigrate to our country, we just want you to work for us and get out when we don’t need/want you.
Racist people might love this; educated people, hopefully not.

And you know the worst part about the whole deal? It’s not even losing the money I was making. It’s not the fact that I was likely fired from a great company for pure business reasons. No. I can live with that. But imagine this: my parents have been trying to resolve my legal situation for years. My mom and brother are permanent residents and I barely missed out because it took too long to process the paperwork, so my mom feels responsible for the fact that I am in this situation. Imagine how it felt to tell them “no, mom, looks like I am not going to be keeping this job and I am not going to get a work visa for the next three years, so despite your hardest efforts [and mine], I’m back to a shit situation that you cannot do anything about.”
I had a panic attack and cried on the phone with two friends for half an hour before I gathered the guts to tell my parents the night I lost my job.

Back to my story.

I guess it looks like I’m going to be volunteering for a bit while everyone else happily begins their career and joins the ‘real world’. It’s a good thing I don’t really care much for dating, because you can imagine the sort of number this plays on any sort of dating life that someone in my position might want to have…. “OMG, 1) you got fired from your job because you sucked at it, 2) you don’t earn any money volunteering AND 3) you live with your parents?! MARRY ME NOW!”
And here’s the irony: have you seen the movie The Proposal? Getting legitimately married could be a way to solve all of my problems, but that is a very complicated process as well, and if you’re one of my close friends you already know that I was the one who shut that idea down from the very beginning when someone offered it.

In order to transition to the last part of my story, I will remind you that at this point in my life I feel like I have gotten good at making the best out of any shitty situation. And I mean very good. So I didn’t exactly sit here and ask the band from the Titanic to start playing….
[If you actually know me, you know that Celine Dion is what is actually going to start playing 😉 ]

Click for Part 3

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