Do you find yourself working in the same type of position over and over? Are you trying to branch into a new field, but the job opportunities keep pulling you back to yet another sales gig? You’re in the right place.


As a creative, I’ve found myself flitting from job to job as I found my footing. Different scenery would keep my interest for a short time until I found that I was really just making lateral move after lateral move. I had to break the cycle, but didn’t know where to start.


Turns out all of the jobs had taught me something here or there and I needed to overhaul my thinking as far as what I would apply for the next time around. Below are 5 of the best lessons that I learned from my old jobs that helped me pave the way to my current life now. I hope they are just as helpful for you and your search!




Lesson #1:

100% Commission Means $0 Some Days


100% Commission means $0 some days…and other days you may end up with a few sales. Don’t worry – it probably isn’t you or your sales skills holding you back. It is more than likely that the company is out of touch with the product or service it is selling or the company is out of touch with who they are attempting to sell to.


My first job out of college was as a door-to-door sales representative for a national Cable/Internet/Phone bundle brand. For two weeks, I schlepped in 90+ degree weather knocking on doors — in the same neighborhoods that I’d been warned not to go my entire life — where fences are more of a suggestion to the area dogs and feral cats that roam around freely.


The shift was 11am-8pm and the promise of $40 commission per sale paired with the nightly social activities made me forget that I was literally making $0 and, consequently, running my car into the ground as I drove up to an hour away from the office. No – mileage was not covered.


There are so many jobs out there and each one has its place in society, but 100% Commission – Based jobs are such a tough way to go about getting a steady paycheck. Jobs in this category will usually let you “ride along” to see what it is like (because they know how terrible it is), they usually do not have an office or desk for you considering you are traveling 80-90% of the time, and they hype up buzzwords from business advice columns to get you to take more responsibility for whether or not you sell.


Jobs like this are a high pressure, low reward situation. Sure you could make money, but do you really want to rely on a job that will maybe pay your bills next month or put your efforts towards something that will definitely pay you for the hours or work that you put in at the office?


As you can probably gather, this was not a job fit for my interests and, due to a file mix-up, I never received payment until months later.



Lesson #2: The Perks Ain’t Free and Ya’ll Ain’t Friends – “The Fake Family”


The current job climate has many companies scrambling to keep their workers.


In the past, I’ve worked in call centers and in sales positions to make good money fast. Both of these types of career tracks have huge turnover rates – people quit constantly! One way that they ensure employees will stick around is by offering higher than average pay for the area, having regular contests, offering free merchandise or perks, and, most commonly, by emphasizing teamwork and social activities outside of the office.


All of these things are designed to make you stay.


Unfortunately, many call centers and corporate offices fail to see that the reason employees quit (and usually rather dramatically) is due to the fact that the standards and stipulations which their job performance and pay is determined with are constantly changing.


Imagine your teacher gives you a rubric for a project, you follow every instruction perfectly, turn it in, and then the grade comes back as a “C” with a NEW rubric stapled to it.


This is life in sales. Do you want to get promoted for more pay and perks? Duh – who doesn’t? Is it possible in the short timeframes that they advertise? Not for the Average Joe or Joanna who may have other aspirations. If your heart is not invested, it just isn’t going to work out.


Learn what you can, save up, and move on.


One call center that I worked at had an incredible holiday party with cash prizes, vacations, and a grand prize of a $20,000 car every year. I just remember walking in to the grand ballroom in my first designer dress and seeing the beautiful sedan sitting in the middle of the dance floor in all its glory. My mind was blown…and I stayed for another year and a half! So their tactics totally worked on me. The dream of getting a free car, the bonuses, the sales rewards, and the free vacations were calling to my soul.


Another thing that positions like this will do to ensure people stick around longer is by creating a learning curriculum which is in a classroom setting. This gives a sense of camaraderie while in training. From there, small teams are created so you are surrounded by co-workers who you are very comfortable around and, inherently, you feel a sense of actual pride when you or your teammates succeed.


When someone quits it is like a scene from an old Mafia movie; everyone is so dramatic about where the quitter went, what they’re doing now, if they had a job lined up, why they left all this work for the team to clean up, and if the stuff on their desk is up for grabs. Even with all of the drama surrounding a departure – the quitter is rarely ever spoken to again. After months of after-work happy hours the outsider is suddenly not invited. Co-workers blame it on schedule conflicts, or something along those lines, but realistically – the only thing holding the team together is the job itself.


This is what I refer to as “The Fake Family.” It stings the first time, but it makes it easy to see who is truly your friend. I have a handful of old co-workers that I keep up with, so this is not to say that everyone is fake.


The moral of this story is to recognize that the company attempted to artificially create a bond between you and your co-workers as a means to make you stay. Love the job? Great, but avoid staying in a job that is wrong for you solely to keep your “friends.”

Lesson #3:

Salaries Can Hurt You


As alluded to in my wrap up of Option B: Getting Paid Less than You Are Worth in the Field of Your Dreams, a salary is a double-edged sword. Sure, you know how much you will receive from paycheck to paycheck, but any added hours are chipping away at the profitability of that annual salary. If you are working 35-45hrs on your salary, great! If you are working overtime regularly, are missing out on family obligations, and are used for other departments without the promise of negotiation, your salary and the job that comes with it is just a leash.


Always ensure that you and your superiors are clear on what tasks your salary is covering so that in the event that new responsibilities are thrust upon you, you can look back at documentation and compare your new tasks to the contract or offer letter that you previously agreed to.


Nervous about asking your superior for a raise? Don’t be. As long as you have been there for 6 months or more, added responsibilities are valid reasons to call a meeting. It does not have to be so stuffy, make it conversational and light. Think of this from the boss’ perspective: it is cheaper to give you an extra $0.25-$1/hr than it is to get another employee at minimum wage or higher to do the tasks that you’ve taken on.



Job #1

Annual Salary: $32,000

Hourly Wage: $15.38 (40 Hours/Week, 52 Weeks)

Adjusted Wage: $10.26 (60 Hours/Week, 52 Weeks)

Job #2

Annual Wages: $27,040 (40 Hours/Week, 52 Weeks)

More Hours: $32,110 (45 Hours/Week, 52 Weeks)*

Even More Hours: $47,320 (60 Hours/Week, 52 Weeks)*

Beginning Hourly Wage: $13

*Overtime: $19.50/Hour


If you are okay with working 60 hours per week, working a job with overtime opportunities for hourly workers could be a better option than a salary with mounting responsibilities and no additional pay. Of course please be mindful of any health benefits or any other perks you may receive.


For the same amount of labor hours, you could be making $47,320 per year with 60 hour work weeks at $13/hr and overtime at time-and-a-half. Want fewer hours? At just an extra hour of work per day in the hourly position, you’re still making more than your salaried position in this example.


Lesson #4:

A Little Humility (and a Lot of Work) Can Help You


There came a time in my professional life that I had to just sit down and admit that I didn’t know it all. 


My degree only took me so far, my chosen industry in my hometown was next to non-existent, and the only job offers with benefits were customer service gigs that I just had no interest in. I saw all of the great work and success that my friends in Graphic Design and Marketing fields were having and I was tired of living in a constant state of FOMO.


So, I went back to school to get certified in the skills that I had acquired since graduation, and took advantage of Lynda.com courses and the Google AdWords and Analytics free certifications to make myself more marketable.


I also picked up an unpaid internship in digital marketing and content marketing that I worked on remotely for a couple hours a week and that actually morphed into a great side gig with actual pay!


You need to gear up to be a life long learner in order to remain competitive in your own field and to remain competitive in the job you are in at the moment.


The more you know, the further you can go!



Lesson #5:

Knowing What You Don’t Want is JUST as Important as What You Do


I wish that I could shout this from the rooftops!


So many friends and co-workers of mine have come to me talking about where they are in relation to where they want to be professionally and the general consensus is that they just don’t know what to do next.


Even if you don’t know what you want to do for the next 30 or so years, you know what you don’t want to do.


You know: 

  • which personalities you excel in working under and those that you don’t
  • if you are a better leader than follower
  • if you work better as an individual or with a team
  • whether you excel while working with headphones…or if you are comfortable with distractions
  • if you like to work on the same tasks over and over or if you are more interested in a job with variety


The bottom line is, even if you don’t know what your next job title may be, you already know the things that you should be looking for and the questions that you should be asking during your job search.



I hope these lessons bring you some clarity or at least get you thinking about your next moves in your career. I’ve certainly learned a lot and these tips just scratch the surface. Treat each new experience as an opportunity to grow and you will be just fine!





Loved the article? Check out my recent post about what tips you can use from your 9-5 in starting and running your own business: CLICK HERE





I’m Rachel–join me as I discuss business tips and advice for building a successful, creative small business. With a background in Fashion, Graphic Design, and Marketing, I am ready to share my insight from the corporate world to help you build a business – and a life – that you love.





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