Just under two months ago I received the news that I, along with 10 of my co-workers, would be laid off. Unlike most I was OK with this as I felt I’d learned an immense amount of knowledge and I had my compensation package to pay rent and bills while I looked for another job. Long story short is I got appendicitis, and later an offer to go back to work for one month. I took it and by the time I had recovered, I was just starting to look for another job. The company offered me a full-time position. No suspense, I took the job. But I’d like to delve into why, and the benefit of working in a challenging environment.Over the 7 months I was at the company pre-layoff I learned an encyclopedias worth of knowledge about sales. I had never held a real sales career, and honestly I found the work dull. Then, relatively early on in my career my manager/mentor was out sick for a few days and I got to delve into the sandbox and close my own accounts. Luckily there was an easy win in there (it certainly wasn’t skill) and I got a taste of what it feels like to sell somebody. It’s an invigorating experience. That taught me the value of sticking through the mundane to get the win, and when I get mad, lazy, bored, or distracted I remember the sale and it refocuses me. I also developed a skill-set, which I refer to as “Bassilisms” in honor of the man who taught me 90% of the skills. I learned that I have a natural aptitude for sales and I refined the first layer of skills.

Now in June, when deciding whether or not to come back I had to weigh many factors: skills I could learn, new experiences I could get, the money I could make, how much I would enjoy my job, etc. I ended up taking the job because I felt as part of a smaller team I would be well positioned to continue refining my skills and that I would have an opportunity to take on new responsibilities if I wanted them. A larger company would have paid me more, but it would have possessed more bureaucracy and would allow me less opportunity to learn new skills. As a 20 year old starting a career and with my goals not lying in working for a larger company, but rather successively smaller ones until I can start my own; I knew learning would be more valuable in the long run then taking the money now.

So the cost benefit of salary versus development has been on my mind a lot as of late and I think the mix is different for everyone. As luck would have it, a former classmate of mine has been tracking his internship in Taiwan via Facebook and eloquently records some interesting thoughts. A lot of them are simple and seem to be common sense, but that’s what most people need reiterated. Everyone knows how to dream, do you know how to systematically go about implementing those dreams? That’s what makes an all-star. Since Facebook is a closed system I will copy some of my favorites here with my reactions below. Alex, you should really write a blog – you have been a compelling writer at least since 2004 (and my guess is longer) and you’re only getting better. Share those thoughts!

Sitting there with the other two new-guys, it really dawned on me how much you get from the first impression. Quite a cliché statement, that, but none the less true. After hearing about the solitariness, the stress, the long hours, the ‘corporate’ side of law, it was very informative to talk to my mentor, Edison about the nature of his work. I ended up asking him straight up if he liked his job. He sorta grinned at me and rambled off a response about what part of the job makes a difference ect … then he advised me that law isn’t a happy profession, but you can still enjoy it.

This is almost word for word my feeling for my sales job. Any job that requires full attention to detail to win a small percentage of battles is usually boring. In law, most commas are going to be in the right place but miss the one wrong placement in the 100 page document and it’s a million dollar mistake. If you program NASA satellites, a missing comma could blow up a MGS satellite. In sales a 10% increase in method could double your sales, or more. Not the same stakes, but the same lesson — being able to take pride in the big win and value your own consistent effort is an important skill to master.

It’s not enough for an attorney to be satisfactory, anything less would be malpractice. Rather, a good attorney must spot future problems that could arise, as well.

Alex goes on to tell a story which I won’t repeat, as he gives an example of a poor choice made by an attorney at a law firm, and I’m not sure about the implied confidentiality of Facebook (it is a closed system). Probably far enough removed, but better safe than sorry. The message is a simple one, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Ben Franklin), but it’s one worth repeating. In sales you could waste months chasing a customer before realizing you never asked if they could afford it. Low and behold, they can’t. When you “eat what you kill” that inefficiency hurts. If you prepare completely and actively look for problems, they become a lot more manageable. Paraphrasing Alex’s summation of this experience, If you’re lost in a snow storm it’s nice to have your ass covered, but wouldn’t it have been better to have gotten a map and not deal with frostbitten toes?

Note, posted updated quotes July 10, RP’ed to RSS. Original written July 6th.