“You’re Fired!”

No one says that anymore — do they?

Have you ever been fired? If you have, it’s one of the most humiliating experiences you can go through in your career.

If it did occur, did anyone actually say, “you’re fired”? Most of my job experience is in the corporate world, where they try to have a “kinder and gentler” way of phrasing it. It’s usually something like, “we have to separate our employment with you.”

Oh gosh, I feel so much better now.

It may be a separation to them, but to you, you were just fired. Now you get to figure out how to put a positive spin on your previous employer's negative experience in your future interviews.

Always be suspicious when you’re called into a meeting with your supervisor, and you’re asked to bring your company-issued laptop and phone.

This is another of my most embarrassing stories that I want to get out of the way while I’m a young writer so I can write more about rainbows and unicorns.

This is just a guess, but I’m thinking the phrase “you’re fired” might be used more extensively among those in lower-paying or minimum wage jobs or in blue-collar jobs. Hell, I’ve even been fired from one of my blue-collar jobs. Fortunately for my ego, they used the phrase, “we have to terminate your employment with us.” But really, I was fired.

My degree is in journalism, and my major was advertising. It took five years to earn that degree, plus an additional year in graduate school, which I never finished. I wanted to go into advertising copywriting or design, but the money was in sales, and that’s where I went wrong.

The only time I climbed any career ladder was working at the University of Nebraska’s student newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan. While I took a position as a Sales Representative, it involved copy and design, as most of the small businesses to which we sold did not have the wherewithal to do that themselves. Three years later, I moved up to the Assistant Advertising Manager position, and finally, to the role of Advertising Manager for the last two years.

Not bad for a long-haired kid from California who was tripping on acid every weekend.

My first two real-life jobs were in print advertising sales in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was pretty hard to fuck up in Santa Fe, the land of mañana. Against my natural urges, I got married. But after living much of a bohemian lifestyle (low wages, high cost of living), we moved where I could make more money, that being Chicago.

The first job there was at a publisher’s representative firm. Magazine publishers nationwide hired these companies to have a presence where the advertising dollars were. But most of them were small and inconsequential, even shitty. Sales were few and far between.

After a few months, the Vice President “invited” me into his office, where he asked me to sell him a pencil on his desk. I was at an utter loss and walked out of his office with tail-between-legs. I think I was fired the next day.

Eight months went by before I was offered another position, which took us to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I wasn’t happy about moving to Chicago, so I was glad to get out.

At the time, Cedar Rapids was nicknamed “The City of Five Smells” after the Convention and Visitors Bureau named it “The City of Five Seasons,” with the fifth season being a time and a place to enjoy life. Gag me. It stunk! The five smells were burnt corn, overcooked oatmeal, the corn sweeteners plant, a hog processing facility, and the sewage plant/”Mount Trashmore” landfill built too close to the city.

Never mind. After two and one-half years, I was fired for sales performance below my peers. Back to Chicago we went, and another eight months of interviews until the next job was secured.

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

For nearly five years, I represented a niche trade magazine with five competitors serving the identical market. The reps from the other magazines had relationships with the advertisers for years before I came along. My territory was always last in market share. In the end, the publication folded. Some went to other positions within the company, and some didn’t.

Guess which group I was in?

I went to another publishing company and was terminated after four years because I was too expensive. WTF?

A start-up software company. Shit product. Fired after a year.

Was it all me? Could I really be that bad? Maybe it was self-sabotage, at which I excel. Maybe it was my ex-wife, who would always pick fights with me on the phone which the whole office would hear. Bad luck? Circumstances? It was a combination plate with extra cheese on the tacos, please.

Good fortune came when I switched industries and was hired by a major airline in a sales capacity. Other than the three, let’s call them nervous breakdowns, that I had, my performance was always above average. When the great recession began to wrack the economy, the airline industry was one of the first to feel it, and I was involuntarily furloughed after eleven years.

The hotel business is sort of like the airline business, so that’s where I went next. They weren’t as similar as I expected, so I was a bit hesitant to make my first sales calls when my supervisor said, “just get out there and take a big shit!” It turns out I did pretty well and was then offered a position at another hotel company for a lot more money. Shortly into it, I discovered my boss was Miranda Priestly’s evil twin sister from The Devil Wears Prada. She-Devil fired me after 11 months.

Next up: one and one-half years with a travel management company. Fired.

How much longer until retirement?

The circumstances surrounding my final two jobs were similar. Both involved drugs and alcohol.

In the first incident, I was traveling with two fractured ribs. I normally have a very high tolerance to drugs, and mixing pain killers with alcohol had never posed a problem. Perhaps flying overseas at 39,000 feet produced a different effect. Too bad it was on my own company’s plane.

Finally, my last job (ever — I think) was with another major airline at the Albuquerque Sunport. (No, that’s not a typo.) My shift started at 4:00 am. A colleague said that I smelled like alcohol. I’d not had a drink since 9:00 the previous evening, and I was not drunk. Word got to the supervisor, and I was then driven to a lab where I had to submit to a breathalyzer and urine test.

Days later, I got a call from my supervisor. The breathalyzer read 0.00, which I knew because I hadn’t been drinking at 4 in the morning before work! However, it was noted that THC was found in my urine sample, and they would have to terminate my employment with the company.

And that, my friends, is my illustrious career. What are the lessons here?

  • Don’t do what you don’t like doing. I was not too fond of sales.
  • Make sure you have the acumen for what you want to do.
  • Always have a support system/network behind you.
  • Do what you will with alcohol and drugs. Just know the risks.
  • Know that there is always another gig around the corner.

I’m now doing what I’ve always wanted to do — write. Maybe I’ll be shitty at it. But at least I can’t be fired.

My life in the context of 20th-century history and pop culture — infused with a dose of fun (where appropriate!) More to come when I get my sea legs on here.

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