July 2005. Just before the London bombings, before the recession and when I was fresh out of university (if you overlook the 6 months of fruitless jobseeking) I was trying my hand at media sales at The World's Fair, a publishing house in Oldham. It was an ill-suited job, and not one I particularly enjoyed at all. Being told no from hundreds of wholesalers who aren't interested in your ad space because of the credit crunch, or whatever other excuse they could muster, was awful. Some people can handle that kinda thing. Not me.
It was interesting, though, being around people who thrived off that environment. When you've just spent nearly 7 years studying media, you generally don't meet that many sales-type people. It's a completely different character- vain, competitive, thick-skinned, a little arrogant, but overall incredibly confident- not the type of person who'd be happy nonchalantly sitting behind a camera all day, or hidden away in solitude on an Avid edit suite. (Most of the people I was at uni with were that type.) I was neither of those types of person, admittedly, but I didn't have a clue what kind of person I was at all back then- hence finding myself in a sales job.
The manager would have frequent meetings with me because, despite phoning and phoning all day, I just couldn't sell. My concern, she'd say, is that this job just isn't for you.
At the time, I couldn't get my head around it. Previously I'd been sacked from a few jobs due to my memory- not being able to work a till, or memorise restaurant table layouts. But this time, it was purely character. I just wasn't the selling, persuasive type.
This is what the manager made clear to me. Then, I asked, what was? What should I be doing if not sales?
You tell me, she asked. What is it you've always wanted to be?
Screenwriter, I replied without a second's hesitation.
Is this job getting you any closer to that?
I wouldn't have a clue how to do that, she said. I wouldn't know how to write a screenplay. But what I do know how to do is to sell, and I consider myself to be able to do it very well.
So I left. Or, I was being pushed, so I jumped. Sales wasn't going to happen. She was a good manager, but, in retrospect, that was the warning that I failed to heed. Stick to your strengths.
Anyway. Long story short. July '05 was the first time I got my name in print, for what it was worth.