Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Up for Past Mistakes

I've already mentioned that my parents encouraged my sister and me to save for our college education from an early age.  We never questioned that we were college-bound; it seemed inevitable.  The savings process, however, was occasionally painful.  Starting in junior high and continuing through high school and college, I worked a string of sometimes odd and usually low-paying jobs to build up my education fund.  I babysat children, took care of pets for people on vacation, detassled corn (don't ask), scraped dirty plates in a cafeteria, rolled pie crusts and frosted cakes, waited tables in a bar, and yes, worked as a cleaning lady.  One of my most memorable jobs, however, was a summer gig as an Avon Lady.

Back then selling for Avon was almost entirely a matter of door-to-door cold-calling, which involved a lot of rejection, and the heat that summer was brutal as I dragged my sample case up and down the streets of my territory.  The training I received was not very helpful, either, focusing on product features rather than customer needs.  I finished the summer with a little money, some discounted makeup and jewelry, and a sense of wonder that anyone could consider doing that for a living.

Now that I'm older and have a degree in marketing I realize that my approach that summer was all wrong.  When a potential customer invited me in, I should have looked around to see what her clothing and her house could tell me about her.  What colors did she like and wear?  Was she a knick-knack lover who might be in the market for some of our tchotchkes?  Did she wear perfume around the house?  I could have looked for family pictures; maybe she had a mother-in-law or teenagers to buy presents for.  I should have asked questions about her preferences and her lifestyle.  Had I known then what I know now, I might not have had to scrape quite so many plates the following school year.

I may have a chance soon to test some of my latter-day theories on how to connect with makeup buyers.  After weeks of fruitlessly applying for jobs I've finally landed an interview for a part-time position at the cosmetics counter of a department store within easy commuting distance of the house I'm trying to buy.  I hope the interviewers are impressed enough by my appearance to give me a chance.  I am already a faithful customer of the store, the working conditions are much better than schlepping a suitcase from house to house, and I definitely know how NOT to do the job.

"It is said that no star is a heroine to her makeup artist." ~Richard Corliss

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