Today, one of the organizations I represent, beBee, is a fast growing professional social media network based in Madrid, Spain. While we are launching here in the US and English speaking markets worldwide, I regularly communicate with my team in Madrid in Spanish.
While doing business internationally in my second language for a top 15 EU Unicorn Startup may sound somewhat glamorous, I certainly paid my dues with some very humble beginnings.
My first job in sales was as a bilingual sales rep for a satellite tv retailer. Being fluent in Spanish, they needed me desperately. They were getting calls from Spanish-speaking customers in the area that wanted to sign up for the Spanish speaking tv packages they were offering, but they didn't have anybody at the time that could speak Spanish.
In fact, they hired me on the spot. I wasn't even done with the interview, and they already had me taking calls with Spanish-speaking customers.
Part of the job required me to make house calls to interested parties to sign them up in person. Sometimes this required me to go to trailer parks. I would go to the scheduled appointment and then make sales calls to their neighbors.
To that point in my life, I hadn't spent much time in trailer parks prior. The lessons I learned from that job have stuck with me throughout life, and have made me a better person and moved my career forward.
I Was Humbled By Their Generosity
Sometimes in life, the people that have the least to give are the most generous. Many of the customers I visited in the trailer parks were recent immigrants to the US from Mexico and were not wealthy, far from it. Yet, many of them offered to feed me dinner. A hot homemade meal to a guy that was spending his evenings making house calls in trailer parks was a welcomed sight.
I'll never forget the generosity that was extended to me, by people that had so little to give.
Money can't buy you love or happiness! I met lots of happy families in the trailer parks I visited. Many of them were quite poor (not all of them). However, the love they had for each other was evident the minute I walked into their homes.
It would appear that when you don't have as many material things in life your love for the things that actually matter is far greater. You don't need to buy a lot of crap to be happy.
Anyone can be poor, it just takes one life event to happen and then your world gets rocked. Several of the people whose homes I visited told me about their life journey. These stories included a tragic accident, hardship, or addiction that lead them from the middle class into a life of poverty.
One tragic event can cause a domino effect that is tough to recover from. Many of them lived alone.
I often wondered what happened to their friend and family. The stories I was told made me appreciate what I have and helped me realize that life can be altered forever in a matter of moments.
The experience of going door-to-door in trailer parks and the genuine interaction I got with the people that lived there helped me to stop being judgemental. I'm not perfect, so why should I judge others?
The sooner we can realize that we are more alike than we are different and stop judging others for being different, the better off the world will be.
It's All About The Grind
To move forward in your career, you have to grind. Sometimes you have to be willing do to do the work you can't ever imagine yourself doing to get to the places you would like to go. Door-to-door sales in trailer parks is hardly a glamorous job.
When I pointed out a few of the trailer parks to friends where I had been the night before making sales, they thought I was nuts. However, there are certain times in our careers where need to check our egos and just go out, roll up our sleeves, and earn a paycheck.
The time I spent at this job gave me the experience, new skills, and success I needed to pursue better opportunities in my career. It sure as heck wasn't glamorous, but I'm glad I did it.