2011 was a hard year. In terms of our adult life, it has probably been the most consistently difficult year that Leah and I have faced. Early on in the year, she quit her reliable office job to chase her dream of being a baker. I fully supported her in the venture, and that never changed even when we found ourselves more broke than we ever have been… and that’s counting when we were both still college students. Bills got behind, debt mounted, and there wasn’t a whole lot to show for our continued efforts.
I think maybe it might have been necessary. As I write this, I stand on the precipice of what I desperately hope is a life-changing promotion at work. I’ve been a customer service rep since late 2007. Initially, the job was just supposed to be something to do until I found something better… but as so often happens, my efforts to find something else repeatedly slipped away as I grew comfortable in a job I didn’t particularly enjoy. This led to a pattern of looking for a better job for about a week or two every few months. Oddly enough, that method wasn’t particularly effective.
I was in the midst of one of the searching weeks in August of last year. I had been at it for about a week, so I was nearly done and growing frustrated. I finally decided I to write a list of the things I wanted my dream job to entail. Making videos. Sharing ideas. Helping people. Being funny. Communicating. I glumly stared at my list when I was done. What were the odds of me discovering a job that had all of these?
And that’s when it hit me. There was practically no chance of ever finding that job… But… What if I made that job? Or, more specifically, what if I made that job exist? What if instead of defecting to a new company… what if I could convince the place I worked at currently to create a position tailored just for me? The hair stood up on the back of my neck as the tingle of having stumbled across something sent a shiver down my spine. This felt right.
Immediately I began writing a proposal for creating a YouTube channel that would consist of videos to help our clients work with their credit card machines. We could explain policies, we could talk about pricing. We could create an entire repository of helpful information… and we could package it in cheeky, silly, funny little videos that were enjoyable to watch. We would help our client base and simultaneously set ourselves apart from the rest of the credit card processors out there.
I sent the proposal to my manager. She loved it, and sent it to her manager. Her manager loved it, but didn’t do anything with it… So I asked her if she thought I could send an email to the vice president over Customer Service. She said “absolutely”, so… I did.
And I heard nothing.
For three days.
And then one day I get an email from the vice president asking me to meet with him. We talk, and he’s interested. He’d like to see what I can do, and he gives me carte blanche to write up a couple of test videos. He would then shop them around, see if the other suits thought it was worth pursuing. So they give me one day to film, and it takes me nearly a week or two of editing at home to feel good about it. And I give him these:
But… something unusual happened at that point. The day I provide him with these links, was the very same day that a big group of suits from the company that owns my company was in town. My videos provided the perfect talking point to show what a member of Customer Service has done for the company. That day I was introduced to a number of executives I had absolutely no business talking to. My name started getting shared. People started talking. The vice president called me into his office and asked about my expectations. I told him I didn’t necessarily have any, only I hoped that they would allow me to do this full time. He said, “It may take a while, but that sounds reasonable. Also… What could you do if you had the proper equipment?” They wanted to see what I could do if I was given a budget.
He asked me what it would take to make things look a little more professional. I had already been sketching out a way to do a poor man’s light kit and told him I had figured out a way of jury rigging the process for about fifty dollars. He laughed and told me that wouldn’t be necessary. Just tell him what I needed. So I made a list. Three, actually. The equipment totaled $150, $250, and $500 dollars. Without hesitation, the company decided to go for the $500 package I assembled. Weeks later, the equipment arrived along with another assignment.
They wanted me to film a video about ways our clients could save money. For a few weeks we went back and forth on the script. Finally the day came when I locked myself in a spare closet for about seven hours while I spoke into my camera. I spent probably a month or so editing the film. I submitted it officially in November.
And I heard nothing.
For an entire month.
For one month, I lived in the hope of hearing someone say something about my video, but they had entered radio silence. Had I gone too far? Were my jokes not funny? Had I lost it? Were they trying to figure out how to tell me they weren’t interested? For an entire month I got to work early to check my email and see if I had an update waiting for me.
Finally, December 28th, I hear word that things have been progressing. I won’t bore you with the details, but the video was loved. After another month of working with our legal and our web teams, the video was placed on a new website for our clients at www.newmerchantassist.com. You can watch the video below:
Last Friday, an email was sent out to every employee of USBank in North America and Europe talking about the video, and the enigma that is Paul Clouse. Simultaneously to that, the company has begun hosting employee blogs. I’ve written two blogs thus far, and have gotten very complimentary comments from the CEO of my company, and one of the biggest executives of US Bank.
I’ve been given another video assignment, and I only have four days to complete it.
I think this will be the one. After I finish this video, I think I’ll be having a conversation with the Vice President of Customer Service and find out where we stand… I feel like after this, I’ll have proven myself to the company. I don’t know what comes next. I’m doing my absolute best to keep my feet planted on the ground, but it’s hard. I want this so bad. This would be like Leah and I winning the lottery. If this happens, I think I’d be getting a salaried position.
So that’s my life right now. I’m not sure that I could be here right now if 2011 wasn’t as hard as it was. I don’t know that I could ever appreciate the act of having a little extra money if I didn’t spend a year having absolutely none. Not to mention, it was the pervasive discontent from last year that pushed me into trying to make something better for myself.
If you’re the praying type, it would mean the world if you would be willing to mention us to the Big Guy. There won’t be a blog on Thursday because every waking moment between now and Friday will be spent on trying to knock this video out of the park. I love you guys. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share with you sooner rather than later.