Career Trajectory

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Jonathan O’Sullivan is desperate to get out of ad sales and get a new career. But the only thing he might be cut out for is funeral directing.


When I was 17 and halfway through my final year of secondary school, my career guidance councilor died. For reasons never explained to us students, the school decided not to replace him. I hoped it was out of respect for the former councilor rather than reckless neglect of our welfare. One way or another, it was the first omen that my career path was going to be more of a pilgrimage to Knock than a scoot down the M50.

Like most Irish children, when I was a nipper I did little other than watch television and eat sausages in my spare time. Not once did I concern myself with what kind of life or career I might have in my mid-20s. Alright, late-20s. I heedlessly threw my Leaving Cert points at the CAO dartboard, and they landed on Business Studies and Marketing, my rationale being: If in doubt, pick a general degree – one that wouldn’t pigeonhole me. I was confident that my four years in university would mold me as a human being, and I would leave a grown man; a man with a degree and clearly defined options.

In reality I left as a boy; a boy still watching television and eating sausages in his spare time.

When other people tell me they did Business Studies and Marketing at college I automatically give them a knowing look. I imagine it’s the same world-weary expression that people who wear dentures or incontinence knickers must exchange upon encountering one another.

After a solid five years asleep at the career-wheel I eventually careened into the field of sales. I didn’t mind the work; it was straightforward: ‘Pile it low, sell it at a premium’ as the old adage never went. Unfortunately, the fact I didn’t love my career haunted me like a hollow turd in the toilet bowl of life, refusing to disappear with each panicked flush.

A nagging feeling often kept me awake. My long-suffering ex-boyfriend used to wake up and see me next to him, heavy-fretting in anxious silence. “Oh, I see the Freak-Out Bunny has visited?” he’d mutter groggily. “What bizarre concern has he delivered to us today?” It was if it was his cross to bear too.

If you can’t fix the problem, change the location. That was the shoddy advice I gave myself six months ago and I’m now living it up in London working in… sales.

Last week at work we were discussing a campaign’s target audience and someone tried to confidently use the word ‘urbanite’ to describe a section of the human race they wanted to sell their dreadful product to. The fact that I resisted the urge to jump up on the desk and kick him in the teeth shows the self-control I have to exert on a daily basis.

Having said that, I have to admit I do have a special admiration for people who work in sales. I respect them in the same way I do dental hygienists or the guy who comes in to collect the tampon bins. It’s a thankless disgusting job but thank God someone has the nerve to do it.

Looking at the bigger picture I don’t think I’m even capable to fall in love with a nine-to-five job. Not while I have the London Underground commute to contend with on a daily basis. I’m not a morning person so to be greeted by two hundred other non-morning people crowded onto my local station’s platform is not ideal.

When I eventually squeeze myself onto a train, I invariably find myself wedged between a fifty-something year-old banker whose breath could curdle milk, and a twenty-something PR luvvie whose blonde mane will engulf my face in enough L’Oreal fumes to ignite the Amazon rainforest. Okay, they might not work in banking or PR but when you spend that much time wedged into the armpits of strangers it only seems fair to invent names, jobs and back stories. There we stand, the most evolved species in the world in one of the most evolved cities in the world, violently tucked into a single train because faceless demi-Gods demand a city of eight million people should start work at the exact same time.

Anyway, I digress, as one is apt to do on a wedged tube. Coming back to the matter at hand, I’m still at a loss when it comes to identifying my dream job. What to do next? Tinker? Tailor? Soldier? Spy? The last time I took a career aptitude test it was on a FÁS website and the automated conclusion was Funeral Director. I found the result peculiar due to the test being multiple choice. Unless I had accidentally ticked the ‘I enjoy dealing with grieving families’ box, I didn’t see how it was able to generate such a particular outcome.

It took me a while to join the cosmic dots but maybe, just maybe, the death of my career guidance councilor and the FÁS suggestion of undertaking were both signs that death-care was my key to job satisfaction? I’ll be honest; I did consider becoming a Funeral Director. The role seemed to have exactly what I was looking for. It’s not nine-to-five, you’re kind of your own boss and I’m sure after a while it’s just like repeatedly planning a very sad wedding. But with further research I realised the job of Funeral Director is yet another sales job. The constant fear of not meeting the monthly target of cadavers, the rinsing of recent widows of more cash by up-selling the walnut caskets, the cold-calling old folks homes for leads…

I guess whatever new career I put myself forward for will require some element of sales. If I look at it another way, my life in the working world so far has not been a waste of time rather good preparation for the next stage. Whatever that stage is, it needs to come soon. I really would love to give that Freak-Out Bunny a decent burial.

© 2013 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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