The Limits of Persistence

I have a general policy to not answer my phone from numbers I don’t recognize. seinfeld telemarketerMy thoughts are if the person on the other line is calling about something important they will leave a message. Most of the calls I receive must not be important because I rarely get the voicemail notification, and even when I do get a message it’s usually the tail end of some stupid automated call. (Man those are annoying!)

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard “Yvette’s” voice on the other end of a message I received last week. I didn’t know Yvette and the message was a little vague, but I figured (hoped) she was a corporate recruiter. After all, I am searching for a new job (potentially in Chicago), and Yvette was calling from a 312 number.

So I returned the call and was duped again. Ugh…Yvette is one of those bad pennies in my life that just keeps popping up. Or rather in this case keeps following up with me in case I changed my mind.

Puddy StaringYvette works for (or owns…I don’t know and I don’t care) a company called It’s Just Lunch. If that rings a bell, you may have seen an advertisement for it in the Skymall magazine. We all need to occupy the dead time on a flight when electronic devices have to be turned off. That’s how I discovered It’s Just Lunch in 2008 while traveling for a business trip.

In case you’re still unfamiliar with It’s Just Lunch, it is a matchmaking service that caters to career focused yuppies that are too busy to find love. You probably know the type: lawyers, consultants, et al…basically professionals who work hellish hours and travel constantly for bloated salaries and eye-popping bonuses.

its just lunchAnyway, I indulged myself into thinking I was a career focused yuppie (minus the bloated salary and bonus) and decided to contact the company. I mean I had been traveling for work when I discovered the company after all. I thought It’s Just Lunch might be a good alternative to online dating sites (which can be a slog). I figured what’s the worst that could happen? I might as well find out.

I’m a little fuzzy on the details 8 years later, but I remember having a short phone conversation (presumably with Yvette) about what I did and what I was looking for. In less than 5 minutes she was confident It’s Just Lunch was the solution to my problem (go figure), and it would only cost…drum role please….$800.

Umm…what?! Did I hear that right? $800! Holy Hell! I couldn’t afford to pay someone $800 to help me find love. I don’t remember how I got off the phone, but I did it as quickly as I could. I guess you really need the bloated salary to use It’s Just Lunch.

Even if I could afford to plunk $800 down there’s no guarantee signing up would yield results. The only thing I could be certain of is any woman I got set up with was part of this “exclusive” network of singles (i.e. she also had $800 to spend). That’s a superficial threshold to meet.

OK, no harm done there. It was a learning experience. The conversation satisfied my curiosity and the service was clearly not for me. I thought the transaction was over at that time. I didn’t realize Yvette doesn’t give up until she’s made her sale. Terminator1984movieposterShe may lie in wait for a few years but she will always follow up. And each time I become more annoyed as I realize she’ll never stop. She’s like the Terminator. Coming back for more in 2010, and then 2013, and now 2016. (Similar to the Terminator movie franchise.)

Most of my adult life I believed that persistence was unquestionably good. I identified as being persistent thinking I could grind out tough situations better than most people. I thought that is how I would succeed in life. The formula was simple:

Persistence -> Success

My experience with It’s Just Lunch made me realize that persistence-success link doesn’t always hold. Yvette’s persistence with me became a liability instead of a virtue. At this point, I would go out of my way to NOT buy her service even if I actually wanted it, purely for spite.

I don't care for the salesman...
I don’t care for the salesman…

So why has persistence in this particular case turned bad? Because Yvette failed to recognize the not so subtle hints that I wasn’t interested. To be fair, I may have given some wishy-washy excuses about not being the right time (it’s been so long I don’t really remember), but that’s beside the point. Wishy-washy or not, I was clearly rejecting her inquiries multiple times over. I wasn’t a prospective customer and I wouldn’t become a prospective customer no matter how many times she asked.

When it comes down to it, persistence is not about following up on a single lead until its bitter end. That one particular sales lead, job opportunity, budding romantic relationship is the not the key to your happiness. Instead persistence is about pursuing your dreams and goals (emphasis on plural). Some of those dreams and goals will be dead ends. It’s better to learn from them and move on to the next thing.

This is an important lesson for me as I continue my job search. There is no magic opportunity that will solve this problem. Often times, I won’t get a clear single message from a recruiter or acquaintance that is no longer willing or able to help me (in many cases, it’s the lack of response to an email or call). But if I take a step back the signs are all there to move on to the next opportunity. Moving on is what really takes persistence because it requires the belief that new options will eventually appear. (In my experience, they always do.)

As such, I’m resolving to think before I follow up that one more time with that one particular person and ask myself “could this person get annoyed by email/call/text/etc?” If the answer might be yes then I’m going to move on because I don’t want to be a nuisance to that person like Yvette was to me (and probably will be again).

Thanks for reading and letting me vent. Overzealous salespeople really get my goat.

Don

P.S. For what it’s worth, It’s Just Lunch has been in business for a decade or longer (to my knowledge). Many businesses don’t survive for that long. It must be doing something right if it has stood that test of time, which is admirable.

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