Never work in sales

Matthew Reeves feels sad for those with jobs in this sector

Every city has a district clad in steel and glass, where the streets are seasoned with very expensive hotels. They're strange places, and with the quality difference between a £100-a-night and a £800-a-night hotel barely perceptible, you'd be forgiven for wondering who the hell uses these places. The answer is distressingly simple: sales guys.

I've previously written about how during my time in consulting and accounting I'd get farmed out to some god-awful company, the kind of place where cadavers in worn-out brown woollen jumpers silently tweak the design of a food processor or some other innovation so dated it can barely be classed as technology. Just like soldiers going to Cyprus for a few weeks after leaving the Middle East, going back to a hotel was more a mandated decompression than a perk.

On one ill-planned trip to the front line, our usual mid-range hotel was overbooked and we had to upgrade and stay somewhere with higher thread counts and more men to carry our laptops from the cab to the door. The usual reason for booked-out hotels in a city that boasts a Corn Exchange as an attraction is a conference, this time being held in the very upmarket hotel that we were staying in and that we'd been signed up to attend.

All the big consulting firms were there, slinking about the ballroom to the sound of white noise tumbling from the foremost expert in something at some IT-based firm with an acronym instead of a name.

Across the room, grown men searched LinkedIn on their phones for names from faraway lanyards, gleaning exact job titles and home cities in order to woo more effectively. I never wanted to be in sales, and have done my best to get jobs where I can avoid it. Giving compliments isn't natural. Is that really how the world works? Is business success achieved by mechanisms as fickle as this?

Being trapped in that ballroom for two days was worse than going to a nightclub - I couldn't even fill myself to the brim with rum as a coping mechanism. But the sales guys seemed to thrive on the atmosphere. I guess they've spent their whole careers rapidly evolving their personalities to match whoever they're talking to, but you can't help feeling nothing but sadness. Does anyone really know them? What do they actually like, or... dislike?

Do anything else with your life. Aim to change the world, or just put on an outdated hat and flag down cabs outside an expensive hotel - at least then you're helping people who are going places. But never work in sales.