My First Job


She pushed back her rolling chair and glided toward the whiteboard. She uncapped a dry-erase marker and drew another check mark next to her name. Like this: BRIANNA ✓✓✓. My knuckles went white as I grabbed the phone receiver and made yet another unsuccessful call. At 16, my best friend and I got our first jobs as telemarketers for Statefarm Insurance and, boy, was she great at it. She earned checkmarks the way I got freckles. Effortlessly.

Our boss, Mr. DiCarlo, kept us hidden in a back room with illuminated with what I remember to be a single candle. Sure, it might have been more, but I was tempted to ask for my phone numbers to be printed in braille because of how dark it was. We were paid minimum wage, but every checkmark (a cold call that resulted in an insurance meeting with Mr. DiCarlo) meant a bonus in our paycheck. Weeks of cold calling and I didn’t have a single bonus.

Jasmine: Good evening, Mr./Ms. ________, my records show your car insurance is about to expire and I’d be more than happy to set you up with your local and trustworthy Statefarm insurance agent, Mr. DiCarlo, to take care of all your needs. May I ask when you’re available?
Mr. #1: Hey, kid, you just ruined my dinner!
Mr. #2: Take me off your list!
Ms. #3: Shouldn’t you be out playing or something, sweetie?
Mr. #4: Shut THE HELL UP!
Ms. #5: …click…

Years later and Brianna is still getting checkmarks…on the track. She’s one of the nation’s top long-jumpers and traveling the world competing. And, well, I’m happy to say I’m now getting checkmarks of my own. Sure, I give them to myself, but every time I make it happen, I think back to Mr. DiCarlo and pat myself on the back for being terrible at telemarketing. Had I been great, I wouldn’t have become a photographer. Duh.

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  1. Laura Stricklin

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    LOVE IT! 🙂

  2. Autumn Teesdale

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Nice!! I remember my first job…little tea room and the boss/owner I swear had multiple personalities…never knew which one you would get!! But as with first loves, you never forget your first job 🙂

  3. Shillawna Ruffner

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Check, check, and check!

  4. Natalie

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    That’s so great! I believe that we all have a right "path" that God plans for us! I could never do telemarketing either.. I think the snappy comments would make me upset! Haha! 🙂

  5. Abby Grace Photography

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    this is awesome. YOU’RE awesome. and check marks are awesome too! I may just start up my own check mark system to encourage myself when business is slow!

  6. Amy

    May 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Love this!!!

  7. clarivel.ann

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Jasmine– YOU GO.

    I was a telemarketer once, too. Worse job of my life until I became a claims adjuster for Mercury Insurance (which turned out to be a season of God preparing me for something greater, too!). 🙂

  8. Scott Webb

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Inbound call centres are terrible too – People call to yell at you with passion and hate behind their issue.

    However, I too started as telemarketing – calling out to sell american express cards. My first call I hyperventilated and had a panic attack – I blamed it on some cough medicine. 8 years later I wish I had just walked out that day.

    That’s the thing, I wasn’t terrible. I was whatever. I moved over to take those inbound calls and I’m really fast and good at whatever I attempt. Cool? Not really. It killed me.

    I quit it all January 2010 and I have had a rough go with photography and on my own. It’s not simple but it’s my love. We’re now making some more adjustments because It’s what I’m meant to do.

    Great story Jasmine – thanks.

  9. Jessica K. Sullivan

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I did telemarketing for 6 horrible months when I first moved to Florida 12 years ago. It was just as bad as you describe it. Thank God for you and me both!

  10. Catie Ronquillo

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Cent had a job as a telemarketer in college. He hated it. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t getting his checkmarks either. He said it was the only job he’s ever quit faster than you can say pink slip. Buuuuut, he’s lucky now because I give him daily check marks. 🙂 Maybe I should start grading him like you do with JD. I don’t think I’m as harsh a grader though! 😉

  11. Gail

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Oh Lordy…telemarketing. If that was my job, I’d have a bowling ball size pit in my stomach. Every day. I’m a horrible sales woman.

    But having that job at 16 means you’re filled with gratitude for every day of your life you never have to cold call someone again, right? 🙂

  12. Kingdom Wedding Photography by Kat

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    OMG – I had a similar job. Only it was working for a dating line. They placed singles ads in the paper and when people called to talk to "Susan", it was my job to get their information, to keep them on the line (for 4 USD a minute) and to ultimately have them sign up. I sucked so bad, I made about 40 Dollars all week and ended up quitting because I couldn’t deal with being such a scammer.

  13. Kirsten Julia

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Telemarketing was my second and third jobs. I was so terrible at it but it was the only job I could get without having to be bilingual in the area I used to live in. Ugh. Tough job.

  14. Kirsten Julia

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Telemarketing was my second and third jobs. I was so terrible at it but it was the only job I could get without having to be bilingual in the area I used to live in. Ugh. Tough job.

  15. Delissa Clardy

    May 19th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I lasted about 3 weeks at my telemarketing job! I hated it! I’m glad I was bad at it too!

  16. Life with Kaishon

    May 19th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Awesome sauce.
    Look how far you have come.
    Is he still in business?
    You should link to him : )
    He would love it.

  17. Erin K.

    May 19th, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Being a telefunder (similar to telemarketer, but you are asking for donations) was my least favorite job ever. I wanted to start out each conversation by saying "I’m really, really sorry to bother you, feel free to hang up on me…I won’t be offended" 🙂

  18. Stephanie Stewart

    May 19th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I had a job just like that at 16, except I was calling people in the midst of a hot summer asking to set up appointments to have their A/C repaired. Mostly people shouted and hung up on me. I made it a game…each day I would try to call more people than the day before. Thank goodness it was a temporary job filling in for a friend!

  19. whitney elizabeth

    May 19th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    oh how this brings back memories. i had a telemarketing job in college…worst year of my life! nothing like getting cussed out on a daily basis! 🙂

  20. kelsey {las vegas wedding photographer}

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    lol cute story!

  21. Catherine

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I think I have you beat – my first job was as a Collections Agent for Chrysler Financial. I had to call people about late car payments. I came from a family that was never late paying anything and I didn’t even know that Collections existed. It was the most horrible 9 months of my life. Yes, somehow I lasted 9 months…

  22. Kate

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    LOL what at fun story. I knew there was a valid reason why I do my best to be polite to telemarketers. My husband and family always roll their eyes when I apologetically say no thank-you. Now I can legitimately say – ‘You know telemarketers are people too!’ lol

  23. Katelyn James

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    awww Michael’s Dad is a StateFarm guy…. don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing in regards to this post… however! My first first job was painting snowmen on porcelain plates from Walmart and called them "Katelyn’s Krafts"….Two "K’s"… I was so cool.

  24. Elizabeth C.

    May 19th, 2011 at 6:59 pm


  25. Stephanie Lairson

    May 19th, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I met my husband at the first job out of high school – also a telemarketing job! He got tons of checkmarks….I sadly, did not. BUT I fell in love 🙂

  26. brianna

    May 19th, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    HAHAHAHAHAHA. oh my goodness, the memories. worst. job. ever. but i lasted so much longer than you…didn’t you quit, like, after two weeks?!!

    a million check marks for being the best friend ever. love you.

  27. Jessica Chavez

    May 19th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Oh Jasmine! It’s a really funny story! But what you’ve become is waay better! Keep filling your board with stars instead of check marks!! =)

  28. Jamie

    May 19th, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    My bestie was a long jumper at the last olympics! Good thing all those hard worked hours at summer camps for kids didnt pan out. Pro athlete and photographer aint too shabby 🙂 You and I must totally be long lost twins.. lol!

  29. Rachel Tatem

    May 19th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I completely understand. When in high school I worked full time but also some part time jobs (I was homeschooled) and one of those part time jobs was being a cold caller for a tool repair store. I know nothing of tool repair but non the less I called… and got about the same result.

  30. Karen Stott

    May 19th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Oh man….I’ve probably been the Mr or Mrs #2 and #3…. sorry….

  31. ashley barnett

    May 19th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Bahaha- I worked at State Farm too! I pushed a lot of paper around…like a LOT. And I worked with people much older than me so I basically taught everyone how to use a computer. But I am forever grateful to that job because it made me sit up straight in my cubicle one day and say…THIS is not what I want for my life. And I quit and went back to school. The rest is history! 🙂

  32. Britany Simon

    May 20th, 2011 at 12:14 am

    NO WAY!!! My first job was at State Farm with one of my best friends from high school at 16 too! That is bananas!

  33. Jeremy

    May 20th, 2011 at 12:15 am

    too funny! My dad works at State Farm corporate in Illinois…and my wife has all her camera equipment insured through them 🙂 Thanks for the fun post Jasmine

  34. Kim J Martin

    May 20th, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Oh man, I did telemarketing when I was 16 too…I was paid $10/hour which was A LOT of money and I thought it was great. Until I started making calls. I swear it starts stealing your soul…I lasted 2 weeks 🙂

  35. YarraValleyWedding

    May 20th, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Thank goodness for those early jobs eh?! I think they make you what you become.
    One of my early jobs when studying was at a meat factory! I spent several summer vacations doing it and I really think it gave me the motivation to start my own business. It was good leveller!

    Ps Sorry – I also would have been caller #2 and #3!

  36. Josephine

    May 20th, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Hahahahahaha. that’s just a relief Jasmine… i just recently resigned from my corp job and decided to take a spin for myself and just follow my heart! 😛 surely not an eassy road to take but i take it this is going to be a worthwhile ride of my life! 😛 thanks for your great inspirations always!!!

  37. Vanessa M

    May 20th, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Ok, I used to be jealous of your ripped arms…until I saw Brianna’s abs! Dang! What kind of water did you kids drink when you were growing up?! Great story, btw 🙂

  38. Kathleen

    May 20th, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Your stories make me smile 🙂

  39. Regina Chayer

    May 20th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Telemarketing ain’t for sissys that’s for sure. But like every job I have ever had I gave it my best shot and treated everyone respectfully. (and made $ too!) I try to make every day a good day and take a lesson from each one. I am sure this job taught you much and that you are still using some of what you learned. !!

  40. April Merrick

    May 20th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I once worked a temp job for March of Dimes cold calling for contributions from business owners. My stomach would tie up in knots before every call. I knew it was a great cause but I felt like I was begging. Thank goodness it wasn’t a long assignment! One good thing to come of it is that you learn to work past that fear of rejection.

  41. LEOLAK

    May 20th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Your stories are too funny!! So glad you are making your many check marks on what you LOVE to do!!! =)

  42. Barbara

    May 20th, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    and this is why i adore reading your blog. you’re most definitely a writer and communicator as well as a photographer!

  43. Dawn & Michael Mitchell

    May 21st, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Jasmine you make me feel more at ease every time I read one of your stories. In my day job I have to cold call to and, well, lets just say I don’t have a lot of check-marks either. But hopefully, with help from people like you, Dawn and I will be able to give ourselves the check-marks full time very soon.

  44. Abby

    May 21st, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Yay for State Farm! My dad is an agent so of course my camera equipment is insured through them =)

  45. jenn {bow tie & bustle}

    May 22nd, 2011 at 3:02 am

    LOVED this post! I think we all have these horrific 1st job stories…loved hearing yours!

  46. feuza

    May 22nd, 2011 at 7:10 am

    I had one of those but it was for Slomins Shield, got one check mark once

  47. Alicia -- Beba Photography

    May 22nd, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Heh heh, one of my first jobs was working for the competitor–Farmer’s Insurance. I was a teenager too and remember being so afraid of my first call that I let the phone ring and the answering machine pick up. My supervisor was standing there, hovering over me as I made my first call which made me SUPER nervous. The machine clicked on and I said in a crackely voice, "Um, hi…..this is Alicia with Farmer’s Insurance……" (long pause) Gulp. I got too nervous and hung up before I said anything else! My supervisor freaked out and said, "You can’t do that!!" I had to call the person back and leave a proper message. Thankfully I’ve gotten over my stage fright and cold calling is actually something I’m really good at now. ; ) Check, check, check. ; ) I’m not a pushy salesperson…but sales is something that just came really naturally to me. ; ) Thankfully I have this new love of photography to go with it. I’m growing into this new role and love it….and am hoping I’ll get some of those check, check, check marks in this arena too. ; )

  48. Kathleen Clipper

    May 23rd, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Ahhh the humble memories of our first jobs 🙂

  49. Columbus GA Wedding Photographer

    May 23rd, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    LOL. Honestly I think your second calling could be writing. Your humor and personality go so well together in your writing. I’m jealous =)

  50. Paul Krol

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    ummm..but your friend was great at it..and it didn’t mean she didn’t end up doing what she wants too…so if you were Great at it..i don’t think it would have altered your photography that much, if at all. 🙂