I know that the title sounds a little bit vitriolic but trust me, they deserve it.

Also, I’m sorry to the National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. I just didn’t have a picture which fits like the sentiment of this does.

As many of you may well know, I recently moved up to Edinburgh. I am not really a big plan thinker so I didn’t have a job upon my arrival.

Seeking to rectify this, I scoured job websites for days in search of gainful employment. I sent out CVs, made phone calls and just asked people whilst out.

My aim was to get back into Digital Marketing. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 2 years so it kind of makes sense to not waste the experience, training and all that. I also looked into bar and kitchen work because:

A) I’ve been doing it for years so I’m pretty good at it

B) It’s so much fun. It can be stressful but it’s still something I think everyone should do.

Because I haven’t yet got my qualification, it’s a struggle to find work in Digital Marketing. I have, however, found an awesome restaurant/bar job I can’t wait to start.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the mire of despicable, fake, cult-like miasma I had to wade through to put together this… it will probably turn out to be a list… so you don’t have to suffer like I did.

I’m not going to name the companies involved for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s a bit rude and I can’t afford a libel lawsuit right now
  2. These devious blackguards change their names so often it wouldn’t really matter. Getting investigated? Who cares!? Name switch!

1. Instant Success!

I like to think that I’m a pretty smart guy. I’m savvy, I’m other buzzwords which essentially mean the same thing. That being said, I instantly fell for this.

A large part of it was down to my naivety. When I searched for “Digital Marketing Jobs Edinburgh”, funnily enough, I expected to find a list of positions within digital marketing companies, most (if not all) of whom would be based in Edinburgh.

So, after days of applying, when I received a few emails saying that I was successful. I was chomping at the bit to get to my “preliminary appointment”. Whatever the hell that is.

They had checked my CV, I would be a great fit.

I’m not a vain person… much… but tell me anyone who wouldn’t swell with pride at the level of sycophantic platitudes that these “people” lay on you.

And the speed at which they replied, I was obviously the best choice. I didn’t even need to send a follow-up email or drop off chocolates (looking at you, Jordan). They had seen my CV and they just knew, this is the guy. Luke will breathe new life into our business. He will blast us into the stratosphere like a digital fricken’ wizard.

If they reply to you with that amount of zeal within a day or 2, just be a little wary.

2. We Can Make You More Powerful Than Ever Before

One of the things which attracted me to these job ads should have actually been one of the biggest red flags.

There was a lot of talk about dynamic work, management within months, make more money than God and Mark Zuckerberg combined. They drew diagrams (so I knew they were serious), paraded their “success stories” (people who had started in my position but now sprinkled gold flakes on their specially imported cereal because they could), told me all about the wonderful trips I would be taking and all the benefits that come from joining their marketing company.

I would, apparently, be a team leader within a month and a project manager by 6 months. Hell, I would have to opportunity to up sticks and piss off to start my own company within a year, if I worked hard.

Looking back, I want to grab me by the scruff of the neck, flip all of the businesses the middle finger and leave them all in my wake.

Instead, I was dumbfounded. I had been searching for a job and this all seemed perfect. They kept talking about marketing and projects and their esteemed client lists.

I was in! Show me to my desk, share your Google Account Info and I’ll start SEOing the crap out of your clients. I’ll get them on the top of the first page for the word “the”. I don’t care.

If you’re going to make me a manager within a year, I will clean your car every day for that year to say “thank you”.

Simply put, if it seems too good to be true, it is. Digital marketing positions don’t work like that. You find your position and work on it diligently for a long time. You don’t become a project manager in a year unless they really hate you and can’t think of less destructive ways of watching you fail and probably cry.

3. What Do We Do? *Mumble Mumble Mumble*

I had enough of a pause between receiving my invitation and actually attending my interview to do what I stupidly thought was “due diligence”. I looked at their websites.

Looking at it now, I was such a moron. They were packed full of spelling and grammar mistakes, massive blocks of information which held no purpose other than to cram as many keywords in as humanly possible, rife with clichés, platitudes, bromides and other words which basically means that it was plastered with so much horse shit I should have been looking around for the fan it had obviously hit.

There were no concrete statements about what they did. Nothing I recognised, at least, after 2 years of working in that industry.

Below-the-line, B2B, B2C, direct marketing (NB: If you see this on a job ad or on their website, just close your laptop and walk away. Direct Marketing means sales).

It all added up to a fairly convincing argument. It felt like being filibustered into just acquiescing and joining their ranks. Which I tried to do.

When I was in the interviews and broached the subject of what, exactly, these companies do, each and every one of them reacted in the same way.

Glazed look over their eyes, like they’re trying to remember which word goes where.

Excited animation, to show that they’re so passionate about this job they can barely contain themselves.

Not actually saying what they did. Or at least not in detail.

Another worrying trend I noticed was the use of the term “parent company”. They were all offshoots of this over watching being who had given them the tools to go on a bring misery to the world. Like they were the Darth Vaders to this unnamed Emporer Palpatine, or they were just another branch of Hydra (funnily enough, after a little bit of research, one of the parent companies were called, seriously, The Cobra Group. Try to sound less evil guys).

If a company aren’t proud enough (or too ashamed) to just outright say “this is what we do…” then leave. They know that they’re despicable, they’re just too busy being sociopaths to care.

4. Drink The Kool Aid

Have you seen Wolf of Wall Street? I can tell you, without a doubt, that every one of the owners of these companies has. Unlike most people, however, instead of seeing it as a parable about the perils of greed and give you a sneak peak at the debauchery and destruction floating in the wake of these psychotic juggernauts, these “Marketing Companies” just watched it taking notes.

They probably had weekly viewings, just in case they missed a life lesson on how to be truly, truly awful.

There was everything going on. I would arrive at 8am, greeted by the sounds of a needlessly loud stereo pumping out high-tempo music. The sounds of excited chatter echoing throughout the office. You wait in an effortlessly chic waiting area with business and success magazines were haphazardly strewn across the coffee table. Not one of them offered me a coffee. Dicks.

“We will be with you shortly, we just have a team meeting that ran over”

Sounds reasonable, until you hear it bellowing through the walls.

Are… are they chanting? Are they doing the okey-kokey? It sounds like they’re doing the okey-kokey. Is Matthew McConaughey in the back there beating his chest and ordering vodkas? Is…. is Leonardo Di Caprio about to throw a dwarf?

I asked what it’s all about (if you don’t get that, you have never been to a birthday party) and, once again, I didn’t get a definite answer. I just chalked it up to not being cool enough yet. I would join this team and I would too put my left leg in. This I promise you.

It was a cult. There’s no other way to describe it. In every office, the owner was deified by the staff as though they just needed to finish a bit of paperwork and then they’d get round to all that parting the Red Sea, manna from heaven malarky.

Their acolytes, or “Team Leaders” as they called them, were all dressed in suits. As though they wanted to project this image of professionalism and high-standing which their baby faces and malevolent burning behind the eyes got in the way of.

5. Go Forth and Spread the Word of… Whoever We’re Representing Today

I was then sent to shadow someone for the day. This should really have been my final red flag. What the hell was I thinking?

Digital Marketing is autonomous teamwork. All parts working singularly to the benefit of the project as a whole. And it doesn’t involve jumping on a train to the middle of nowhere. And it damn sure doesn’t involve shadowing. We had work experience youths in my previous office on occasion and they didn’t sit behind me the entire time watching as I stared at graphs and built spreadsheets.

So, we’re on a train to God knows where to do God knows what.

My chaperones each made polite conversation in a way which belied the fact that they didn’t really care what I was saying, they just wanted me to think that they cared.

Then, the soul destroying work would begin.

I’m not going to go into details about what happened, simply because the mediocre malignancy I was subjected to caused me to black out like Harry Potter whenever a Dementor was near.

Suffice it to say, there were a number of instances which finally let the penny drop and I saw behind the curtain:

Songs. So many songs. Didn’t make the sale? Here’s the company song for that. Getting tired? Here’s a song. Finally realising that if you don’t make sales you don’t eat this week, sustain yourself with this little ditty.

Lies. Oh, so many lies. Tell every house that their neighbours are really generous and they are basically in danger of looking like Hitler if they don’t sign up. Baffle them with numbers, lie if you have to.

You know what, I don’t have time to list all of the fallacies, straw man arguments and everything in between that they would employ, so go here and just pick any of them.

Another string to the “it’s all a cult” bow is how they treat people.

You are not people to them. They exist in this “Us vs Them” mentality which sees everyone they meet as someone they can step over or someone who is out to get them.

Yes, they’re all nice to them when they’re talking to them. They’ll point out pointless things to compliment such as “that’s a nice lamp”. Who says that? It’s a lamp, you teabag. When they leave, if you’re lucky then they forget you. If you’re over 75, they’re legally not allowed to sell to you (note I said “not allowed”. Not that they felt it was morally reprehensible to try to pry money from older people. They just didn’t want to get caught being a parasite) and that’s somehow your fault. If you let them talk to you for hours after hours about whatever the hell they were talking about and then say no, you’ve wasted their time and are a pox on humanity. Stop them before they get to talk, you’re rude and clearly don’t want to help other people.

Heaven forfend you actually sign up, you’re not a valued customer, you’re an “app” or other such dehumanising words. They have “holy grail” apps (such as single mothers) and you can see the pound signs light up in their eyes when they see them.

They get annoyed at people who have the audacity to hang up signs saying “no cold callers”, despite the fact that that rarely impedes their quest to lighten your pockets. They don’t care what they’re selling. They could turn up to your door with an aerosol full of asbestos flavoured DDT and they would do their utmost to tell you about how flies are a problem and if you make your house inhabitable to all but the hardiest bacterium and cockroaches, there will no longer be a problem. The old “present a problem, then the solution” sales technique.

I did last the day. That isn’t a testament to their sales technique. It’s testament to my unwavering optimism that human beings can’t really be that bad.

I was wrong.

Final word on it all…

If you’re desperate for a job and this comes up. I’m not saying that you should starve whilst carefully cradling your principles. I’m just saying that you really should do some research before you sell your soul to these people. Do some actual research. Go online, search the company’s name and look at other pages, ignore theirs. They’re liars.

If this whole blog gave you a new career goal… good luck, you unending pit of moral despair. If I hear you proselytizing the works of Huey Lewis and the News whilst wearing a raincoat, I will strike first.

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