Matters | 熱議 13 天前

“Remember! Nothing can’t be sold,” Eva imitated my previous supervisor’s tone and then repeated this person’s golden rule: “If you can convince yourself to buy your own products, trust me, you can sell a scarf to a dead body in the summer.” Her impression was spot-on, and we both couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

The laughing helped cover up my guilt.

Guilt was one of the words that never showed up in the corporate manual. Outstanding achievement was the only thing that mattered. On the first day of the job, my supervisor, one of the top recruiters in this industry, made sure that I fully understood the essence of how to be a good recruiter: there were no ethical stands, only strategies of how to achieve the goal. “If a male student wants to hold your hand, let him do it! If you have to wear a sexy dress in order to get through the door at the school, then you should. Anything that gets students to sign up to our school is fair game,” she told me.

I didn’t quite understand what I was doing at the time. This was a job in a school, a place for education, wasn’t it? 

But very soon, practice made perfect.

The first step, you figured out for yourself. It was: How far are you willing to go? What is your red line? Or more accurately, it’s a question of whether or not you even have a red line. Salary deductions from failing to make your quota wasn’t the worst thing; the teasing from your colleagues was. Every night all of the office workers, including the boss, managers, tortured teachers, and recruiters would eat a late dinner together, dance and sing in a karaoke bar together, get drunk together, and then go back home and chat online about whatever workplace scandal. The next day, work would be a cruel battle of lying, bullying, and infighting. That was just inside office. Outside there were 316 cram schools for the College Entrance Examination. In order to survive in this crazy workplace, I had to use all of my abilities, wisdom, energy, and even my soul if necessary.

“For example, do you know why the school’s security guard only allowed me to enter the school and why your class teacher always welcomed me?” I asked Eva when she first consulted me on how I recruited over 250 students in one single year.

“Because unlike other recruiters who only cared about if we went to the next orientation, you actually cared about us.” I appreciated Eva’s loyalty, but the truth was that I had promised both young guys we might go watch a movie together one day.

Eva looked at me, “but you didn’t.” It was not a question.

“No, I didn’t.”

Which did I hate more? Was it all the ambiguous conversations with the guys, old and young—whether it was a student, a school guard, a class teacher, a colleague in the cram school (for extra tutoring for my potential customers), a father who was looking for an affair (he may send his child), or the boss (for helping me close a case)? Or was it when I sincerely held a high school girl’s hands and listened to all of her troubles, was her friend for one year, and then teared up in front of her and told her I might be fired if she couldn’t introduce new students or convince at least one of her friends to come to our school?

The worst of the worst was I had to fool myself every time I successfully recruited a student. I didn’t mention to my students that I never went to a cram school when I was in high school. I haven’t, not even once, believed that going to a cram school is necessary. Working as a recruiter, I also realized that getting into a good university did not guarantee you a bright future. Some of my students already had good positions waiting for them before they went to university, the lucky ones whose parents were bank managers or entrepreneurs.  

But my lie was still successful over 250 times.

Ironically, the traditional concept from ancient times still provided me some status and respect. People believed I was working in the education field, which makes for a holy career.

After this admission season, I left the school –my first and last office job. I bought an apartment in the center of Taipei City without a loan right after I left. The next summer, most of the students I had recruited became university freshmen. Two years later, the cram school where I worked collapsed. I finished my degree and went to Germany to chase my own academic goals. Then, I became a traveler and a freelance writer. There was a period of time I avoided talking about this job to anyone.

Where are those students now? I only maintain contact with few of them, who share the same family conditions and similar life experiences as me. Eva bounced between several different cram schools. Sometime after Eva fell into the debt cycle of student loans and Chanel bags — like many long-term cram school workers -- we lost touch and gradually drifted apart.  

I don’t struggle too much with how this job affected me anymore. Only when people ask me about my house, which is the foundation of my sense of security and carefree life, does the guilt creep back into my heart.