Relating: Personalization | Duke Catalyst

“What is something new you learned over quarantine to better yourself?”

I remember the first time I heard this question in an interview. It felt hallow and inconsiderate of all those who spent quarantine simply trying to get by. In my search for a job post-graduation, I wanted certainty in a time of uncertainty.

My first job after Duke was in sales and the most important thing in selling a product is knowing your market. Pitching a tool requires having a problem that needs to be fixed. “Something you learned over quarantine” assumes the collective problem of quarantine was being stuck at home when many essential workers never got the “break” the rest of us did. Creating a collective solution assumes there is a collective problem. In my case of selling AT&T products, the goal was to identify a problem and offer a solution to boost sales and not simply rely on need. Talking to dozens of people a day taught me first-hand everyone is living a life as dangerously entangled as our own. Seeing those innate and small differences in each person’s situation made offering them the best solution much easier. My sales were no longer “here’s this shiny new TV package” and more “Your current TV package is not supporting your need here, and AT&T has an option that fills that need.” I learned how to communicate, assist, and celebrate each person’s individual desires with every conversation to avoid falling into the monotony of sales.

During quarantine, many of us were home all the time but that does not equate to an increased amount of free time. A more inclusive question I started to ask, “How has quarantine changed the way you treat yourself and others?” with a follow-up, “What do you do differently because of the forced connection you now have with everyone around you?” As the pandemic continues on, this same mentality has kept me grounded in my everyday work that’s grounded on inclusivity.

By KJ Juett
KJ Juett Catalyst Fellow