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My First Job: Shannon Livingston

The president of Livingston Foundation for Cannabis Education reflects on her first paying gig.

When I was in high school—it was about 1988 or 1989—I got a job doing telemarketing for a carpet cleaning company. It was one of the few places that would hire people that were younger with no experience.

It was in Grandview, Missouri. Grandview is a suburb of Kansas City, and it’s working class, so people were expected to work. If you wanted a car or gas or anything like that, you had to go out and make your own money.
I had no idea what telemarketing was and I had a couple friends who were doing it. That was the only reason I went into it, and I was horrible at it. I didn’t sell anything, that I remember, but I did learn a lot.

I learned the power of jumping in, of cold calling, of picking up the phone. It’s scary to pick up the phone the first time or to have people hang up on you. It gave me the courage to jump in and the persistence to stick with it, even in the absence of good manners on the other side.

People are not nice to anyone trying to sell carpet cleaning. But then you also had some people who were nice to you because they’re lonely and they just wanted to talk. So, I learned that if you listen to people, then they’ll listen to you, and you just have to connect in that way.

I attended the University of Missouri, but I never graduated. My special-needs son had eight brain surgeries. While I was going to college, I was also taking care of him. So, I went to school for about three years but never got a degree, which is probably one of the reasons I’ve always created my own opportunities.

A few years ago, I went to Colorado and learned about the medical application of cannabis. I felt compelled to educate people and educate the community and be a decent ambassador for cannabis. Now, I have a nonprofit for cannabis education. I found out early on, with that telemarketing job, that I’m not a script person. I’m much better off-the-cuff, when I can authentically connect with someone and have an organic relationship and conversation with them. And, I’m not a cubicle person. I’m different, and that’s what works for me. You kind of have to be if you’re taking on a controversial issue like medical cannabis. 

–As told to Renee Corwine 

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