Death of a Career Consultant

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in careers, Uncategorized, work | 0 comments

Death of a Career Consultant

Every now and then we try something different. This is the result of imagining a career conversation with one of my favourite literary characters, Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.



The scene is a small office, perhaps in downtown New York.
A new caller, Willy Loman, is buzzed through

WILLY: [friendly, upbeat] Well Hello Paul, it sure is swell to meet you.

PAUL: Hello Willy, nice to meet you too.

WILLY: Not sure why but my boss, Howard, said we should meet. Are you a new buyer from upstate? How long you gonna be in town?

PAUL: Sorry to disappoint you Willy, I’m not a buyer I’m a Career Consultant.

WILLY: [sceptical but still warm] A career what? Doesn’t sound like any job I ever heard of.

PAUL: I felt the same way first time I heard about it.

WILLY: Sounds fangled to me, like one of Howard’s wire recorders. I’m a salesman. Quite a big-shot in New England too.

PAUL: [impressed] Sounds like interesting work.

WILLY: Oh, it’s interesting all right, I can’t think of anything better.

PAUL: What do you like about it?

WILLY: Plenty Paul. For one, being a salesman means I’m well liked. I get to call on people all over, and I’m helping them each time. You can’t beat the feeling of being on the road. Why, I’ll drive us up to Boston one day, you’ll see for yourself. Whadd’ya say?

PAUL: I think I’d like that. So Willy, do you mind if I ask why you think Howard wanted us to meet?

WILLY: [puzzled] Not sure I can help you there Paul. All Howard gave me was your name, this address and a time to call by.

PAUL: What if you had to guess what Howard wanted? And by the way, if it makes us even, Howard never told me anything about you either. He just said someone with your name would show up.

WILLY: Well I guess that does even the score, but I’m not much for guessing games. Why don’t you tell me why you think Howard set us up?

PAUL: I’m glad we’re even, and I’m happy to tell you what I think. I think Howard wants you to know where you stand.

WILLY: [defensively] Now hold on a minute! Whadd’ya mean saying something like that?

PAUL: Sorry Willy, I didn’t mean anything by it. You asked what I think, and I think maybe Howard has seen things get harder for the people in his company recently and wanted to do something to help.

WILLY: [rising anger] Well you can tell Howard I don’t need his help. I’m doing just fine, and… and I’ve been doing fine long before he was around. Better than fine just so you know. D’you know it was me who opened up New England for Frank when Howard was still in diapers? I even helped Frank choose Howard as a name goddammit!

PAUL: Were things much different back then? With work, in New England?

WILLY: Different? Are you kidding? Everything was different back then. I had buyers in towns everywhere who knew me by name. In those days they were all waiting for me to call… And it wasn’t Frank or Howard they looked up to; it was me, Willy Loman. My name stood for something back then. It opened all kinds of doors. Mayors had coffee with me… We talked about state affairs. I could park on any street in New England and the cops looked out for me. Everything was different back then.

PAUL: So what are they like now?

WILLY: Now!? I’m on the road twice as long to sell a quarter of what I used to. Most of the buyers I helped for years have helped themselves to retirement. Howard took over from Frank – the old man and me, we had a deal see. He said there would always be room for me here in New York when I was ready to take it easy. When Biff and Hap were all grown up, and the house was paid off too, y’know? But, ah… I reckon I could live with all this if they hadn’t took it away from me. Took it away after more than thirty years.

PAUL: Took what away Willy?

WILLY: My salary.

PAUL: I see. I guess that makes things incredibly tough for you right now?

WILLY: [sounding beat] You don’t know the half of it Paul. Not even half.

PAUL: I’d like to hear it, all of it, if you’d be willing to tell me. To tell me more about they way things were and the way they are now.

WILLY: [defensive again] You’re not a shrink are ya? Where’s this all heading?

PAUL: No, it’s nothing like that. We’re just here to talk. It makes a difference you know.

WILLY: [curious] Say it does. How do I know you won’t run everything I say back to Howard soon as I leave?

PAUL: You have my word Willy. Howard knows it’s confidential.

WILLY: And all we’ll do is talk?

PAUL: Just talk. That’s all.

WILLY: Can I trust you Paul?

PAUL: I can’t make that or any other decision for you Willy. But you’re a salesman. Take a good look and make up your mind from there.

WILLY: [thinks] Hell, with no salary all I got left is a smile and a shoeshine. You gotta deal Paul, let’s talk [the two shake hands].


For Willy Loman’s back-story, read or watch
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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It’s nearly Christmas,
and what better time
to celebrate a great story.

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Best Wishes for the Season!

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