The next time you’re wondering whether it’s possible to do what you truly want in life – consider Patty Reilly’s story.
Here’s a woman who had little experience relevant to her dream job – showcasing products as a celebrity TV host on QVC, but she didn’t let that stop her from landing the coveted role.
Selected as a QVC host from among hundreds of people who auditioned alongside her, Patti was recently awarded her own Saturday Night Beauty show (weekly from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time) and you can also frequently catch her at other times throughout the week.
First Job After College: Working Retail at a Casino
“I did not come from a TV background, though I do have a degree in speech communication from the University of Rhode Island. In ’92 when I graduated, there (weren’t) a lot of jobs out there at the time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my degree.
“A big casino (Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT) opened and hosted one of biggest job fairs in our area. Everyone was talking about the benefits and how great they were… I thought, ‘I have to do something,’ so I applied and was hired in one of the casino’s retail stores.”
Promoted in Two Weeks
“Two weeks later, I was promoted to retail shift manager, but I knew that this definitely wasn’t what I wanted to do. The casino had a place called Pequot Academy run by the Native American tribe that opened the casino… it wasn’t training for the dealers… it was more of a leadership school of training. I became really excited about the academy.”
Not Taking ‘No’ for an Answer
“I basically just went to the director at the academy, showed up with a resume and an eager smile saying, ‘This (leadership training) is something I want to do.’ She had me audition, but she still thought, ‘No, you’re not ready for this.’ So I started going to (leadership training) classes on my own time. I would sit in on various trainers’ classes and watch how they held the attention of the class.
“Word got back to her and she called me in to another interview. At the time I was 25 or 26, and she was concerned because some of the classes were in front of executive management, but I finally won her over and became a training specialist.”
Catching QVC at 4 AM
“As training specialist, you might have to be in the casino at midnight and run a class until six a.m. in front of a group of anywhere from 15 to 150. When you… (get) home at two, three or four in the morning… I was watching television and there was nothing fascinating except QVC.
“I was watching Lisa Robertson doing a Smashbox show and I just couldn’t leave it… I’m watching this attractive, funny young woman talking about makeup and I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? There’s a job out there that pays you to do this?!'”
Setting Her Sights on QVC
“I started getting myself really excited about it, and I thought, ‘This is ultimately what I’m going to do.’ I had my sister-in-law do a video of me selling an alarm clock radio that I had purchased on QVC and sent it to QVC. I didn’t hear anything, but once again, I didn’t let that deter me from anything.
“I’m just somebody who just doesn’t give up, especially when I know it’s the right thing – that I would be good for them and they would be good for me.”
“I kept (QVC job audition hotline) number in my day-planner and every once in a while I would call. They had an announcement that they were holding open-call auditions. I had my aunt take my headshot….. she’s a good photographer, but certainly not a professional photographer. I booked a hotel and drove to Pennsylvania the night before the audition so I could get a good night’s sleep before the audition, but of course I didn’t sleep.
I got there at 7:45 in the morning for an 8:00 audition and there were already throngs of people.”
More than Two Minutes
“I was watching people go in (to the audition rooms)… they kept going in and coming out two minutes later. I knew if I didn’t last more than two minutes, I’m done. I wouldn’t be coming back. I knew… I’ve got to last more than two minutes.
“When it was finally my turn. I went into the small room with just two people, a camera and a tripod. They asked me to sell my product. which I did with everything I’d got. The guy in the room jumped up and said, ‘You’re the best person we’ve seen today!'”
Getting the Big News
“A week later, they asked me back for a second round of auditions.
Over 500 people had gone through the process and they had narrowed it down to 16. I went back to the second round – it was basically selling random things they would toss your way with limited time to prep.
“Then the VP of TV Sales, Jack Comstock, called me… he kept me in suspense. He started off calmly and slowly and said, ‘As you know, we had hundreds of talented people audition, and unfortunately we can only pick three. You’re one of the three.’ Even now, I get choked up because that was one of the biggest moments of my life. The two other women… one had come from a TV news anchor background and one was an actor. I felt really lucky and blessed and proud.”
“When I came out (to QVC)… it was a lot of work… not knowing cameras and having one of those earpieces. Yeah, I can talk, but while someone else is talking to me in my ear?! There were things I had to learn.
“I embraced the criticism. That was one of the biggest lessons for me. I told myself, ‘They hired me because they liked me, now they’re just trying to build a better me for this venue.’ That was an asset going in… they said, ‘Gosh, we’re so glad you’re taking this well.'”
Greatest Challenge – You Can’t Always Please Everyone
“My biggest challenge has been criticism from people I don’t even know. I’m not the skinniest, not the prettiest, not the smartest… and for a while I felt like I had to figure it all out. My mother would say, ‘You can never please everyone all of the time,’ but I felt like I had to. I was always entertaining the smaller masses, but suddenly when you’re in (90) million homes across America, there’s a really good chance not everyone is going to love you.
“Getting the emails that are criticizing me about my job… you want to crawl up in a hole. They can break you down to make you feel like you are worthless and you never want to show your face in public again. You’ve got to remember it’s only a job. I’m going to be who I am and I can’t obsess about (criticism) anymore.”
Words of Advice on Selling
“I think women need to think about things when it comes to selling as sales without judgment. We might not always be selling something we love or would personally use ourselves.
“There are many times on QVC where I might be selling something I wouldn’t personally wear. The challenge might be looking at something through somebody else’s eyes. It might be something that Samantha in Arkansas would love. I would be doing her a disservice if I didn’t describe it in complete detail and with enthusiasm.”
Keep Knocking on Doors
“Not everyone is going to love your product, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, just keep on knocking on doors until one opens. Streamline your products – make them easy to understand. Also have your ears open for constructive criticism. There needs to be that willingness to listen and learn.”
How to Submit Your Product to QVC for Consideration
“We’re always on the search for new products. We even have a link on our Web page (http://www.qvcproductsearch.com/?rewrite=no)
where you can fill out certain forms to try to get a product on air.
Products that you can demonstrate, that solve a problem or make life easier, are often sought out by our buying team.”
You’re On: How to Shine in the Spotlight
“There are so many entrepreneurs that we meet at QVC – QVC is perfect for them. So many new guests are so hung up on how they’re going to do the sell, and what questions am I going to ask. But it’s all about features and benefits – people buy things off of features and benefits. Don’t make things too tricky or too complicated. The more complicated and tricky something is, the more you start to lose people. Tell me what the top three things are that make this the product we cannot live without. Never try to script it.”
“‘Dare to Win’ and ‘The Alladin Factor’ (by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen). I remember I read those books prior to getting the job at QVC. Those were the books that made me feel good as far as confidence, and really believing in myself and knowing I am fully 100 percent capable of doing a fabulous job, regardless of what’s in my background and on a sheet of paper.”