It's 2008. I've landed my dream job. A couple of successful alumni from my university saw a spark in me and hired me into their firm; very best in the city. Everyone said so. Four months later, I’m out of a job.
The great recession has hit. Markets are in turmoil. Banks are seized up. Lending has come to a stop. And there isn’t any work for me to do in my dream job or industry.
So much for a good start right out of university. There are literally zero jobs in my industry of choice. What do I do?
I've heard that CEOs all start their careers in sales, and like any self-respecting millennial, I know right then that's my destiny. So, I take the plunge and get a Sales gig.
Now it's 2019, 11 years later, and I’ve never looked back. Today, I do work in my dream job. Though, it’s a much different one than where I thought I’d be straight out of school.
It’s the best first job anyone could have because it trains you how to be successful. Isn’t that what everyone wants from their career? The pillars of sales success are the same in any position, but you’ll learn them faster in sales. Those pillars are hard work, resilience, and a growth mindset.
When you start in sales you’re going to very quickly realize that you are unequivocally responsible for a result. There are no more participation trophies. There are no more effort grades.
Most young professionals need to learn to work. They need to learn how to be productive each day. This is a skill that has many nuances, but ultimately it comes down to whether you can train yourself to work towards a goal. It's not enough to give it a good try and accept your fate in sales. You just won’t last long if you miss your number regularly. So you’ll learn very quickly the magic link between effort and results. You’ll learn that the right amount of effort isn’t always what you thought was a lot when you started out. It’s the amount of effort it takes to do the job.
Popularized by Tom Hanks in the classic movie “A League of Their Own,” he decrees that “There is no crying in Baseball!” Well, I can tell you that there is crying in sales. I’ve hired and trained hundreds of first time sales reps and they typically cry at about month six.
I cried at month eight.
This job is hard. It's emotionally taxing at first. I remember sitting in my car making cold calls when I broke down in tears. I was frustrated. I was tired. I hated what I was selling and how I was selling it. But I was learning.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning a valuable skill about how to acknowledge my emotions, but not be servient to them. I was learning how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I was learning what it really meant to be resilient.
A prospect yells at you? Good. The next call will be easier. The 40th cold call in a row doesn’t answer? Good. Law of average says the next one is more likely to pick up. You missed the sale? Good. You learned something.
The ability to dust yourself off and take one more step forward is maybe the most important skill you can develop as a human. We all suffer. You can pack a decade of experience into a year by starting your career in sales. It will benefit every part of your life.
What you learned yesterday will make you better today.
What I’ve observed is that the first two years of a sales rep’s career is driven by learning the craft. This process of seeking help, taking risks, self-assessing, and improving is a fundamental skill in being successful in anything. Because sales is so metric driven, you get constant feedback on how you’re doing. You get lots of chances to improve. And if you build this into your core operating system, you’ll be able to tackle any problem.
Grow Your Sales Career
The reason I think sales is such an amazing career option is because it gives you the building blocks to be successful so much quicker than any other job. You have no choice but to learn the hard lessons quickly, rather than figure them out over a decade or lifetime.
If you’re motivated and ambitious, what better way is there to gain transferable skills for any task or job that you’ll ever have.
I often hear young reps say they're scared of getting pigeon-holed in sales. What a load of BS. If you’ve done the work to learn how to work hard, learn, and grit your way to wins, you’re way ahead of the competition. And as a by-product of your time in sales, you'll learn how to be persuasive and empathetic and work out win-win scenarios. How can you ever be pigeon-holed? The world will be your oyster and you’ll be able to get a start in any field you ever want.
But buyer beware, you might actually like selling.
Do you want to be successful in your career? I might just know the perfect dream job for you.
Originally published Apr 2, 2019 10:53:32 AM, updated January 19 2023