Every time a business student asks me what career she should pursue, I answer “start with sales.”
There are few skills so universally valuable as selling (and marketing) that you can’t go wrong. Even if you only do it for 2-3 years, it’ll pay dividends many times over.
Which is why I loved this answer to a Ohio University student asking for inspiration. It’s advice I wish I had received as an undergrad (instead I focused on marketing and human resources to become a recruiter …).
As a startup founder of course now I sell all the time, to prospects, partners, team members. Getting buy-in on our vision,. But it’s not second nature. And I suspect that if I had learned the ropes early on, it’d be a LOT easier.
What advice would you give to a marketing, management and leadership major at OU?
I’ve given this quite a bit of thought, because there is a ton of different advice that I could give to new graduates getting into the business world for the first time.
However, there is one piece of advice that I believe is more important for new graduates than any other.
Here it is: Learn to sell.
Since graduating from Ohio University, I have worked in sales, worked in marketing, and started multiple profitable businesses. The one skill that I believe has allowed me to find success in these endeavors is my ability to sell and persuade.
This doesn’t mean that you need to work in sales, but it does mean that you’re going to need to learn to communicate effectively, speak in front of people, have difficult conversations, and convince people that your idea is the one that they’ve been looking for.
Learn to communicate the value proposition of whatever it is that you’re selling. Even if you’re just selling yourself for a position, you need to be able to effectively communicate why you’re the best person for the job.
You need to learn to ask questions that uncover pieces of information that you’re going to need in a conversation and you’re going to need to have the guts to ask for what it is that you want.
As I mentioned, you don’t need to work in sales for this skill to be important. You need to have this skill in any job, in relationships, in extracurricular activities, and so on, and so forth.
Many skills are important in the professional world, but if you don’t know how to sell you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting ahead.
I hope that this helps and wish you all the best of luck.