Tips for Noobs: Get a real job?

My job is fun! I get to interview sales superstars and report back on the findings. After 50 interviews, I wanted to share a surprising theme.

Most of the guests I’ve interviewed have been at least a little wistful about “what might have been.”  They got into whatever business they are in not so much by design but by chance or whatever opportunity looked best at the time or wherever they could get a job.

While our guests have become remarkably successful in business, when asked if they could change one thing, they say they should have spent more time at the front end of the job-search process to figure out in what industry they want to spend their careers.

It’s one thing to be the top salesperson and receive the commissions, perks and accolades that come with that, but it’s another to hang out in an industry that you love versus one that you just tolerate.

I talked to Greg Gardner, a tech sales vice president in California whose original love is music. Greg majored in music at Furman and got a graduate degree in jazz studies. Why not start the sales career in the music world? I talked to Greg about this, and he said it was common practice at the time to look outside of one’s passionate interest and instead get a “real job.” Perhaps he could have tried Yamaha, Live Nation, Steinway or hundreds of other options related to music that would keep him closer to the area in which he has experience and loves and has some built-in advantages.

Bryan Bock has been selling software to big businesses for 20 years, and he is very good at it, but his real passion has always been managing outdoor land for responsible hunting, fishing and so on. Many companies exist where he could have been selling in that field, especially now with so many tech options available to identify the best times and places to hunt and fish. He is another person who wondered what that would have looked like for him.

I can tell the same story myself. I spent the majority of my youth playing basketball through college. After all those games and networking and summer camps with some of the best coaches around, when the last game was over I just dropped all of that and decided to go into high-tech sales. Like Bryan and Greg, it worked out for me career-wise, but a more logical choice would have been to get a first job in the sports field. I did not really know anything at that time about tech, and frankly I still enjoy talking sports more than I do talking tech. Nike, Adidas, NBC Sports, Wilson: Plenty of choices were available, but my mindset was, “Basketball is over. Get a real job.”

Whether you are about to get your first job or considering a career change, take it from us and explore what industry you want to spend your time in, find the companies you like in that area and then go get it!

A quick test you can give yourself – what trade show would you enjoy going to every year for the next 40 years? Get a “real job” job in that field!

John Sterling is the Amazon bestselling author of  “Sales for Noobs” and CEO of NOOB School, an online resource for new salespeople. Previously, John helped build and sell Datastream for over $200 million. He has trained and hired hundreds of sales reps globally. Subscribe to his YouTube channel for new sales content every week.