I dropped out of college when I was 19. That’s typically not how I introduce myself, but I feel it’s important context to how I ended up where I am today. I’m Katie, 31, and I’m now a Senior Customer Success Manager for ITProTV, an online learning platform. Between dropping out and where I am now, there were a lot of experiences and lessons I had to learn. At 19, I wasn’t ready to decide on a major or career so I took a break from school. I did some traveling and had various jobs, from bartending, working for a veterinarian, and being a wine sales representative.
My favorite job was when I landed in Gainesville and became a bartender and manager at The Top downtown. It was where a lot of people I know get stuck: quick, easy, and fun money. But that doesn’t take into account the negatives of working in that industry. For example, aside from small hourly raises, there isn’t much room for advancement. Schedules are flexible, but to get the best money, you need to work nights and especially weekends, making it hard to have a social life outside of the bar. This isn’t to say that bartending is not a great job or career for those who love it. It is. But for me, I had always dreamed of being financially “stable,” not having to worry about retirement, and having some semblance of social life on weekends.
I set a goal for myself to go back to school and finish my bachelor’s degree before I turned 30. As I worked my way through my classes, I started getting worried about landing a job once I graduated. After all, I had varied experiences, mostly in the hospitality industry. One of my classmates knew my goals and suggested working as a sales development representative (SDR) on an outsourced sales team. I was doubtful at first because I needed to continue studying full-time and worried about how I’d fit in the extra work. After consideration, I remembered my goals and the necessity of networking skills, and I’m so glad I did. I met with the CEO of the company to discuss my goals and started working part-time in SDR sales while studying at UF.
Working in college on an outsourced sales team allowed me to focus on and enhance my sales tactics and networking skills while pursuing my degree. I worked with various local businesses, and in turn, met great, like-minded people. I learned what kind of career I was interested in pursuing and was immersed in the Gainesville startup and tech community. My favorite project that I worked on as a part of an outsourced sales team was a campaign for SharpSpring. I got to learn about their company and network with some of their employees, one even became somewhat of a mentor to me.
Some of the greatest advice I received was that nothing is out of reach. While working in college was a difficult task to manage, I took my various experiences with sales tactics and applied them to both my SDR position as well as my studies. Ever heard of transferable skills? Even though you may have had very little “real world” working experience, you likely already have an impressive list of transferable skills that employees are seeking. I worked for years as a bartender and then bar manager.
On my resume, this translates into the skill set of fostering strong relationships with customers, multitasking under pressure, excellent team working skills, and even experience with sales tactics. Between my SDR position, networking, and realizing I had more skills than I thought, I landed a job at a great tech company in Gainesville. I started in SDR sales and moved my way into the Customer Success department, where I learned I was better-suited. I love my job, I love my team, and there is a lot of potential for even more growth than I’ve already experienced.
If I had to give any advice to those in college right now and nervous about getting a job, I would tell them to simply stop worrying and start working in college. My position in SDR sales has taught me that nothing is out of reach, no matter how old you are, your past experiences, or your current circumstances. Set your goals and remember them. Work hard on your networking skills by connecting with any and EVERYONE, and say yes to things you’re afraid of. You got this.