Every year as February rolls around, college students prepare for their career journey. They go to career fairs and network at events with the goal to secure opportunities for career development. As students gather information about potential positions, many wonder, “am I qualified for this role?” A student’s answer usually focuses on their technical skills or major. However, what grabs the attention of potential employers is not their major or technical skills. Rather, how has your overall experiences prepared you to meet their needs and benefit their team? What are these necessary differentiators? How can working in sales advance them, and how can they showcase them to employers?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) developed a list of eight career readiness competencies. These are critical skills necessary for employers. These competencies include: 1) Career & Self-Development, 2) Communication, 3) Critical Thinking, 4) Equity & Inclusion, 5) Leadership, 6) Professionalism, 7) Teamwork, and 8) Technology.
Each of the areas listed play a critical role in career preparedness. They equip individuals with the tools necessary to adapt and thrive in new situations. They are the catalyst to crafting and sharing ideas effectively to a team. Also, they offer the framework for building good relationships and maintaining them.
Many opportunities for career development exist during college to enhance these skills. There are on campus leadership opportunities, student organizations to join, volunteer opportunities, study abroad, and summer internships. While these offer valuable opportunities for career development, studies show a major gap between student competency and employer expectations.
According to a recent study of employers by NACE, the two most important career readiness competencies are critical thinking and communication. While 98.5% of employers feel that both are extremely important for candidates to have, employers feel that only 55.8% are proficient critical thinkers and 54.3% of employers feel graduates are competent communicators.
These career readiness competencies are essential for everyone to possess. However, it can be easy to feel as though they are an unattainable standard. But, there is a way to fully develop these skills.
Sales is the single most important function in any business. All other jobs are dependent on the success of the sales team. Without sales of a particular product or service, a company cannot operate and all other positions are null-and-void. Although improvement of communication skills and critical thinking is significant, many fear working in sales to the detriment of their career success.
Despite one’s major or current career goals, sales experience drastically improves a student in relation to NACE’s core readiness competencies.
Sales experience boosts an individual’s confidence to meet and adapt to any situation. It promotes active listening to understand a person’s pain point, which is essential in building empathic relationships.
The sheer volume of people that an individual interacts with (including the many different personality types) in sales strengthens communication skills. They learn the power of simple and impactful language. As well as, the importance of eliminating wasted words such as like, -ly words, and “ums,”. This change harnesses the ability to hold multi-generational conversations.
With sales, especially with practice and coaching, individuals gain critical thinking skills. While listening to another’s needs, they quickly and thoughtfully analyze how to best position themselves and the company’s services.
Beyond professional development, the sales experience gained benefits a future employer – and they know it.
With one’s major or technical skills, and the nice addition of internships, employers value sales experience. Whether this position is in hospitality, outsourcing, fundraising, or customer service, the sales experience prepares students to succeed in the workforce.
Simply sharing these roles on your resume though is not enough. It is vital to express how these experiences relate to the job you are pursuing and serve a future employer. With the tools learned in a sales role, one can more fully distinguish themselves from their peers in the job market. To do this effectively, it is important to
Position it well on your resume by showing your success through data.
Adapt the sales skills in interviews by asking questions and listening to the interviewer.
Talk about the impact of your sales experience, such as the improvement of communication skills and writing more effectively. Include examples of how sales has advanced your critical thinking.
Beyond degrees, internships, and leadership positions, students in the job market have drive, curiosity for learning, and fierce competitive spirit. However, this is not enough to differentiate oneself in the job market.
To distinguish yourself, improvement of communication skills is essential. Significantly improving career readiness competencies, the sales experience offers a launchpad to boost confidence, strengthen communication, enhance critical thinking, and build empathy. These skills not only position oneself better, but also offer employers greater assurances of an employee’s capabilities to meet desired outcomes.