This has been by far my most popular post in the nine months that I have blogged, and I thought it was time to revisit it and keep the conversation going. There are some incredible comments up for review. Some of my childhood friends even chimed in to challenge me with some of my content in the post. I would love you to take a read and respond with your honest feelings on the subject. Maybe I will turn this conversation in to a mini e-book or something in the future because it sure captivated my readers. Enjoy!
I recently returned from a trip to my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is 8 hours north of Minneapolis, Minnesota if you are unaware. This is the first time in my career that I am able to work in my hometown since I moved away 11 years ago, and I was very excited to reconnect in my community.
Although most of the trip was awesome, I had a surprising conversation with somebody from my past that bothered me greatly. For those of you who know me well, I have “facial recognition software” engrained in my brain for remembering people who I grew up with. I was at the 100th anniversary of the suburb that I grew up in last Saturday and approached at least 15 people from my youth that I had not seen in 4EVER! That was so much fun. I digress…
I was at a trade show earlier in the week and ordered supper at a concession stand. I changed my drink order, and the person serving me smiled and gave a double take. They saw that I was wearing a name tag, and asked if I went to school in the suburb that I actually grew up in. I paused for a moment and said yes. Instead of saying that I did not remember them, I asked what their name was. After they replied, I instantly recognized their face.
The difficult part of the dialog is they hesitated to say their name out of embarrassment for the job that they were doing. I took a few moments to speak with them after receiving my drink, and saw them the next day as well.
21 years removed from high school, I was not expecting somebody to be working in that setting, and my “facial recognition software” was not activated at the time. If they were proud of the job that they were doing, and did not care what others thought, they would have had no issue telling me what their name was.
There is a silver lining for this person. It is never too late to change career paths. The generation of “go to school, get a job, find somebody, get married, have some kids, work at the same thing for 40+ years and retire” is long gone.
One of my best friends dropped everything in his late 30’s, started working towards a totally different career, and is now very close to completing his studies.
We can’t turn back the clock and hit “reset” to that day that we walked out of high school with that diploma in hand, but we can certainly hit the “reset” button RIGHT NOW and start working towards something more fulfilling.
If there is anything this experience really taught me, is that I have to keep working towards what I really want out of life, no matter how hard it seems sometimes. I would rather fall flat on my face and know that I tried, than think about it, and never do anything. I don’t care if you are in sales, management, general business, or doing whatever keeps you paying the bills, but be sure that you are happy doing it.
I will always keep trying, scratching and clawing towards surpassing my goals, no matter how tough things seem to get. Just ask those who played hockey against me when I was a one man wrecking crew pushing for victory as a kid!
- How is your job/career going?
- Are you jumping out of bed excited about what you are doing from the moment your feet hit the floor each morning?
- If you had an unexpected meeting with somebody from your past, would you be embarrassed to tell them what you are doing?
- If so, whatcha gonna do about it?
I have been lucky enough to work out of a home office for 11 of the last 13 years. The two years that I had an office to report in to, I would get stuck in traffic daily. It gave me many opportunities to look at other people’s faces, as their days were off to very “slow” starts too.
Some looked sad; others looked angry or frustrated, some had blank stares or even looked dazed. On occasion, some were smiling, while others where actually singing! It blew my mind how many people looked unhappy though. Is it realistic to believe that all of them looked that way because they were unhappy going to work? Of course not. Some must have been dealing with other issues too (some were of course frustrated by the continual traffic jams).
Most studies report that 7 or 8 out of 10 people do not like their jobs! One study in the sales profession showed that more than 50% of people should not even be sales at all! Are you one of those people getting out of bed dreading the next 8 to 12 hours every day?
Internet marketer Gary Vaynerchuk changed his entire career path because he was only 99% happy in his situation at the time. To me, that was an incredibly powerful statement. As people become more and more unhappy with their jobs over the months, years or even decades, it is like they are sinking further and further into quicksand. The more unhappy they get, the deeper they sink. On the odd occasion that they try to change jobs, they try a bit, then just stop trying all together.
People typically want to make the switch, but “life gets in the way”. A job search gets put on the back burner. Others lack confidence, and don’t feel that they are good enough to have a shot at “career satisfaction”. Too many people settle for the status quo, and don’t take action. Some stay in a career that they just don’t like, becoming a “work robot” completing the same repetitive tasks at nauseum, for what seems like an eternity.
The next thing they know, five, ten or 20+ years have passed, and then wake up one day saying, “What the heck am I still doing here?” I can tell you from experience that being comfortable in a role that “pays the bills” does not equal happiness. Not even close.
When you are in love with your career, you should rarely be counting down the minutes until the end of the day, week, or until holidays start. I had a manager tell me that you should be excited to go to work, from the moment your feet hit the floor each morning. So many people over the years have said that “every day should feel like a Saturday”, or “your work should not feel like a job”.
It can be a good practice to check in with yourself now and then.
- How happy are you with your career?
- Is it heading in the direction you would like it to?
If you feel “sunk”, the good news is you can always change your path going forward.
Remember, “You don’t drown by falling in water. You only drown by staying there.” – Zig Ziglar
- What does your perfect job look like (yes, you can have the perfect job)?
- How does that list compare to the job you’re currently in?
- What one step can you take today to move towards loving your job?
Or Do You Actually Bring Something To The “Business Party”?
I am going to have a recurring theme on my blog called “Tough Love Lessons”. I will warn you in advance, they tone of these posts will be “in your face”, and may not apply to you. But there are people out there who need wake up calls in a variety of areas. If you know anyone who this applies to, please share the post with them.
For those of you who are already in the sales profession, or are thinking about a sales career, there are many opportunities to entertain customers and/or prospects. Events like lunches, dinners, golf tournaments, and trade shows are very common.
These are excellent opportunities to get to know people better, but there is also the potential to embarrass yourself! If you have consumed too many refreshments (or whatever else), you are going to look very silly.
Many people have gotten a “pass” at least one time in their careers for foolish behaviour, but if it becomes the rule that you are the “life of the party”, your credibility is thrown right out the window.
During my career, I have often laughed at the comment,
“He’s a great guy (or she’s a great girl)” for one reason……
But there is usually a “BUT” after.
In this scenario, the sales rep is great to socialize with, but they don’t really bring anything to the “business party”. This is a horrible stigma to have during your career. They are fun to be around, but they are not doing their job! OUCH.
Doing your job to the best of your ability is why people should remember you first.
This is not a 9-5, Monday to Friday type career; so if you are thinking about the profession for “free fun”, think again. There is so much more to it than that!
If you get a bad reputation early in your sales career, you are done. I have seen it happen, and don’t think that you would not be blacklisted as a “party-rep” too.
Oh yeah, one last thing….
You never want to be remembered as “that guy” or “that girl”.
This is the person that was a “memorable fool” at a business event, and people talked about them for years later when recalling the stupidity that transpired.
Never be that person who is late for a trade show or training sessions that management has paid good money for you to attend. Drag yourself to the event no matter what, or you may be looking for a new job sooner than later.
I really enjoyed this short blog post from Broc Edwards. He makes some very valid points comparing a job and a career. Enjoy!
[Today’s flashback is a short piece I originally posted on September 5, 2011. Enjoy!]
I was watching Chris Rock’s “Kill the Messenger” the other night and was really struck by one of his comments. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that you know you have a career when there’s never enough time. You look at your watch and it’s already after 5pm so you plan on coming in early the next day. With a job, there’s too much time. You look at your watch and it’s just after 9am and the day stretches out ahead.
Absolutely brilliant! It doesn’t matter if you’re overpaid or underpaid, hourly or salaried, educated or uneducated, or what field you’re in or company you work for: if there’s never enough time to accomplish all that you’re excited about getting done, you have a career; if time is your enemy, you have a job. There’s a lot of…
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Hiring managers can “occasionally” overstate potential compensation packages with a sales role during the interview process. Before you have even started the job, you begin to envision how well you are going to do, even before evaluating if it is an achievable goal. I have taken it so far as envisioning how my life will be if I made that amount of money! Silly, but these thoughts can happen if you start to get ahead of yourself.
The success may well happen early on, but realistically it will take longer, possibly years to get up to that level of compensation consistently. Everyone develops in a role at different speeds, and many factors can come in to play regarding earning potential.
They are always people who thrive and over achieve quickly, but they are in the minority. A good question for the hiring manager in the interview process is,
“What are the realistic total compensation numbers (on average) in the first three years on the job?”
If you have little savings, or limited ability to pay for expenses now, you need to consider what size of salary you take, compared to potential commissions and bonuses.
I got a hard dose of reality with this type of situation in one of the roles that I accepted.
I was given a ball park idea of how the previous rep had done in the territory the year before, and it was a fantastic number! I started to see lots and lots of dollar signs! It definitely blurred my vision.
I was very confident in my abilities by that point in my career, and felt great about the role. There was a small issue that the hiring manager failed to mention. The previous rep negotiated to keep all the large accounts in the territory when he moved to another region. These accounts contributed greatly to the overall compensation.
Not only did the previous rep negotiate to keep many of the high producing accounts, the pay plan changed 4 months after I started, taking a good chunk out of the earning potential that was so desirable when I started the job. Things can change in a heartbeat, and it is best to underestimate what you will earn for the first couple of years, and decide from there if you are still comfortable taking the role.
This is especially CRITICAL when you need money right away and accept a role with 100% commission or a limited base salary.
I had four hours to kill last week on an airplane, so I decided to revisit old content that I had archived. I was surprised by how much information I had on job searches; all the way from getting started on a search, culminating with evaluating offers. I will save most of it for the future. Perhaps release it in eBook format!
Until then, here are three of my favourite posts that I dug up and edited. Enjoy day 1!
I absolutely love being the dark horse in the interview process. If I was not expected to get a role, I took it as a personal challenge and stepped my game up to the highest level possible. It is always fun going through the process under those circumstances. There is no pressure on the underdog; just go in and do your best. I would get this type of information by asking the recruiter who I was competing against for an opportunity. Sometimes it was better not to know, but on occasion I would ask and they would tell me.
I know for a fact that I was hired in at least one role that I had no business getting based on minimal experience in a technical field. It was down to four candidates, but I did not let the knowledge that the other candidates had solid industry experience affect my confidence in any way.
I had no pressure on me and did get the role which felt great. I impressed the toughest manager that I ever ended up working for in my career in that interview, and he gave me a shot. I have always told recruiters and/or hiring managers that all I need is the chance to impress during the interview process. Actions speak louder than words, and meeting people face to face confirms that I will shine, and am not just a bunch of credentials on paper.
Do not be afraid to apply for roles that need previous sales or industry experience. What do you have to lose? If they don’t want to meet with you, that is their choice, but at least you are giving them something to think about.
Remember, it is not uncommon for sales reps to work for several different organizations in a specific industry during their career because they have product knowledge and many business contacts. But bad habits can creep in to their day-to-day activities, and I am hearing from mangers recently that they will give more consideration to new reps entering an industry and/or sales all together. It is a breath of fresh air to bring new blood in and not “recycle” the same reps over and over.
Why is that?
New sales reps have a clean slate. They have no preconceived notions about the industry or particular customers. They are excited to have the opportunity to start in a sales role and grow with an organization. Many managers realize that they can train new employees, and teach them product knowledge, as long as they have the skill set to succeed long-term.
My most successful sales role started without industry experience or product knowledge. I was very nervous at first taking the role, but once I learned the product line and account base, it was smooth sailing from there. My tried and tested systems worked once again. I just had to “insert” the new products!
It is easy to say that a “rep is a rep”, but when I dug deeper over the years, there are many “personas” that they could take on. True performers typically elevate their game from “just a rep” to “sales professional” and ultimately “superstar” over a shorter period of time.
I compiled a list of the six categories of reps after being part of several sales teams over the years:
- Raw rookies
- Future superstars
- Steady Eddies
- “What have you done for me latelys?”
Raw rookies may be new to a role, or brand new to the sales profession. They are hopefully eager to learn, and make every attempt to work well with their team mates and managers as soon as possible. The first three months tend to be a little rough on raw rookies, as they are inundated with a barrage of product training and possibly other teachings. If they are not given the necessary support to become successful early in their time with a company, they are probably “thrown to the wild” and asked to fend for themselves. The first three months tends to decide a raw rookies’ fate, and management can quickly tell if the interview process was a true indicator of what was to come.
Future Superstars can show signs early on if they are going to be successful. Typical signs are how they carry themselves, how eager they are to learn the role, and how engaging they are with coworkers, management and customers. They realize that it is going to take some time to understand the organization, and their products and/or services. But they know as long as they make the customer their #1 priority, things will eventually fall in to place. Future superstars will put the team before themselves, and never lose site of the fact that their day-to-day goal is to sell stuff and exceed budget.
Superstars show a lot of the characteristics that I have described under “Future Superstars”, but have achieved above average results for a longer time. Can somebody be characterized as a superstar after 3-12 months on the job? Probably not. Any rep can fluke out and have a great few months, and then come back down to earth soon after. But if they have successfully achieved for 12 – 24 months in the same role, I would deduce that is it not a coincidence. Superstars just get the job done and continue to raise the bar to the next level. They are never satisfied, and are always looking for their next challenge to grow and succeed.
Steady Eddies can be relatively new sales reps, or seasoned veterans who have been around years. Their results do not fluctuate much from month to month, or year to year. Their consistent results make them a very dependable and reliable group that can always be counted on. They typically turn down promotions, especially for managerial roles, because they are comfortable working their territories as individuals, and like to be left alone to do their jobs.
What have you done for me latelys?
If you are a child of the ‘80’s like me, you may realize that this category was inspired by the classic 1986 Janet Jackson song of a similar name!
“What have you done for me latelys?” are very similar to sports stars that are past their prime, but are still being rewarded for what they have done before. They could be described as “lame duck” employees, who should be fired, but are not for many reasons. It has become public knowledge that they are not performing their job duties up to the standards that they set for themselves in the past, but some business is still coming in based on their reputation in the market place. In many cases they are counting the days until retirement; or for those not of retirement age, they are counting the days until they get fired.
Underachievers are not getting the job done. They never have. There could be many reasons for this, and the list is too long to assess in this post! At the end of the day, it will result in termination; it is only a matter of time. Some tend to have “nine lives” and dodge being fired longer than many expect. But in the end, they will be looking for another job, possibly even in a different profession!
- If you are not in the sales profession yet, do you have what it takes to become a Superstar in this exciting line of work?
- If you are in sales, what type of rep are you now, and what type should you be?
- What changes to you have to make ASAP if it does not say “Superstar” on your business card?