Exploring Sales as a Career and a Major

By: Amanda

It is easy to hear the word “sales” and have your mind automatically jump to a stereotypical salesperson: motivated only by money, willing to do anything for commission, and making wildly unrealistic promises to close deals. Those looking to choose a career path often say they would do anything but sales. 

All of this being said, these preconceived notions are far from the truth for most positions. Building relationships, working to solve problems, and helping others are just a few characteristics that make sales roles fulfilling and worthy of considerations. Nearly every job has a sales component. 

Sales is becoming increasingly demanded as a career path, with more than 50% of college graduates’ first job being some type of sales-related position. 

Text: Sales as a career and major
Photo: coffee cup on wood desktop

UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) has a Sales minor, Sales Club, and newly established Sales major, making this the ideal time to pursue a Professional Sales career. 

Through the Professional Sales Program, students are taught analytical skills to meet the customer’s needs, gain experience with data analysis to facilitate buying decisions, and are exposed to customer relationship management systems. While all of these technical skills are great, arguably the largest benefit to students through this program is the real-world exposure and networking it provides. Students in the program are given the opportunity to work on projects for companies, participate in mock presentations at local and national competitions, and interface with industry professionals. 

Personally, I am majoring in both Marketing and Sales. I am excited to be apart of the Professional Sales Program at LSBE and I know it is going to be a perfect fit for me for a variety of reasons. I am passionate about connecting and building relationships with others. I know each person has their own story to tell and I go into conversations curious to connect and learn more. Sales is a perfect way to connect my analytical mindset to my love for working with others. Through a Sales internship position with CUNA Mutual Group this past summer, additional job shadowing opportunities, joining the Sales Club at UMD, and an upcoming Sales internship with Land O’Lakes for summer 2020, I have been able to fully delve into a variety of sales areas. By no means am I close to an expert in sales, but I have learned a few things along the way. Based on what I have learned, if you are considering a career path in sales, think about the following ideas: 

  1. We sell to our coworkers and managers all the time. Whether it be a new idea for the office or a proposed team bonding activity, we are basically selling on a day to day basis in some way. 
  2. Think about how you interact with others. Do people find it easy to talk to you? Maybe you’re good at remembering details about people you just met. 
  3. Consider how you manage your goals. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in sales, it is critical to be driven to succeed. A large piece of this is being able to set goals, break them down into actionable steps, and reach them successfully.
  4. How do you solve problems?  Think about the times in your professional and personal life when you have had an issue come up. In sales, it is often helpful to be able to look at a problem and come up with innovative solutions quickly, while also weighing alternatives. 
  5. Look at your personality. In sales, it is common to hear no, or a negative response, on a regular basis. It is important to be upbeat and be able to power through setbacks. Salespeople are also passionate. Passionate about changing lives, making an impact, growing their careers and the product or service they are working with. 

Hopefully, these ideas have helped you figure out whether a career in sales could be the right fit for you. Here at Career & Internship Services, we understand choosing a major, minor, or career path is not an easy decision. We are here to help you through every step of the way. Stop by Solon Campus Center 22 to chat and make a plan today. 

Of Possible Interest:
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major into a Career; Boost Your Career in College – our Pinterest boards filled with articles & resources
• Check out Amanda’s Instagram takeover from her summer internship at CUNA Mutual.

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Garrhet Sampson

The Power in Connections

By: Amanda

During the job and internship search it is common for students to feel apprehensive when tapping into their network of connections. Oftentimes, students do not even take time to step back and evaluate who is all in their network they should reach out to. Today I will cover a few ways I have taken advantage of my network and hopefully inspire you with a few ways to use yours.

Image: sunset time with light trails over boxes
Text: The power of connections

LINKEDIN – THE ALUMNI FEATURE

When I am looking for potential networks or connections, I start with LinkedIn. A solid starting point is to search your university in the search bar. More often than not, alumni are willing to answer messages with questions about their current role and company. After pulling up the University of Minnesota Duluth page, I was able to select filters based on my interests. For example, one filter I selected was alumni who live in the Chicago area and are working in Marketing and Sales based fields. From this point, I was able to narrow my search down to 92 alumni. LinkedIn offers six filters (where they live, where they work, what they do, what they studied, skills they have, and how you’re connected) that can help the search be narrowed quickly and easily. 

Screenshot of LinkedIn Alumni Feature

Once I have found an alum who I want to reach out to about their position/company, I send an invitation to connect with a personalized message that includes the following:

Hi Sam,

I noticed that you are a UMD alumni working at Johnson & Johnson. I am currently a junior at UMD majoring in Sales and Marketing. I am interested in applying for their Sales internship opportunities for this summer. I am wondering if you have any recommendations for applying to the company? Additionally, if you could provide any insight on what it is like working for J & J and the company culture overall, that would be greatly appreciated!

Respectfully, Amanda

Remember, when connecting with anyone on LinkedIn, always send a personalized message! This shows that you are willing to go above and beyond to take initiative and build a relationship. You never know when your connection will be useful. 

STUDENT GROUPS

Take a look at the student groups you are apart of. Chances are, there are either current individuals or alumni who can point you in the right direction. From Greek Life and clubs of interest, to clubs based on a major, there are many connections to be had in each. Try reaching out to members who have been in your org for a long period of time, they will have ideas on who to reach out to. 

In conclusion, in order to set yourself apart when searching for jobs and internships, it is crucial to look at your current connections, as well as branch out to network with others to get the most out of your search. Take some time this Fall to really tap into your network and make the most of your opportunities! 

Of Possible Interest:
Networking – all our blog posts on the topic
Key to Networking – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Federico Beccari

Navigating the Curveballs

By: Amanda

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. As a student or a working professional, whether it is through illness, injury, or essentially anytime you need to take time off, it is crucial to know what your options are in both school and work life. Here are a few areas to look into:

Meet with your Academic Advisor
Academic Advisors are a wealth of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into. They can help to understand options when going through sticky situations. Their job is literally to aid in keeping students on path towards graduation. Take advantage of your assigned advisor, after all it is a free resource built in to your tuition. 🙂 No matter what the situation, you can count on your advisor to have the answer to your question, or be able to direct you to where you can find the answer. Depending upon the situation, they may suggest a medical withdrawal. As daunting as this process may seem, open communication with your academic advisor will help all run seamlessly.

Image: looking down on colorful pens in a jar on a grey background
Text: Navigating life's curveballs

Medical Withdrawal
With proper approval, a medical withdrawal on a student transcript is not something that will make or break a student’s academic career. There are three main steps that go into a medical withdrawal. First, a petition must be made. Through a petition on the OneStop website you can cancel all classes or individual classes, depending on the situation. Keep in mind, that if only one class is canceled, there should be a brief explanation why one class is being canceled and not others. On the last page, you can have your advisor recommended the withdrawal. Second, there must be a medical supplement form submitted. This is simply a form filled out by a Medical Professional with specific dates and information. Finally, keep in mind a tuition refund. Adjusting credit load can alter tuition, as well as financial aid. This is the most complex part of the process and if not done right could potentially make a student owe money. Make sure to set up an appointment with OneStop to work out the fine details.

Family and Medical Leave Act
FMLA requires employers to provide job secured unpaid leave for all excusable medical and family reasons. In order to be eligible for FMLA the employee must be at the business for at least 12 months and work at a company that employs 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius. As college students who will be soon entering the workforce, it is important to have knowledge in this area and be fully versed in all rights.

Counseling Sessions
Remember that through UMD each semester you get 10 FREE counseling sessions with your tuition. This is almost one counseling session per week. No matter what you are going through, know that you are not alone and there is always someone here to talk. Once you’re out working, your company may also have an Employee Assistance Program the provides consultation and referral services in counseling and a number of other areas. Here’s what is available to UMD employees, as an example.

Life throws difficult curveballs and situations our way often and it is important to know how to deal with them. These resources are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources offered. The first step is to meet with an advisor or your supervisor and see what is available for you!

Of Possible Interest:
Disabilities in the Workplace – all our blog posts on the topic
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Jessica Lewis

Tips on Marketing Yourself From a Marketing Student

By: Amanda

Marketing is for everyone. Yes, you read that right. It does not matter whether you are a civil engineering student, or in the early childhood education program, it is important to recognize what you bring to the table when applying for jobs and internships. So often the idea of “selling/marketing yourself” comes with a negative, inauthentic connotation. I’m here today to bust that myth.

WHAT DOES MARKETING YOURSELF MEAN?
Marketing yourself is the idea of identifying your niche. As a college student, it is vital to identify why employers should want you over another applicant. Marketing yourself means identifying your interests. For example, if you are interested in the outdoors, perhaps this could lead to sustainability. It also means looking at what skills you have and which you can improve upon. You might consider making a list of skills and how you can apply them to the workplace. Some example skills would include: public speaking, time management, organization, or teamwork.

CREATING A PERSONAL BRAND
Creating a personal brand means understanding your strengths, values and most importantly, what you uniquely bring to the table that other candidates may not have. For example, if you are a political science major with interests in sustainability and values of inclusiveness and empathy, you can find ways to build these into your brand. The Career and Internship Services Office offers three different assessments that can help in finding your strengths and personality, as well as interests. Once you have the content for your personal brand, put it to life in your LinkedIn profile, Resume, Cover Letter, social media platforms and your life as a whole. If you live out your values and what makes you unique, it will shine through in your job search process.

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Text: Tips on marketing yourself from a marketing student

MARKETING YOURSELF ON YOUR RESUME
When crafting a resume it is important to realize your paid work experience is not the only relevant experience to highlight. Club positions and volunteer work can show ample amounts about who you are as a person. Consider putting your most relevant information, regardless of if it is paid work experience, at the top of your resume. Here is an example of a volunteer position resume section:

Tour Guide, Office of Admissions, UMD, Duluth, MN, Aug 2018 – Jan 2019

  • Promoted the benefits of campus to parents and students
  • Attended diversity training and display awareness during interactions with prospective students
  • Developed public speaking skills by speaking in front of groups ranging from 6 to 20 guests

This resume section, although unpaid, shows a passion for public speaking and an interest in promoting diversity.

MARKETING YOURSELF ON A COVER LETTER
Crafting a cover letter is also a prime opportunity to market yourself.  Take this opportunity to go above and beyond and showcase your personality. Try to find out the name of the person at the company that the letter should be addressed to. Describe your potential value to the employer. Do this in such a way that focuses on what sets you apart from other applicants. Maybe you were President of a college club that relates directly to the type of work you would be doing, or maybe growing up you always had a passion for the company you are applying at. These seemingly small concepts can help you go from an average job candidate to securing an interview.

MARKETING YOURSELF ON LINKEDIN
The first step to marketing yourself on LinkedIn is to make sure that your profile is fully completed. That means the summary, education, experience, profile photo, and all other areas are polished. After this is complete, go on to engage. Share and like posts that are a good representation of yourself. Always post online like the CEO of your company is going to see the post.

Of Possible Interest:
Resumes & Cover Letters – all our blog posts on the topic
Ace the Job Search & Internships – our Pinterest boards filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Chris Barbalis

The Hidden Benefits of Greek Life

By: Amanda

When I came to campus in the fall of 2017, I knew I wanted to join Greek life. The benefits of joining are endless: service and philanthropic events, social events with other organizations, a sisterhood that lasts a lifetime and a home away from home. Although I gained all of these through joining Phi Sigma Sigma, I found that the professional development opportunities nearly outweigh the social ones.

It is believed that there are currently over 9 million Greek members across the nation (source). On top of this, the first female senator and first female astronaut were Greek. And additionally, 85% of Fortune 500 executives belonged to Greek life. It goes without saying that Greek members are making an impact well past their collegiate years. When considering this impact, there are three main hidden benefits of Greek life: professional network development, resume crafting, and a job interview.

Image: desk top with pot with writing utensils, yellow coffee mug, back of computer monitor
Text: Hidden Benefits of Greek Life: professional network development; resume building; examples for job interviews.

Networking naturally occurs through Greek life in college, as all Greek organizations often have social events. Furthermore, individual chapters typically hold alumni events multiple times each year where active members are able to meet with previous ones. Although these are all great starting points, it is important to go beyond this. Consider checking out the LinkedIn profiles of alumni from your org. This is an incredible asset to find alumni who are working in your industry all over the world. A personalized LinkedIn invitation to connect can go a long way and show a lot about your character. One might consider conducting an informational interview with an alum. Oftentimes, Greek members from the same organization share similar values and traditions. This can be something to go off of when sparking up conversation. A few informational interview questions tailored to Greek life include:

  • How did your collegiate Greek life years help you get to where you are today?
  • What would you recommend I do in my time before graduation to expand my network and prepare my resume?
  • Are there any alumni or any other Greek members who you recommend I reach out to?

Resume building is the next advantage of Greek life. Think about starting an ongoing list of accomplishments you have had through your organization, both individually and as a group. Whether it be philanthropy, volunteer work, leadership, teamwork, or event planning, there are skills being developed every day that go unrecognized. An example for a leadership position on your resume could be as follows:

Public Relations Chair, Phi Sigma Sigma, Duluth, MN, Jan 2018 – Jan 2019

  • Wrote blog posts regarding informational and promotional events
  • Take photographs and post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
  • Managed chapter website on the platform, Weebly, and ensured content was up to date
  • Designed graphics to be posted on social media and in print for events and fundraisers

The final way Greek life can aid in professional expansion is through a job interview. Answers to questions can often be pulled from leadership and learning experiences in Greek life. Here are a few examples of questions that could be applied to Greek experiences:

  • Tell me about a time that you had to work on a team
  • Tell me about a time you have had to use your time management skills
  • Tell me about the type of leader you are

Clearly, the benefits of being a Greek life member, go far beyond service and socials. Professional development can be found in all aspects of Greek life and it is time to start taking advantage of it today!

Of Possible Interest:
Building Your Resume – all our blog posts on the topic
Obtaining a Leadership Position as an Introvert
Boost Your Career in College – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Georgie Cobbs

Applying for Internships as a Sophomore

By: Amanda

Going into my freshman year of college, I held the belief many other college students have: It is a waste of time for sophomores to apply for internships, as juniors and seniors mainly get them all. This idea quickly changed when a family friend reached out to me and encouraged me to apply for a Sales and Marketing internship with CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wisconsin. In our initial phone call about the internship, I expressed my concerns to him about me being only a sophomore and he said to me “it’s not always what you know, it is how quick you can learn and the characteristics you bring to the table.” This was a defining moment for me and essentially when my perspective on this topic changed. I encourage all sophomores to eliminate their self-destructive beliefs and start applying for summer internships. After all, the time is now!

Image: graph paper with pencils and markers on the edges.
Text: applying for internships as a sophomore

There are multiple steps to applying for internships as a sophomore and the first is to recognize the value an internship will bring you. Internships can help you to understand what type of business you want to work for when you graduate. Essentially, the worst case scenario is that you decide that the industry is not for you, and you then have a better understanding of yourself. As a sophomore, if a summer internship goes well, you may even be asked to come back a second summer and then if it goes really well, offered full-time employment. A summer internship helps one to gain additional skills and a larger professional network.

Now that the value of an internship as a sophomore has been established, the second aspect of applying for a summer internship is to find companies suitable for you. There are two ways to do this. First, evaluate your close professional network. Make a list of whom you know and potential connections you have to businesses of interest. Reach out to professionals who you know and gather information on the types of internships their company offers. A personalized letter, email, or LinkedIn message can go a long way. After looking at your close professional network, take inventory of companies in both the location and industry you hope to work. Do research on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and GoldPASS powered by Handshake to see if these companies are open to hiring younger students, or if they are selectively hiring older students.

And finally, as you are actually applying to these internships, make sure to assess your skills. A common misconception among students is that they do not have the skills necessary to do an internship. From personal experience, I have found this far from the truth. Throughout high school, I worked as a bank teller. Although this may not specifically relate to marketing, it taught me a handful of lessons about communication in the business world, promoting products, and organization. I would argue that being a waitress is one of the most entrepreneurial jobs one could have. Thomas Friedman, New York Times author, backs this up by stating in his speech Globalization in Higher Education, that good waitresses are in a constant state of entrepreneurship because the best waitress often makes the most in tips. Skills critical for internships such as teamwork, communication, planning, organizing, and problem-solving are all skills that are often obtained in entry-level part-time jobs. All in all, stop selling yourself short on your experiences and make a list of the lessons you learned and the qualities you have, I think you will find out you have a lot more skills than you think.

My initial thoughts have been flipped upside down since I started school at UMD. With some research and self-introspection, I believe any sophomore or even freshman can and should secure a summer internship.

Of Possible Interest:
Internships – all our blog posts on the topic
It’s Never Too Early to Intern
Multiple Internship Advantage

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

4 Tips for When You Realize You’re in Over Your Head

By: Amanda

This past Fall I went into my sophomore year full of energy and anticipation like I was lining up to hit a home run at the plate. Freshman year I dipped my toe in the water with my classes, but now this was it, sophomore year was my time to dive in head first and get involved on campus. I attended the activities fair and put my name down on every sheet I could get my hands on. Yes, this all was very fun and of course, it was a good way to meet new people, but about halfway through the semester when my classes started to get difficult I began to see signs that I was simply spreading myself too thin. When I would be in one place, I was constantly thinking about my mile-long to-do list or what I had to do afterward. Although I had everything planned on Google Calendar, I was always paranoid, wondering if I was potentially missing a meeting I should be at. On top of all of this, I felt I was missing the essentials in life: quality time spent with friends and family, and time spent alone with myself. After discussing my issue with a few co-workers, I began to realize this type of situation is happening to students all the time. There are four key actions to take when you realize you are in over your head.

colorful square tile background. Text: 4 tips for when you realize you're in over your head - cordially back out of commitments, plan it all out, enlist help of others, know you're not alone.

CORDIALLY BACK OUT.
Backing out is something that everyone hates doing, it might make you feel like a flakey person, and could even be comparable to a break-up. First and foremost, it is absolutely crucial to end on good terms. If at all possible, talk to the group/person face-to-face and explain to the situation. Open communication is key. Be honest about what is going on, admit your own wrongdoings and apologize if needed. Ending on a favorable note makes it easier in the future if you have to work with the group/person again.

PLAN IT ALL.
Whether it be an old-fashioned planner, Google Calendar, or Microsoft Outlook, find a method of planning that works best for you and stick to it. Sometimes seeing everything laid out can help you to figure out what is realistic to accomplish.

ENLIST HELP.
Take a step back and reevaluate your tasks. Yes, I am sure some of them need to be done by you and only you, but is there a possibility you could get a co-worker or roommate to help you with the others? By even delegating one task from your to-do list, a slight weight may be taken off your shoulders.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  
At the University of Minnesota Duluth, we are given twelve free counseling sessions per semester. Take advantage of these. Talking with an external source can be an aid in finding clarity. Additionally, pinpoint the type of stress that you are having. Is it career stress? Drop in and see us at the Career and Internship Services office. Financial Stress? Go see what the OneStop can do for you. Trouble taking tests? Disability Resources is waiting to help you.

Although my sophomore year Fall semester may not have gone as planned (well, when do things ever go exactly as planned??), I was able to learn key life lessons. Know that it is possible to be fully involved on-campus, work, do well in classes, and have time for yourself when you plan accordingly and learn how to say no. It’s time for you to stop overworking yourself and a get a grip on your life.

Of Possible Interest:
How to Say NO
Productivity & Wellness – all our blog posts on the topic
Self-Care 101
Healthy on the Job – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo source: Unsplash | Andrew Ridley