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

#BulldogOnTheJob: Scott

Editor’s Note: We’re trying something new this year. We are interviewing various UMD Alumni about how their experiences at UMD have impacted their professional lives. They will also be giving their advice for being successful out there in the real world.

Name: Scott
Major: Political Science
Minor: History
Grad Date: Class of 1975

Organization, title, and a brief synopsis of what you do
Hartel’s/DBJ Disposal Companies. My main function is commercial sales but this is a family business and that means doing whatever needs doing!

What were the jobs, opportunities, and/or classes you had that led to your current role?
I had a 35-year career in the Foodservice Distribution Business where I was a street sales person, district sales manager, director of marketing, sales trainer, and specialist. I had the great experience of being part of a team that took the company from under $20 million per year in sales to over $220 million!  Later in my career, I received an offer to get into the commercial trash and recycling field and I took it!  My experiences at UMD were instrumental in developing confidence, preparation skills, and  a vast array of people skills. From college, I began in real estate sales and then onto the Foodservice sales.


What were some of the lessons you learned while on-campus at UMD you’ve incorporated into your professional life?
I had a rather unique experience being a Duluth native, I was a commuter for my first 3 years but got involved with athletics, work-study, and social groups which proved invaluable to my whole college life.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known prior to entering your role/field?
I don’t know that it would have been accessible. What has been continuously reinforced has been the value of integrity and solving problems instead of selling stuff.

What career advice do you have for students wishing to enter your field?
I would say consider the careers in the “less glamorous” fields, they’re interesting and can be lucrative. If you like to deal with people, most sales positions will be worth it!

Anything else you want to add about your time at UMD, or since, that greatly impacted where you are now?
Keep challenging yourself, stick your neck out, and dream big!  Give back!  My time in Rotary has been a joy and the opportunity to serve is outstanding!  Usually, the best things happen when you’re not even looking (but you have to be out there so they can find you!).

Read other #BulldogOnTheJob stories!

Interested in Hartel’s/DBJ Disposal Companies? Check out their employment page.

Sales: Why Are People So Frightened By It?

By: Ashlee FB

Growing up, I was often exposed to the world and the idea of sales. What many people fail to understand, however, is they have been around sales probably more than they realize. When people think about sales, many think about the door-to-door vacuum salesman and the guy receiving commission selling used cars. Think about the pencil you take notes with, the television you watch every night before bed, or the frying pan you use to make breakfast. Those items were all sold at some point. What most people don’t realize is that sales happen all around us, in every industry, every single day. It’s not only physical products that require sales; think about a financial advisor who sells dreams, sustainability advertisements selling ideas, or an entrepreneur selling a goal to his/her company. Sales take place in every sector and many of us fail to see the opportunities this presents.

High-energy work environment

Sales is a highly competitive and challenging career; therefore, high-energy work environments can almost always be expected. Sales is mainly about the relationships established between people. It is also about helping other people achieve their goals and solve their problems by introducing different products or services needed. The competition involved in sales can create innovation and better performance, which, together, can construct an incredibly high-energy work environment.

Potential for high income

Companies need to generate sales to survive. Usually organizations highly reward successful sales people, to ensure they stay in the position and with the organization. As a fundamental part of the source of profit for organizations, it seems appropriate for the salesperson to reap financial rewards. Many sales jobs include excellent salary packages with base salaries, benefits and generous commission schedules, and, unlike most jobs, generally, the harder you work, the more you make.


One of the best perks (in my opinion) in a sales career is that many times you dictate your own schedule. Oftentimes salespeople are able to make their own appointments, and run their own days the way they see fit. As long as they’re producing the results their bosses require, they are able to more or less do what they want.

A good resource to look into is the Graduate Follow-up Report put together by our office every year. It does a wonderful job of breaking down majors into very specific categories, such as where to find jobs, pay, etc. You might be surprised at how many jobs there are in sales, throughout a wide variety of majors. Check it out!

Read Ashlee’s other posts