Regional Sales Rep Stresses the Importance of Personal Impressions During a Job Search
Though struggling for months to find a job, this regional sales representative explains how important it is to make phone calls to prospect employers even in today's online connected network. There's nothing like a good direct phone call.
I work as a regional sales representative for the Benjamin Moore paint company and have been doing so for the past two years. My job consists of driving around northeastern Pennsylvania, convincing businesses and homeowners to choose Benjamin Moore paint, and making presentations at conferences in the area. Prior to that, I had been laid off by my last company in a round of job cuts that happened as a result of the recession. I used to work there as a sales manager.
I did sales work for them as well, which consisted of contacting businesses in the area, driving around and making product pictures, though near the end I began looking for other jobs when it became clear that my position wasn't guaranteed.
That was the height of the recession, and I searched for another job for about six months before I finally landed this one. It was a long time without a job, and I had to dip into my savings to survive.
The professional job search process is no fun at all during a recession. That's something I learned. I learned that there are hundreds of individuals who are all equally qualified competing for the same positions. That means that if I didn't send out hundreds of job applications, it didn't matter how capable I was - I wouldn't get the job. Both quality and quantity are important, but quantity is far more so.
I've always been a perfectionist when it comes to my work and my professional appearance. I try to make sure that every pitch, presentation and even casual conversation goes just so. I take great care with everything I do, and I'm an expert at reading people to determine if they're going to buy my product. I never over-schedule or over-book myself. That's why I'm so good at my job. However, I found that those skills were actually slightly detrimental when it came to the professional job search process.
I spent more time constructing my first resume than I think I spent on the last hundred. I worked for days on every sentence, every margin and every line item to make sure it presented me in the best possible light. Damned if it didn't, either! However, I didn't even get a call-back. I was devastated because I'm used to being able to wow employers with my capabilities and achievements. Most of the jobs I had before the recession were easy sells. Valedictorian in my class, summa cum laude and all sorts of volunteer work and extracurricular activities made me the obvious choice.
Times have changed though. Now there are so many applications and resumes for each job that even the best ones don't get the sort of attention that I'm used to. Talking to some friends in the business, I learned that it's often as simple as, "whose resume is on the top of the stack?" Therefore, while a high-quality resume is good, don't spend all your time on one position. You need to apply to hundreds in order to get a lucky shot at an interview. Mine didn't come until after my 150th resume.
My three pieces of advice to anyone seeking a successful career in a sales position are:
Try to talk to someone on the phone. As a salesman or saleswoman, your phone voice will be one of your best assets. Remember how you try to get a certain product in people's head by asking them what they need, listing how the product can solve those problems and developing an emotional rapport with the person you're speaking to.
How this went for me: I developed some great networking opportunities by talking to people on the phone and charming them into listening to me for a bit. Even if I didn't get a job at most of the places, I took people's numbers, gave them my information, added them on LinkedIn, the whole nine yards. It all started with the phone call.
As a salesperson, think of the process of searching for a job as selling and marketing yourself. Always mentally prepare for a job interview by reminding yourself of what problems you will solve for a company, what unique skills and talents you bring to a team, and how you can make a company more money. It's all about money, these days especially, so be sure to sell things on a tangible scale. Mentioning figures is always credible.
How this went for me: Well, when I finally did get a call-back, my interview went extremely well. The interviewers later said that I was clearly the best-prepared of any of the candidates for hire for the position. So...that was cool!
Network, network, network. Even if you don't get a job, don't consider it a burned bridge. If you make a favorable impression on the company or HR person, you might be able to get a job later on, you might be able to send regular questions asking if they know of other openings, or they might have a friend who has a friend who works for so and so company...
How this went for me: While I didn't get any jobs by networking, I wouldn't discount it. I now have a mobile phone folder filled with hundreds of new contacts should I suddenly find myself laid off again, and I'm sure that my next job search will be significantly shorter as a result.
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