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Isn’t it strange that, at the age of 18, we are expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives? It hits like a ton of bricks, slowly falling right on your shoulders, weighing you down and hoping you fail. If you asked me at that age what I wanted to do, I would’ve told you being be a police officer sounds promising. Just two years later, at the age of 20, I thought my future was in the legal world. However, after starting down that path and quickly realizing it wasn’t for me, I’ve become far more focused: I want to be a VP of Sales. I intend to work side-by-side with motivated sales professionals who want to better a company, better themselves, and ultimately establish a rewarding career and life.

Choosing one career path after high school or college and sticking with it for the rest of your professional livelihood is becoming less common as the pace of business and technology changes at the speed of light. During my first job after college, I realized the difference between a job and a career – and I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life going down that path. I knew right away it would never be a career that I was going to be passionate about and, most importantly, happy within. I had the urge to be challenged, motivated and work as part of a team – which is precisely why I ventured into sales!

If you’re stuck in a job that you just can’t see a future in, perhaps my thoughts below will inspire you to consider something different – maybe even sales.

Your First Job Isn’t Your Forever Job

Although it seems like everyone has their ideal career figured out by the time they graduate from college, the reality is many first-time jobs will not necessarily be career paths. I often felt out of place in my first job. I couldn’t figure out what I was meant to do and felt that if I kept moving on to different roles, nobody would take me seriously as a committed professional. Fortunately, that experience provided the opportunity to gain important skills and eventually find my passion in professional sales.

According to this CNN Money Article, “The New Normal: 4 Job Changes by the Time You’re 32,” college graduates today don’t just change jobs, they often switch into entirely different industries. Years ago, a college degree used to slot you into a 40-year career. Today it’s merely an entry-level point of acceptance to show the world you’re ready for that first real job. But too many early-in-their-career workers are afraid to leave jobs despite being unfulfilled and unmotivated.

The tonic to this paralysis is to never let the fear of the unknown dissuade you from seeking more fulfilling employment elsewhere. It may seem safe and convenient to stay in a job, despite being unhappy and lacking passion for the gig. However, remaining in those jobs due to fear of the unknown will only stunt your professional growth.

Don’t get stuck in a rut! Take the leap, invest time in yourself and explore new job opportunities that interest you. Inspired employees are almost always the top-performers in any company.

Choose Passion, Not the Numbers on a Check

Early in your professional life, it’s tempting to dive into a job with a solid salary and tantalizing bonuses. I went down that path and each time it ended the same way. In some of my early post-grad jobs, I was hesitant about the duties, but drawn in with strong initial pay. I convinced myself that perhaps the spark of passion would flourish over time. However, my painstakingly wishful thinking turned into this reality: the anxiety and discontent that came with getting up and forcing myself to go to work every day easily outweighed a strong paycheck. Once I stopped focusing on the numbers on my paycheck, everything became much simpler. If you’re ready to get real with yourself about your career calling, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Focus on your interests and things that you are passionate about. Use those interests to your advantage. By nailing down your interests and focusing Jobs vs Careers Imageon them, you will find motivation, which will ultimately result in you thriving professionally. For me, I loved the idea of controlling my own fate, helping people discover solutions to their problems and getting paid based on what I personally produced. A sales job was ideal for these principles!
  2. Ask yourself tough questions and come up with real answers. What is going to get me up in the morning ready to take on the world? What is going to make me feel accomplished and successful? What is going to push me to be my absolute best self and not just do the bare minimum? If you’re truly passionate about the work you do every day, you will be more successful and happier in your job. In 2014, Deloitte released a comprehensive report that found 88% of employees aren’t passionate about their work and do not put in the effort to achieve their full potential. In my experience, the opportunities of being successful and fulfilled will be short-lived if you are not striving to reach your full potential. Sales pushes me to be a “student of the game” but it never feels like a burden. I’m motivated to keep learning and growing, sharpening my acumen as I go along. All of these things ends up having a direct impact on my professional and financial success in sales.
  3. Recognize the importance of mentorship. Until I began my professional sales career at memoryBlue, I didn’t realize how invaluable it was to work on a team, as a team. I finally got to work on a team where my co-workers were eager to lend a helping hand. Previously, I had measured success by the size of my check. However, after working on a team with people who wanted to see me succeed, I realized the importance of having the type of team and mentorship focus that memoryBlue provides employees.
  4. Recognize the difference between working on a team where you feel pitted against each other vs a team that provides support. According to this article on Applicant Pro, “The Importance of Team Unity in Employee Retention,” working in an office environment where employees support one another leads to a boost in productivity and job satisfaction. Those employees will be happier in their careers and have an easier time supporting each other. Working on a team that pushes you professionally will allow you to sharpen your strengths and access your true potential. That sort of work environment can make a massive difference in your success, which in turn will positively impact your compensation. By prioritizing work passions over money, you will not only become rich in knowledge and experience, but eventually you will be able to obtain those higher salaries anyway (and if you’re great in high-tech sales, you will very likely obtain numbers well beyond your wildest dreams).

Exercise Your Strengths

I did find one advantage to my early struggles with career uncertainty: not knowing what I wanted to do allowed me to be curious (which is a true benefit in sales, by the way). Once I started a real career search (not just another job search), I looked for jobs that fully interested me. I placed a priority on finding roles where my existing abilities would be strengthened and I would be able to develop new skills. When I focused on my top assets and decided on the skills that I knew could make me effective in the workplace, I found that my passions aligned directly with inside sales in the high-tech space. In this Gallup article, “The Ultimate Workplace Culture: Strengths-Based Everything,” they define strengths as “an individual’s ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific task.” They assert that when employees know and use their strengths, the effect on individuals, teams, and organizational performance is spectacular.

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But how do you discover your strengths in order to use them efficiently? According to the Huffington Post article, “A Better Way to Discover Your Strengths,” people are wildly inaccurate judges of their strengths in a wide range of tasks and domains — from logical thinking and reasoning skills to math aptitude, even all the way down to estimating their abilities to recognize a funny joke. Think you have a great sense of humor? Think again!

We tend to see only the best in ourselves. We focus in on the moments when we were generous, which could be something as small as giving your spare change to another in need. But does that act alone define you as a generous person? Is that how others perceive you? Or are you simply looking at yourself through rose-colored glasses?

The Tools and the Talent

In order to help remove bias and understand yourself better, try this quick three-step approach that helps identify actual strengths:

  1. Interview your friends, co-workers, and loved ones
  2. Identify moments of flow
  3. Uncover your passions

Interviewing those who know you best or interact with you at a professional level will allow you to discover strengths that you had not previously thought of as strengths. While you’re at it, you might as well ask what they think your weaknesses are, too. Pick people to interview that will be honest with you. Those who are close to you and want to see you succeed will feel more compelled to give you honest feedback. You very well may be able to gain all of the necessary information regarding your strengths and weaknesses from this step alone.

If not, move on to identify your moments of flow – that is, the moments when you’re most productive. Have you ever gotten lost in your work and looked at the clock and realized two hours had passed but it only felt like minutes? Take note of those moments and what tasks you were engaged in. This will offer great insight into your strengths.

And last, but not least, uncover your passions. When it comes to the things you are passionate about, you may already have strength in that area. However, if your passion is not necessarily your strength, being passionate will allow you to quickly develop a skill into a strength.

Discovering your natural strengths and talents is an important part of learning how to be the best possible version of yourself. Take the extra time and effort to discover these strengths, so you can put them to good use and become successful in your career. And if your passions and strengths sound similar to mine, I strongly encourage you to consider a career (not a job) in sales. If you’re relatively early in your professional life and haven’t found your calling, you won’t regret taking a look at this exciting and rapidly growing profession.