Posted: October 01, 2010
Rundles wrap up: sales pitchBy Jeff Rundles
In the transition from summer to fall, I have seen quite an increase in networking. It seems as though people who have found themselves out of work in the recession - and all those college graduates being sent out into an uncertain work world - kicked back for the summer and around Labor Day spruced up the resume and began to make the calls, the LinkedIn connections, and the e-mail introductions.
As a writer for a business magazine I appear to know a lot of potential employers - the traffic for my advice, or at least my connections, has been like I-25 at rush hour. I'm happy to help. I have made calls, sent e-mails, put my name down for a recommendation, and basically done anything I can do to help. For these types of assistance, all of these job-seekers have been very appreciative.
But on the issue of advice I have been less successful, and in my conversations with potential employees I have become flat-out flabbergasted. Not just with the job-seekers, but also with their so-called education.
The reason is simple. I do indeed know quite a few businesspeople, and many who are hiring and even desperate for good people. What they need, however, are people who can sell - and not one of the job-seekers I have come across wants to be in sales.
With older folks, too, but especially with younger people, I have heard this almost to a person: "What I am looking for is a staff, salaried job in management."
Well, I had news for them: First, get in line; everybody with a college degree wants a staff, salaried job in management. Second, in the corporate slaughter of jobs over the last few years those very jobs are the ones that have disappeared.
One of my connections applied for the management training program at a large bank. I asked what he thought that might entail, and when I told him that the people I know in "banking" are, in fact, in "sales," that these "management training" people are selling loans and other bank products, he said, "Oh."
What about a telecommunications company: Except for the engineers who install systems, the CPAs in finance and the receptionist, everyone else is in sales, especially the most senior executives and owners. Website development firm: Except for the developers, pretty much everyone else is in sales. Trade show booth company: nothing but sales. Small-business owners in baking, management consulting, plumbing, anything you can think of, not to mention most people in nonprofits: sales. Unless a person has a particular skill or education - CPA, plumber, physician, dentist, lawyer - and even then in most cases, it's sales, sales, sales.
Ever heard the term "rainmaker?" You can call it "business development" all you want, but it is sales. I have spent my entire career working in the publishing business, and while I always thought I was the most experienced senior manager, no matter what, my boss, and her boss and his boss came out of the sales side of the business. Always. Every senior manager I know in just about any endeavor, and most of the very rich people I know, began their careers knocking on doors, cold calling, shaking hands. Sales.
So here's all these people looking for work in "management" with bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration from CU, DU, CSU and any other college you can name and they all, to a person, turn up their nose at sales. What the hell are they teaching them? American business, particularly as it becomes more and more service-oriented, is run on sales, sales, sales. These business schools should be ashamed of themselves, or do what the CU Journalism School is considering doing: Close up shop and get a clue to what is actually happening in what you are supposed to be training the students for.
No job seeker seems to like my point of view. They must have a sort of Willy Loman phobia.
Too bad. The next great tragedy to be written is likely to be "Death of a Middle Manager."
Maybe I'll pitch that to a publisher. Come to think of it, that would be a "sales pitch."
Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.