Sales as a bridge to other careers?
October 18, 2012 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Is a job in sales a good way to jump from academia to the corporate world?


I'm someone who has spent their adult life doing experimental research in the social sciences. Since finishing my PhD, I have decided to move away from academia and into the corporate world. I don't know exactly which direction I want to go in, but I am hoping to get into something like market research or human factors research. I have also been thinking a bit about management consulting -- though the lifestyle seems stressful, it seems like a great way to be exposed to a lot of different fields and make a lot of contacts. The variety inherent in consulting is also appealing.

I was recently approached by a management consulting firm about a 1-year contract position in business development. I have never worked [non-retail] sales and have usually shied away from those positions (I'm not generally a pushy or aggressive person), but the thought of doing it doesn't fill me with dread or anything. I would probably learn a lot in that job, and the company assures me that I would have the opportunity to try move into actual consulting once the contract was up.

I'm a little hesitant though, that this takes me too far away from what I currently think I want to do*. On the other hand, I haven't had much non-academic experience (some part time jobs in retail and admin only), and I worry that the lack of "real business" experience might be hurting my odds of getting into my preferred industries. This might be a valuable first-step into showing employers that I have real-world skills outside of pure research.

Perhaps more crucially, I haven't had any luck with the market research/human factors positions I've applied to, and I need to find a job pretty quickly at this point.

My questions:

1) Is sales / business development a plausible path to get to where I want to go?

2) If you were an employer in market / human factors research, would seeing a sales position on my resume help/hurt/have no impact on my prospects of getting a job with you?

Thank you!

* And that I might hate it/be horrible at it, but I at least have a little more control over that.
posted by MouseOfHouseofAnony to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to be a management consultant, why don't you apply to such a position directly? Consulting is doing relatively well in this economy, and if you haven't already pushed your luck, then don't take a sales job being pushed on you. You've been approached, which means they want sales people, and will say x y or z (e.g. room for advancement!) to secure you.

Plenty of kids get the MC jobs right out of school, so, really, don't undersell yourself.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:51 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Business Development (at least at my company) isn't exactly sales. It's more about forming large beneficial partnerships with equals in order to drum up new sales leads for salespeople to close on. So, your research experience will probably be a big asset to those projects.

But not if this is a low level job where you're actually calling people, only if you're their go-to market research person who they consult with for high-level strategy whatevers. Ask what exactly your duties are (and how much you're actually being paid too of course).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:55 PM on October 18, 2012

Business development is somewhat different than sales. Business development implies for in strategic partnerships with other companies, whereas pure sales roles just push product out the door.

Business development is often seen as a more strategic role, as it requires more skill than just convincing someone to buy your company's product or service.

There are a lot worse ways to spend a year than working for a management consulting firm as a business development hire.

You will certainly learn a lot and meet a lot of people.

If your goal is something other than business development, make sure you meet people who can help you achieve those goals.
posted by dfriedman at 2:45 PM on October 18, 2012

Taking a job in sales is a good way to get into sales. Don't expect it to take you anywhere other than that. As a general rule, employers like resumes that contain relevant experience, so sales experience is useful to the degree that potential future jobs are similar to sales.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:52 PM on October 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the replies so far.

If it makes any difference, the firm had approached me for an analyst role initially, but that contract fell through on their end, and they came back to talk about the business developoment role.

But let's say the choices at this point are: a) accept this job and look for something else once the contract nears its end, or b) temp (??) until some better offer pans out. The former means I can at least be sure I can pay rent; the latter makes me nervous (financially).

Is it still better to hold out in that scenario?
posted by MouseOfHouseofAnony at 8:12 PM on October 18, 2012

That's a completely different scenario. Take whatever you need to take to make sure you don't end up homeless, but that course of action doesn't necessarily come with any particular opportunities for career growth.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:25 PM on October 18, 2012

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