Working in Business Development
April 15, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

The work sounds intriguing, but I have an odd resume and don't have much first-hand knowledge of the field. Do you think that business development right for me? If it is, how do I go about getting a job in it?

My background:

30 y/o woman.

I have a BA in English from a very good school, and did some graduate coursework (but dropped out after three semesters without a degree) in public policy from another very good school.

My work history is pretty scattered:
Legal assistant (6 mo, 2007)
Substitute teacher (2 years, 2008-2010)
Intern at a talent management agency (9 mo, 2010-2011)
Freelance "writer's assistant" work for various screenwriters (2011-2012)
Property manager (1+ yr, 2011-2013)
(I left for grad school in 2013, and quit grad school in 2015)
Since high school, waitressing has been my constant fall-back job or my second job. So while working virtually all of these other jobs or while going to school, I've also held down one serving job or another. I've stayed at each of those jobs from anywhere from 4 mo (seasonal) to 1.5+ yrs.

When I dropped out of grad school, I took another serving job while I figured things out. Well, as always, I loved it. So then I ended up taking a job as a restaurant manager. I'll have been doing that a year in August.

The parts of the restaurant manager job that I love:
-- Sales. I love sales and pitching. I'm solidly good at this.
-- Customer service. I love talking to people. I'm very good at this.
-- Problem solving and being resourceful/creative. I'm fantastic at this.
-- The energy and hustle and bustle of a restaurant.
-- Bizarrely, the hard work and long hours involved.
-- I have been working in restaurants since I was a teenager, at they are SO familiar to me. Very homey and comfortable.

The parts of the restaurant manager job that I like but don't really love:
-- Managing staff. Hiring, training, staff development, etc etc etc. The day-to-day supervision of staff. It can be difficult, especially because there are a lot of misfits and people with big personalities in this industry (me included). But I'm a pretty natural leader, enjoy the give-and-take, and am capable of running a tight ship.
-- Organization and admin stuff. I like creating processes that help the restaurant run more smoothly -- and I'm really good at it.

The parts of the restaurant manager job that I hate:
-- Low pay, especially given the hours involved. If I were waitressing or bartending full time, my earnings would probably be $800-1100/week -- but of course, in that kind of job, if you don't work, you don't get paid. The earnings are very hit or miss. Managing, the going rate around here seems to be a $40-50K salary in my current role (entry level management), and a $55-65K salary in the role above that (which I will probably be qualified for in another six months or so). This area (US, east coast) has an EXTREMELY high COL, so it's difficult to support myself on that kind of pay.
-- Low status. I hate that everyone is constantly looking down their nose at my work and at restaurant work in general. It's shallow, but this is honestly the WORST part of the job for me.
-- I don't have a sense of smell (and therefore have a remarkably terrible palate), and I just fundamentally don't care about food or beverages that much. So the work feels pretty meaningless. This is also potentially crippling in terms of my ability to advance.
-- It can be pretty boring intellectually. I still have plenty to learn (for example, I want to improve my ability to troubleshoot the point-of-sale software), but what I'm learning is very concrete and a lot of what I do is very rote. I'm very good at finding novel solutions to things and to looking at things from different angles (and I love doing that) and the opportunity to do that and even the value of being able to do that is pretty limited in my current job.

What I'm looking for is a job:
-- In which I can potentially make lots of money (and could currently pull a larger paycheck than I'm getting now). Again, I know it's shallow. But it's also important to me.
-- That is relatively high status. Yet again, shallow but important to me.
-- Requires creativity, problem-solving, and lots of analysis. I'm extremely analytical and very good at forming and presenting arguments. That's one reason I love pitching so much; I'm persuasive and a strong negotiator, because I'm very good at explaining and supporting my decisions/ideas.
-- A lot of human interaction. I love customer service and managing staff because I just really like dealing with people. I'm actually pretty introverted by nature, but I love being part of or leading a team and I'm extremely good with clients/customers (my specialty is actually very difficult, inarticulate, and intractable customers). Ideally, I'd like my next job to involve managing staff.

Given the above, do you think that business development would be a good field for me?

If so, what kind of job titles should I be looking for? Analyst, manager, executive, etc etc etc? What do you think that I'd be qualified for?

Also, where should I look for jobs? How should I pitch myself? What should I emphasize -- or underplay?
posted by static sock to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Business development... where? in what field?

Yes, it's "sales," but it's not sales like being a waitress. If you're selling business to business (where the phrase "business development" is typically used), it usually requires a deep understanding of your market, customer needs, competitive environment, etc. It's tough work, and it usually requires a background in the industry first. It's highly unlikely that you'd get an interview, let alone an offer, with your background.

Sales isn't high status.

It can pay well. It can also pay nothing. BD is usually commission compensation, often with no guarantee.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:13 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Restaurant recruitment? Put your experience to work filling roles for restaurants who have hard to fill jobs. Low starting party but big upsides, bonuses if you're committed and can put in the time. If you think you can pitch, you could go for a higher paying role with a car but you'll have to really go out and sell.

Second option is to try your hand selling something completely different. I did this after doing recruitment in a stagnant field, and went from telemarketing executive to business development manager with a staff of five in an engineering company. You have to be willing to just pound the phones until you get meetings and fake it until you make it. I personally am really pleased that I took the chance because I am now doing the five and six figure deals I always knew I was capable of. YMMV.
posted by parmanparman at 1:23 PM on April 15, 2016

I agree with NotMyselfRightNow that you'd need very strong experience in whatever market you're trying to do business development in. You'd also need to know what field to target first.

You love pitching and talking to people and you have your shit together? You belong in sales. Start looking for SaaS (Software as a Service) or digital advertising sales openings - that industry's growing like crazy.

You might need to start at the customer service level in those companies. Favor companies that will let you develop the qualities NotMyselfRightNow mentioned above. Be up front about your goal in interviews. Hiring managers will eat that shit right up.
posted by boghead at 2:07 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a very non-specific term. But I agree with the above--you could get hired in the right city as a SAAS sales rep just on the basis of attitude alone. Love talking to people? Don't mind selling stuff? Move to Austin or Denver or NJ and search LinkedIn and AngelList and wherever else for Sales Executive, Account Manager, Customer Success Manager, and Business Development Representaive. These will pay not much at first but will often have high upsides and large bonuses possible (yes that model can be exploitive of workers but yes also it is possible to excel in these roles and make a lot of money quickly).

In tech, Business Development can also mean: forming high level partnerships with other companies. This is a very different role and usually pays a lot more. It uses a lot of the same skills though so it's not impossible to find your way into that world as well. Good luck!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:09 PM on April 15, 2016

I have never known anyone in BD that didn't have an MBA, or who wasn't basically in the time inbetween undergrad and getting an MBA. That's not to say they don't exist, but I think if you're really interested in this path, you might need to look into getting an MBA. But you certainly sound like a good candidate for BD, so good luck!
posted by ch1x0r at 6:25 PM on April 15, 2016

My title has 'business development" in it (and I don't have a MBA, ch1x0r) but it's a function which varies pretty wildly across industries. I'm working on customer touchpoints, so I'm not selling anything.

You could take what you're doing now and translate it into another area like retail. Retail is traditionally an industry where people with non-traditional backgrounds can rise to positions of responsibility. For a while tho, it's likely to be low status and low pay-- but if you join a big retailer with good brand values (Patagonia, IKEA, etc.) then it could be an interesting place to work.

Have you spoken to any local consulting firms? Business Analyst is usually a reasonable place to start as a consultant. When I was your age, I parlayed my jack-of-all-trades background into a consulting role, but I suspect it was easier then.
posted by frumiousb at 6:31 PM on April 15, 2016

BD can mean a few things. Traditionally in the tech world. BD reps worked on big partnership type of deals. In the last 20 years the term had been hijacked by sales executives that think sales is beneath them. At my current company the BD reps are the inside cold calling / following up on leads team. I'm in sales, supposedly getting a constant flow of qualified leads from the BD team. Emphasis on supposedly as I 'm creating almost all my own leads, but that is a rant for a different forum.

You are absolutely qualified to get an inside sales type of job as they are usually entry level-ish.
posted by COD at 6:42 PM on April 15, 2016

I know someone without an MBA who works in BD for a growing tech startup, but he had experience in the tech field prior to moving into that role. Definitely nthing the suggestion to try to narrow your search for a BD position down by an industry you are interested in and do a lot of research on industry blogs and the like while you try to find an opening in that area.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:09 AM on April 18, 2016

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