7 Reasons Working In Sales As A 20-Something Is The Worst Thing You Can Do For Your Career

Flickr / Paul McCoubrie
Flickr / Paul McCoubrie

Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Millennials: Does working in sales suck? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

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1. The cutthroat nature of working on a sales team is reprehensible.

A sales team, for the most part, is the most oxymoronic term that I’d ever heard to describe a group of salespeople who work at the same place.  Above all, I value a harmonious work environment in which stress is low.  Much of the stress generated in sales can be attributed to tension within the “team.”  But it’s not really a team, is it? It’s a group of individuals who are all competing against one another to get the customer to purchase the product from them.

In the interest of maintaining harmonious relations with my fellow employees (I’m allergic to workplace drama), I would concede contested deals to the other sales person.  While this did wonders for my popularity at work, it had an inverse effect on my sales numbers and, ultimately, my paycheck.  This sort of effect reinforced a principle behind sales that I always knew was there.  Sales isn’t about being a good person.  It’s about walking over others to get to the top.  The best people in sales are the ones that can walk all over you and make you feel good about the fact that they did just that.  I was aware of how to do this, but I never could bring myself to cross that line.  It was more important to me to adhere to my morality.

2. The constant threat of termination was a joke, especially at the hourly wage I was making.

At $9 per hour (excluding commission), if my boss threatened my job due to low numbers, I just couldn’t be brought to really care about that. That isn’t a living wage and it’s most definitely less than what my free time (labor) is worth.  Every time my job was threatened, I cared a little bit less.  I grew a little more cynical.  Every threat pushed me closer to turning in my two week notice.  I didn’t stop and say to myself, “My goodness, what a privilege it is to work here.  I really must start working harder since I can’t do any better than this.” On the contrary, those threats planted an idea in my head that began to grow.  I began to think, “You know, I can do better than this.  I have to if I’m going to be happy in life.” I looked at the people who were in their 50s and 60s and were making the same hourly rate that I was.  I felt pity for them, but I decided that I wasn’t going to follow their path.  I still had time to change the course of my life.

3. It’s all your fault!

I heard that one quite a few times, though it was always stated subtly or under the guise of a softer criticism.  No, it wasn’t all my fault.  The economy sucks.  We sell luxury products.  People are spending in a more utilitarian fashion because their wages have been stagnate for the last decade.  How am I going to sell this person a $400 set of mufflers when he or she can get those same mufflers off of Craigslist or an internet store for half the price? Well, I’m justnot in most cases and that is exactly what happened.  I knew that my customers weren’t stupid.  I knew that they knew that it was their job to find the best price possible and I just couldn’t offer that price.  Sometimes, rather large corporations believe that they have a level of privilege when it comes to price gouging.  They believe that if they slap their famous name on a product that people will pay whatever they’re asking.  The world is changing.  People are beginning to seek alternatives to overly expensive, name brand products.

4. Uh, yeah, we’re going to need you to work some overtime today and, well, forever.

A full-time position is 40 hours per week, right? Wrong.  In sales, it’s more like 60 hours on the regular.  You’ve got special events, deals that stretch late into the night, random inventory fiascos, and all sorts of other little “need you stay late” things that come up about five minutes before you’re set to leave.  At the height of my sales “career,” I was working 60 hours per week and attending university full-time in the evenings.  I was exhausted.  I hated life.  I had time for nothing.

5. The customers…

Yeah, the customers.  I’m trying to think of a way to word this nicely, but I’m having a difficult time.  I treat other people with respect at all times.  I demand the same treatment in return.  Unfortunately, some customers had a really hard time understanding this type of respectful relationship.  I can recall a few times that customers embarrassed me in front of other people.  When I was in law enforcement, I could simply turn around and leave or be nasty right back to someone who was being nasty to me, but in sales it’s a bit different.  I didn’t like that customers could be rude to me and I wasn’t allowed to return the favor.  Some people are suited to take this type of abuse.  I’m not one of them.  Though there was never an incident regarding how I dealt with customers, I think their jaw would have dropped if they could have read my mind and observed what I was wishing I could do to them.

On the other hand, I had customers that I absolutely loved and they made my days at work so much better when they showed up.  Good customers are one of the only things I miss about sales.  They have a way of really making the sales person feel like he or she is doing something meaningful.

6. There’s not much room for creativity.

As someone who is highly creative, I’ve come to learn that I need a creative aspect at a job or I’ll grow to despise it.  Unfortunately, the type of creativity I was looking for was not present in sales.  My only job was to make money for the company.  There was at least one instance where I got drafted to do graphics work, but the draft was recalled rather quickly when I told my boss that I don’t do professional graphics work for $9 per hour.  I’m studying 3-D graphics at university and the going rate for freelance graphics work is a hell of a lot more than $9 per hour.  When I drew the line between skilled and unskilled labor wages, that was when I found out that my creativity was not considered to be an asset to the company.  They weren’t prepared to pay for that asset because they didn’t believe it to be valuable.

7. The management is typically awful.

I’m not talking about my immediate supervisor, though.  He was great, but I could tell his bosses were putting a lot of pressure on him.  He tried not to burden us too much, but he could only contain the spill over so much.  I’m referring specifically to the upper management in sales companies.  They aretypically awful and too commonly inhumane as it pertains to the way they treat their lower employees.  They don’t care about your aspirations.  They don’t care about your ambitions.  They don’t care about your life.  They don’t care about something that may be going wrong in your life.  They don’t care about your happiness at work.  They just do not care.  They only care about the profit number next to your name.  You are a resource much like electricity or water.

So, how does this apply specifically to millennials? Well, for the longest time, I thought it didn’t, but then I worked in a sale “team” with people who were twice or thrice my age.  Their outlook was significantly different.  Often, they accepted draconian regulations and added stress with not much more than a nod of the head while I’m on the other side of the room fuming with anger over this new set of perceived injustices.

Here’s why some millennials are struggling to find happiness in sales careers:

  • We’re worth more than the meager wages that companies tell us we’re worth.  We’re not changing our minds on this one either.  We won’t stick it out while they make a fortune off of us.  We’ll just leave.  And that’s exactly what I did.
  • We’re intolerant of unnecessarily drawn out and pedantic meetings.  In almost every meeting I’ve ever attended, I could have condensed the boss’ speech into one paragraph.  That’s where the essential information was.  The rest of it was boring repetition, reinforcement and dramatics.  No thanks.  I’d like to just get back to my job.
  • We don’t do well working “inside the box.”  Sales companies love to do this.  Even when they think they’re doing something ‘outside the box’, it’s usually some repackaged and relabeled strategy that will produce the exact same results.
  • We are entitled to the opportunity to try to achieve happiness in life.  I know that’s a radical idea.  I didn’t think it was, but I know it’s so radical now that some people despise me for continuing to repeat it.  It strikes me how some people *cough* older generations *cough* can be so sadomasochistic when it comes to their own happiness and ambitions.  It’s like there’s an entire group of people that just love to strike themselves repeatedly with the whip of “you’re not special or capable of achieving anything other than mediocrity in life.”

I have bad news for companies that like those type of people.  Millennials are not sadomasochistic and we’re not the type to sacrifice ourselves needlessly for the profits of our “betters.”

We’re demanding a slightly larger share in the profits of companies because we’re doing the leg work required to generate those profits. TC mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

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