How I Took Control of My Career by Switching to Sales

career transition to sales

Are you a professional who feels frustrated or dislikes your job? This article is for you. This is a story of how I took control of my career and transitioned into sales.

For as long as I could remember, I always saw myself on the Marketing and Public Relations side of companies. Throughout my undergraduate career, I daydreamed of building brands, planning events, working with press – you name it.

I was so eager to pursue a career in PR that I sought out internships during school to strengthen my PR skills and start networking. Unfortunately, the internships paid little, if at all. So aside from college classes and PR internships, I found myself also working sales jobs to pay my bills. It was a lot to take on while in school. You will soon learn that I’m a person that likes to stay busy (which also happens to be a good trait for sales).

I was good at selling, made great money from commission, but my motivation was not to be a great salesperson. I didn’t care too much for the sales jobs in college and definitely didn’t think it was my calling. My goal was to make as much money as I could to pay my bills, save up, and move to a big city after college to start my PR career.

My First Job After College

Before I knew it, college was over, and I moved to New York without a job. Yes, I’m well aware how crazy that sounds now. Even then, I was very aware of the risk I was taking. But I’m not the type of person to sit around on my couch and wait for an opportunity to find me. So I hit the ground running the day I arrived in New York, searching for my PR dream job.

It wasn’t long before I began working in Marketing and PR. It was pretty much what I had imagined – long days from time to time, planning out events, working with influencers to help build brands, awesome perks, you name it! I loved using my creativity to better brands and share this image to the public. Eventually the excitement settled and the go-getter in me wondered what was next.

Career Frustration: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

It wasn’t long before I was asking for more work and what I needed to do in order to move up in the company and continue to build my career. The hard reality was that the position above me was currently filled. I figured the best solution was to work harder and keep asking for more work. Soon I found myself with much more work, the same pay and no signs of a promotion anytime soon.

One day, I had an epiphany: if I was going to continue with PR, I would always experience this frustration. In PR – and many jobs outside of sales – you only move up when a position becomes available. I could work late every day, write the best press releases, and go above and beyond, but my growth was ultimately based on an opening in the position above. So what if the position is filled? Then you better wait until the person in that position moves up, changes companies, or dies. Hopefully not the last situation, but you’re stagnant until one of those options transpires.

In a City That Never Sleeps, The Career Door Is Always Open

I knew I didn’t want to play the waiting game. I was working too hard and did not want to feel limited. So I started wondering if I should move companies or move cities. There had to be a way to work hard and really be able to take charge of my growth and my career.

It wasn’t long before I found myself looking at sales jobs. I remembered the sales experiences I had in school and knew I had some potential in this industry. When I was determined, I was able to sell and perform well. The thought had never crossed my mind to pursue sales as a career before. I had been too focused on PR to even think about it.

And the more I thought about moving to sales, the more it made sense. At first, I was worried that my career change would mean I’d wasted the past couple of years and the investment I had built in PR. But the more research I did in the Sales industry, the more I realized how certain skills in PR could be valued Sales. In PR, you’re trying to sell this image you created to the public. In Sales, you’re selling a product to the public. If I could pitch a story to a publication, I could sell a product to a customer. The process would be one in the same.

New Career Path, New Me

Once I decided to venture down this career path, I started my search for the right job. I found a variety of Sales jobs posted, but I didn’t want to just start my sales career at any chop shop-like company or find myself selling a product I didn’t like or believe in.

As I started interviewing, I quickly learned what certain companies’ culture was like and if the employees truly enjoyed their day-to-day work. Not too long into my search, I found some tech startups that seemed like they could offer what I wished my current career and company had. Eventually I got an offer for a sales role with a company that I felt could give me both professional and personal growth, plus more.

Tough Beginning, But Sold On ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’

As I made the move to sales, I was nervous about the role and unsure if this was the right move for me. What if I couldn’t sell? What if I ended up not liking the product? Or what if the people at the company were all lying during my interviews and I was going to be miserable everyday? (Spoiler alert: none of my fears came true.)

I’d love to end this post by saying my transition from PR to sales was seamless. That would be a lie. My first couple months were not perfect: I had a lot of learning to do. I was happy in my new role, but selling technology was so new to me, it was hard to approach from a Sales perspective instead of a PR perspective. At one point, my director said, “Ashley, I can tell you came from PR by the way you talk to potential clients”. I knew I wasn’t terrible, but I definitely knew my areas that needed improvement. My managers and director kept telling me to continue to work hard, study, and it would come.

They were right. I’m still learning and improving everyday, which is great. I’m sure in a year’s time, I’ll be a completely different sales person. Sure, there are still days where I find myself working late, and I might be more wiped after a day of work or at the end of my month, but it’s been so worth it.

In PR, I felt that I worked hard and hoped for the best. There wasn’t much control in my own growth. Since transitioning to sales, I feel like I am more in charge of my future. In sales, there are clearer expectations – if I meet certain numbers, I have more opportunity. Sales might not come easy to everyone, but if you work hard, you can make it happen.

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Ashley is Customer Marketing Associate at Yotpo, a user-generated content marketing platform that helps online businesses acquire, convert, retain, and understand customers.