Fulfilling a debt obligation... a win-win.

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I’m not really sure if what I’m about to say is reflective of anything in particularly or just an example of me trying to be helpful — I would like to think it may offer some insight into the importance of strategic social media thinking, networking and the moral imperative that requires you to help when asked (or at the very least, seriously consider it).

In an unsolicited conversation that came my way through LinkedIn I found myself offering some advice and thoughts with regard to a career transition into sales. The conversation went like this (verbatim):

A Stranger — Hi Graham, I have decided to change my career path from being an organic chemist (MSc) to a sales representative. This is what I am truly passionate about and I hope you can advise me on this transition. Please accept my request. Regards

Me— Sure... assuming you have no experience I would start by reading the one minute sales person and the little red book of selling... there is also something called “strength finder”... worth profiling yourself to see if your really align with a career in sales... although older publications still foundational... I would start here...

Not so much a Stranger — Good morning Graham, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my request and sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting because about two or three days before I got your message, I borrowed the red book of selling from a nearby library. I have been reading it since then and there are a lot in that book to learn. I would definitely search for the other book you mentioned in your message. Also, I will try that strength finder to see if my personality traits matches up with a sales career. Regards

Still Me — The thinking is to determine if sales is something you really want to do and what it involves... if you still think you want to do it, redraft your cv to be sales oriented, word smith your linkedIn with subtle sales language... your opportunity will be entry level sales positions or sales gigs with small companies... obviously using your chemistry background is ideal but it may not work out that way in the beginning... start applying... google STAR interview questions as it will give you a feel for what you will be asked... since you have no experience you have to leverage your potential... Good luck

Not a Stranger — I very much appreciate your time providing all those precious information. Regards

I will admit it’s nice to have someone reach out for opinion and advice, so when the person reached out I recognized right away that they were trying to build and work their network as part of a career development goal, and was particularly interested that their career choice was in the commercial space (which I have a big soft spot for). I was also gently reminded of a moral imperative that simply says, “When someone asks for help, you try to help them”… I do appreciate there is some contextual consideration to this imperative, but when it comes to advice and insight in your field of expertise, there is a certain debt obligation requiring you to share.

For anyone who has developed a certain degree of expertise and success, it would be hard for me to accept there weren’t mentors, advisors and supportive conversations involved along the way; all sharing information, advice and insight that ultimately became building blocks for that success. This is a debt that needs to be recognized and passed on in the same way that it was received. And if you don’t like the idea of debt and obligation just think of yourself as a catalyst — sharing doesn’t really impact you in any negative way but can precipitate great change for others.

And if your are still struggling with a perceived altruistic gesture, keep in mind you will expand your network, probably learn something, continue to craft your thoughts and theories, and have a microphone for an audience who wants to hear what you have to say.

And this is what we call a WIN - WIN


Fifty-seven and full of fucking advice...


Yesterday was my birthday and two things happened. The first was I got to spend a wonderful evening with my daughter and received well wishes from friends, and the second was I got to listen in on an interview. 

To the first point, and I believe this says it all, "I would like to say I am so blessed to have a wonderful family, and wonderful friends; I am so very grateful."

To the second point, I have a little more to say (this is not an aspect of being fifty-seven as it seems I've always had something to say). As part of my birthday celebrations, I found myself at one of my favourite "mobile office" spots crunching numbers, doing analysis and developing plans when two people sat down next to me and started to conduct an interview. As a quick aside, I would like to remind everyone that if you conduct a business meeting in a public place, people will be listening; sometimes they are just curious bystanders, but sometimes they may be competitors. I am just saying.

It was an interview for a sales position, with a woman who was looking to advance her career and the sales manager looking to fill a vacancy. They were both Millennials; the woman was on the tail end of the demographic and the sales manager was one of the first to hit the workforce. They seemed to be discussing an industry I was somewhat familiar with so I did what anyone in my position would do, I began to multitask. As my numbers started to take shape their interview progressed.

It was pretty standard stuff as interviews go and he was doing an average job. Since I have interviewed hundreds of people and hired at least seventy, I have earned the right to be a little "judgy". My interest was fading with the two beside me as my numbers started to speak to me; that was until the sales manager moved away from his standard interview format and started to expand on his philosophies, and thoughts on success. As their interview ended I fought the urge to turn to him and say, "You know, if I was your boss I would hire her and fire you. You are simply awful". 

I didn't say that of course because my business was in front of me. This is why I wanted to though.

  • He openly criticized  team members that the rep would be working with.
  • He was, in a very public forum, discussing details of the business, including sales territory size and quotas. Frankly, I don't know how they could justify a rep.
  • He eluded to the expense account as a component of her compensation, and even went on to propose what salary she should ask for.
  • He suggested that the work isn't really that demanding, and in the summer he played a fair bit of tennis, and worked less than thirty hours a week.

In all of this, his greatest sin in my mind was he made it clear he was a process guy, and although he would ensure that she got trained (and ticked the box), there was no indication of any competency development, career development, and what that meant for her. He was a people manager who obviously didn't really care about his people. Maybe this is just reflective of the collaborative nature of the Millennial, the new ways of doing things, and their belief they have it all figured out (which in fairness, sometimes they do). Maybe this is really more reflective that I'm into my fifty-eighth year and I just don't get it anymore; it is a youth culture after all.

I'm not sure that is it though because there is something important to remember, "I know what it is like to be young, but you don't know what it is like to be old."  In all of this, I am not suggesting that the sales representative and sales manager would not find their way. I am just suggesting though that having insight into experience and sage advice can sometimes make finding your way a little easier.

Go find someone who is at least fifteen years older than you and make them your mentor. In the case of the interview I witnessed, it would have helped the sales rep ask better questions and definitely helped the sales manager not say so many "stupid things." And one last thing, you can't use your parents, because although they love you, it doesn't mean they know what they are talking about.

There you have it, fifty-seven and full of fucking advice; if you are a Milliennial, go get a mentor.