Changing Careers: Growth, Not Failure
I’m still amazed at how incredibly fortunate I am to be working as an Account Executive at one of Chicago’s hottest tech startups. I changed careers nearly a year ago at the age of thirty-four and it’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. Having never aspired to work in sales, working as an Account Executive is one of the last roles that would have crossed my mind when thinking about my career. Now that I’m here, I’m glad I opened my mind to the possibility of trying something new and traveled that ambiguous road of a career change. This post is the abridged version of how and why I got into sales.
My mother is a lifelong saleswoman, and I vividly remember riding shotgun with her on many customer visits while she delivered little gifts to remind her clients how much she valued their business. To the onlooker, it might seem like a breeze, but I knew that she easily worked more than fourteen hour days. She treated her clients’ requests with an unparalleled urgency that I admired, I was wary of following her career path after being exposed to the long hours and the apparent anxiety with which my mother managed her accounts.
When the time came to start my career, I strayed from a traditional sales path and chose a marketing-heavy path. After completing my undergraduate degrees, I then pursued a Master's degree in Public Relations and Advertising and dove head first into starting a freelance marketing business that catered to small businesses. Little did I realize that winning new accounts would be based primarily on my sales abilities to sell professional marketing services and cultivate a client base. In the end, scaling a freelance marketing business that catered to small businesses became unsustainable. As time went on, my client base drastically decreased, so I opted to work directly for a company as director of marketing. There too, however, my department was downsized and my role was eventually eliminated, putting my family’s livelihood in jeopardy. It was clear at this point that upward mobility in the marketing industry would take far time and sacrifice than I could afford.
I was frantic and contacted my entire professional network to find new opportunities. I worked odd jobs to make ends meet during what felt like an endless job search. Eventually, my search led me back to Brian Bar and Victory Lap. While I never thought I would land in a sales career, I felt that pursuing a business development role would be a way to regain control over my career path and my finances. I wanted to feel that same sense of excitement and hope that I had when I launched my career.
Ultimately, Victory Lap was my “Hail Mary” play. I knew that for the play to be effective, it required a leap of faith by both parties. For my wife and I, being unable to work traditional 9 to 5 day jobs during the sales bootcamp meant high financial risk. We bet what savings we had left on a small company led by a young, yet seasoned sales professional who had earned his way up to the ranks of successful sales organizations. That man, Brian Bar, seemed to think that I had what it took to be a successful salesman. At the same time, Victory Lap bet on me, a 34-year-old career changer with some peaks and valleys on his resume, to re-engineer his career as a salesperson. In my eyes, failure was not an option. Both parties leaped, and together we beat the odds to successfully pivot from my previous career.
As any career changer will attest, trust doesn’t come easily. Putting trust into people to help redefine your career path is terrifying, but Victory Lap quickly demonstrated its expertise in job acquisition and sales training which inspired confidence during one of the lowest points in my life. Victory Lap helped me unlock my potential as a sales professional and reminded me that I am the master of my own fate.
If someone had asked me a year ago, I would never have imagined myself thriving in a sales career. Overall, I have no regrets. I’m happier in my career working with a company that values my drive, my skill set, and has provided me numerous opportunities for professional and personal growth.
It has taken me some time, but I’ve come to realize that my fear of the negative connotations that surround “sales” are myths. The truth is, everyone, everywhere is selling something, and it’s up to the salesperson to set clear expectations with clients who require extra attention. All I had to do was understand these concepts, be myself, and allow my personality to define how I interact with prospects and clients. Changing careers, especially when in dire straits, is nerve-wracking. However, doing so does not mean that you have failed professionally. Victory Lap propelled me into a new career path that has allowed me to prosper at my company and create the life that I had always envisioned for my family. Failure is scary, but as the saying goes “you grow through what you go through.” Rewiring your mind and never giving up on the search for growth can turn major changes into opportunities for success.