I’m privileged (not currently) to speak around the world on topics of leadership and personal effectiveness. Also as the author of several books I find many of the questions I face online and with phone coaching relate to career growth, both inside an organization and also as an entrepreneur or someone launching a side hustle.
Often the questions start with my own career journey and what the key pivot points have been to any success I’ve achieved, especially ones that can be replicated.
Well, here’s the most important decision I ever made in my career and it is to this day the single decision from which all my success flowed.
Start in sales.
This advice holds if you’re studying to become an engineer, plumber, massage therapist, marriage therapist, educator, CPA, or a chef.
This advice holds if you’ve just been accepted to Stanford, Oxford or Salt Lake Community College. Whether you’re 21 and just coming out of college, or you’re 51, just left your 30-year career and are looking to invest your life savings in a restaurant or carpet cleaning business.
Have an entrepreneurial itch and ready to buy a hair salon franchise? Looking to finally open a catering company or flower shop you’ve always wanted? Brother in law convinced you that the pest control business available in Ft. Lauderdale is your ticket to financial independence?
Your former boss just launched a new whiskey distillery and has invited you in as his general manager? Your spouse wants to “live life to the fullest” and is convinced that opening a balloon art kiosk at the local park on Saturdays is her life’s calling?
You’ve finally decided you’re tired of “working for the man” and you’re ready to be the man? Grandma Jessie passed (she had a long and lovely life) and left you $700,000, and often reminisce about your days as a barista so instead of paying off your mortgage and opening an IRA, you buy the local coffee shop because as the fourth owner, you’re sure this time it's going to be a hit.
Regardless of your career plans or education, having solid experience in sales at some point (the earlier the better) will serve you extraordinarily well. Understanding the challenges of thriving in a sales role will forever impact your decisions on organizational realignments, compensations, product development, recruiting strategies, training as an investment, and countless other operational issues.
You need to “carry a bag” at least once in your career. Don’t know what it means to carry a bag? Get a sales job – you’ll learn real quick.
About the Author
Scott Miller is a 23-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as the executive vice president of thought leadership. Scott hosts multiple podcasts including FranklinCovey’s On Leadership and Great Life, Great Career. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Release: Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow. Scott authors a weekly leadership column for Inc.com and is a frequent contributor for Thrive Global. Previously Scott worked for the Disney Development Company, having grown up in Central Florida, and currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.