Steve Rogan looks at the issues when switching employment sectors
From healthcare to selling KBB products to merchants and retailers. Change can be forced upon us, or it can be something that we crave. Either way, making it happen can be a daunting prospect, especially when it involves our career.
Whether through circumstance or choice, our professional lives often need a complete change of direction. However, moving from one career to a different profession can often make us feel lost, unsupported and unsure of what the right choice is, let alone how we are going to get there.
In the blog I focus on people who have not only come into the building products/merchant industry from a different sector but from a totally different profession and the challenges they faced.
The key message to recruiters is to have an open mind when appointing Salespeople and to not just look at alleged ‘relevant’ experience. This will open up a whole new Candidate pool to select from and can bring great rewards for all concerned.
From a Care job in the healthcare industry to KBB Sales
Miquela McDonald worked for Mencap in the healthcare sector for five years as a Senior Support Worker. Although she enjoyed her job, she needed something more challenging and with significant career development opportunities.
She decided that she wanted to get into Sales. This desire was based on her instinct that as she enjoyed communicating with people, a career in Sales would be a good natural fit. The process of making this transition was not simple, however.
Nobody is interested in me!
To start the process, Miquela sensibly revised her CV to focus on those skills she felt were transferrable into Sales. She then sent her CV to a number of recruitment agencies, registered on some of the leading job boards, and started to target companies and vacancies which interested her. However, she found it hard even to get a response, let alone an interview with anyone.
This was a frustrating experience, as she knew she had the right credentials to succeed in Sales as she explains:
“I quickly realised that despite having transferrable skills such as, leading a team, problem-solving, being able to make quick decisions, and dealing and communicating effectively with a wide range of people, potential employers just saw ‘Healthcare Senior Support Worker’ and dismissed me as a viable option.”
It is worth remembering, the old adage, ‘people buy from people’, and if you can build trust through clear communication and understand a customer’s problem and how you can solve it, then you can succeed in building long-term relationships in Sales and produce profitable outcomes. Product knowledge and contacts can be acquired.
The person’s qualities and matching them to a company’s culture are key areas to focus on, and often with a fresher, more dynamic and objective approach, the results can take a company’s Sales strategy into new territory.
Miquela’s job-seeking experience demonstrates that we are all very busy in our working lives, so when it comes to tasks such as recruitment, we want the quick fix. We don’t think we have the time to really invest in someone or open our eyes to the bigger potentially more rewarding picture. This applies to all sides of the process, including recruitment agencies.
With this ‘too busy’ mindset, everyone can suffer. The fact is, there is a shortage of excellent Candidates in many sectors, and as recruiters, we need to be more creative in finding them – thinking differently than others is what keeps people ahead of the game.
For the Candidate, they need someone willing to really invest in helping them to be considered for a role, and a potential Employer should be open to taking a different approach regarding Candidate selection.
As well as bringing something fresh to the Sales approach, it increases the chances of bringing someone to the business who is more interested in career-development at the same employer, building long-term relationships with customers, less likely to move every couple of years, and will ultimately reduce recruitment costs and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
We all understand the benefits of employing someone with solid Sales and relevant industry experience, and this should never be ignored and is likely to still be the dominant criteria, but we need to be open-minded that there are other potentially exciting options.
Investing in people and looking beyond the CV is key
At Pinnacle Consulting, we agreed, after a recommendation, that we would meet with Miquela. It reminded us that we must see the person behind the CV and understand their story, experience, personality and transferrable skills. This will ensure we have a wide-ranging pool of quality Candidates to match with Employers’ requirements – both in cultural fit and the skills needed for the job.
After understanding what she had to offer, we identified a company and a role where we thought Miquela would be a perfect fit, and persuaded the company – CDA Appliances (in the KBB sector) – to invite Miquela to interview as a ‘wild-card’ option.
Miquela impressed, and after a second interview in which she had to prepare and give a presentation, she was offered the job!
The proof of the pudding is in the eating though. Miquela commented:
“During the first month or so, the only aspects of the job which were a little unfamiliar to me were the amount of driving, having to learn about the products quickly, reporting, and getting used to their CRM database system.
“Other than that, and with the support of my colleagues, my confidence quickly grew. I made sure if I needed help, I asked for it, this is vital in any job, as otherwise it is assumed you know. Asking questions is usually very positive in Sales as it increases understanding.”
It was reassuring to hear that her colleagues were supportive and didn’t react negatively to an ‘outsider’ coming into the business. This proves that the cultural-fit decision was correct.
“I am enjoying my role, which includes training, managing business relationships with merchants and retailers, introducing new product ranges and promotions, merchandising, and dealing with day-to-day queries and issues. The role requires a high level of self-motivation and a need always to be friendly, helpful and available to chat or meet with my customers. But this wasn’t new to me, as I needed to be like this at Mencap too. In fact, looking at it now, with the benefit of hindsight, there are many parallels between the two experiences.
“My computer skills have developed to be more Sales relevant, and I feel confident and comfortable in my role and excited about the challenges ahead of me.”
Will companies start to adopt a more flexible recruitment policy?
A year or so into the role, she is excelling in the job, and CDA is delighted with her progress. We asked Miquela if she thought her appointment had changed CDA’s approach to recruitment.
“CDA was open-minded enough in the first place to see me, and then take a chance, so clearly they had a very positive approach to finding the right person for the job. However, I think my appointment has certainly made them more willing to look beyond the standard Candidates when recruiting, and this has been proven by that fact they have appointed two more people from different sectors and job roles, including another one from the healthcare industry!’
However, she also identified if it hadn’t have been for the assistance, support and investment given by Pinnacle Consulting, then she might never have got the chance to start her Sales career.
“I am grateful for all the help James and the team gave me at Pinnacle. Their belief in supporting my cause shows the importance of getting to know someone and not having pre-determined opinions. The same applies to my employer at CDA. I wish more companies were willing to help, train, and show investment in people looking to change careers and not have prejudiced views.”
Keep an open mind to recruitment
The lesson we can learn is that to make a change, you need belief, support, and the willingness to open your mind to avenues previously blocked.
So if you are looking to recruit, why not see a wildcard as well. You have nothing to lose, and the person from a different job function could add real value to your business, regardless if they are from the same industry sector or not.
Steve Rogan is managing director of recruitment specialists Pinnacle Consulting