Advice for My Twenty-Year-Old Self

Advice for My Twenty-Year-Old Self

We often wish we could have done things differently, especially regarding our sales careers. I am frequently asked, “What advice would you give someone just starting out in their career?” There are moments I wish I could go back and change, but since I can’t, I thought I would share the advice I would give my twenty-year-old self. Having the right direction at the right time can make all the difference in a sales career. If you are starting your sales career, this article is the advice I would have given myself.

Avoid Negative People and Time Wasters

People grow at different speeds. Friends and colleagues who are on a different path can end up holding you back. Surround yourself with people who are seeking self-improvement and lift you up. People without goals tend to criticize and waste time. People who waste their time, blame others, and make excuses, are energy vampires. This will drag you down to their level. Sales is exhausting enough. If you feel exhausted after spending time with someone, it’s a sign to cut ties.

Perpetually negative people are infectious. You will not be able to change them, but they will change you by making their problems your problems. People who view themselves as victims struggle to find solutions. The advice I would give myself is to be selective about who you spend time with. It has more impact than you can imagine.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Calculated Risks

Feeling stuck in a sales role can be easy when you have no reference to anything else. Take the time to think about what you want and what you are good at. It’s okay to change course and try new things; that’s a good thing when you are young. You may enjoy something you had never even thought of before. To find what you are genuinely passionate about, you must let go of fear and be willing to take risks.

When you are young, you are still determining where your journey will take you early in your sales career. Be bold. You never know when one decision will change everything. You must be willing to step out of your comfort zone to reach your full potential. When you are in your twenties, it’s time to try new things and make mistakes. In your forties, you can’t.

Build Relationships and Find a Mentor

Networking isn’t just for people looking for a new job; it is essential at every career stage. While it can feel forced, networking isn’t an activity where you try to sell yourself to someone; it is an opportunity to learn and share information. You can often learn just as much by volunteering as you would from work. The key is to gain experience while you are young.

Being a young sales professional can make it easy to feel isolated. When I was young, I could have networked more, asked better questions, and connected with more mentors. Avoiding this slowed my growth. My best learning came from the knowledge that was shared with me.

Knowing which people to approach can be challenging, but as they say, “The teacher appears when the student is ready.” You could be working with someone who could provide the advice or connection you need to advance your career. My advice to my younger self is to stop discounting the value of a network or mentors. Start investing in your network, and they will invest in you.

Focus on Experience, Not Income

It may seem counterintuitive but gaining experience early can be more valuable than the paycheck. Early career sales reps often look at the comp plan first. Instead, focus on skill development, not income development. Finding yourself in a no-growth position that you find tedious and unfulfilling can cause you to miss out on valuable experiences.

The goal early in your sales career is not just acquiring money but acquiring skills. Early in your career, you want to learn skills you can master that will serve as your foundation. The more sales skills you can master early, the greater your future success will be. Make sure not to sacrifice long-term success for short-term monetary rewards.

Embrace Change

Change is inevitable, and you will experience it as you advance in your sales career. Routine is comfortable, but change can be scary. Embracing change can significantly benefit your sales career. When you welcome change, you will find new solutions that help you move forward. My advice to my younger self is that as soon as you start feeling stagnant or uninspired, it may be a sign that you are ready for a change.

Expand Your Comfort Zone

You may be comfortable in your current sales role, but if you are not challenging yourself, you may not be moving forward. For example, sales reps often start with inside positions or business development. They avoid taking on more challenging roles, like outside sales or account executives, because they stick with the familiar.

Stepping out of your comfort zone takes work. It feels uncomfortable because our abilities are being tested. To push past the comfort zone, get specific on what makes you uncomfortable. Questioning the validation of your thinking shows maturity. The older I become, the more I realize how much there is to learn.

Learn from Mistakes

When I was young, I was embarrassed by my mistakes. No one is perfect. You will make mistakes. It is essential to learn from the first mistake and not to repeat it. In sales, too often, sales leaders punish the sales reps who make a mistake. This leads to other reps hiding their mistake for fear of ridicule or embarrassment. This is the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish.

When we are young, we are taught that mistakes will not be tolerated. Hiding mistakes is a costly thinking error that only leads to more mistakes. If something goes wrong, which will often happen in sales, it is better to learn from it than hide it. Creating a process where mistakes are brought into the open assures continuous improvement.

Clarify Your Vision, Plan with Precision

Before making any major career decisions, you need to know where you want to be in the future. Without a clear vision, it’s impossible to plan. What do you want your career to look like five or ten years from now? What do you want to be doing? What do you want to have accomplished? Once you know what you want, you can create a plan to get there. A plan is not something you write down and forget about. You need to constantly check in and make sure you are staying on track.

If you plan to be a sales manager in five years, you should start planning and taking action now. If you want to create your own business and become an entrepreneur, you need to start putting a plan in place early. Early in my sales career, my plan was to hit my sales numbers. I didn’t see myself as a business owner. If I had, I would have paid attention to other departments like finance and product development. My advice to myself is to clarify your vision and plan with precision.

Invest in Yourself

Everyone told me to invest in my future. I viewed this as the stock market and 401k. While you should be investing your money, remember to invest in yourself. You are more than your financial investments. Investing in yourself provides a higher return early in your sales career. Personal development was an area I wish I had doubled down on early in my career. The advice I’d give myself is to invest 10 percent monthly into savings and 5 percent monthly on personal development; they both compound over time.

Final Thoughts

Last but not least, be careful who you take advice from. Stop taking advice from people on the sidelines. Their advice can demoralize you. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Develop a filter to skip the noise, or you can end up resenting a lot of people.

Each piece of advice piggybacks on the other. Challenge yourself to do things you have never done before. Learning new skills, building relationships, expanding your network, and seeking out mentors all compound. As you advance in your sales career, it can be easy to get comfortable and stop reaching for more. Push yourself to keep growing and learning new things. As you progress in your career, learning and growing will help you advance.