“This week, I read about 20 different job descriptions, applied to 15 of them, and I have no idea what I would actually be expected to do if I were to get any of those jobs.”
A soon-to-be grad said this to me a few days ago. When you don’t have much experience, it’s hard to dissect a job description. Sure the tasks are broadly listed, but what would a day doing this job actually look like? Furthermore, how can you expect to nail an interview if you don’t know exactly what the job entails?
This is a challenge that we see all the time at Koru. A huge pain point for recent grads is figuring out: 1) What options are available to them and 2) What those options actually mean. Grads often feel paralyzed by too many options and too little clarity.
So, let’s start with the basics.
What are the most widely available job opportunities out there for entry-level non-technical job applicants? And more importantly, what they heck would a noob actually do starting on day 1?
Sales Associate – AKA a Business Development Representative
In my recent post “What’s a good job? How to think about your first role,” I argued that sales is the only skill you will use in every job you ever have. It’s true — whether you go into non-profit work or land a creative job at a hip ad agency — selling is a skill that will serve you well throughout your career.
So, what’s it like working in sales after college? As an entry-level sales person, you’re going to be doing a lot of really important work to support your sales team (who are typically the ones closing deals). That could include:
Finding new leads (AKA lots of online research) and putting their data into your company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system
Emailing potential leads
Cold calling using a written script (to start, eventually it will become natural)
Tracking and quantifying your outreach efforts so that you can measure success
Sales is not always glamorous. But here’s what’s great about it:
When you’re starting at a company with little experience, sales is the only place where you can demonstrate (with numbers) your impact. When you do a great job and demonstrate high level of ownership and grit, you’re likely find that— sometime over the course of the next few months — you’ll be asked to step-up and start closing deals yourself or tackle different projects that you’re more passionate about.
Bottom line: Sales is a place where you can demonstrate what youcan do and move up fast.
Marketing Associate — AKA social media, content marketing, email communications
Newsflash. Marketing is not just sitting in a posh office, smoking Lucky Strikes, and coming up with ideas so crazy they just might work a la Don Draper. Marketing is equally about demonstrating a high degree of analytical rigor.
Sure, you’ll need to be able to write some pithy copy, rock an Instagram account, and come up with creative ways to reach new audiences. But that only matters if you can also track your data, interpret it, and then revise your strategy. Marketing is essentially a rinse and repeat industry. So, you’ve got to be creative, yes. But here are some other things you’ll spend your day doing:
AB testing — You send the same email with two different subject lines. Which one performed better? Why? Choose the winning test, introduce a subject line as your challenger for the next email, and repeat.
Social Strategy — Which type of social media are your customers engaging most with? Why? You figure that out by looking at the data.
Running reports on your marketing campaigns — What worked? What didn’t? How many leads did you get?
Marketing gives you the best of both worlds. You get to be creative, but like sales, you’ll also have quotas to hit and will be able to demonstrate your impact by hustling, not being afraid of the numbers, and showing supreme adaptability.
Customer Care – AKA user ops, member care, customer service
This is such a great place to start your career, it’s not even funny.
Customer care sometimes gets a bad rap because of the antiquated images it evokes of huge room full of unhappy people sitting at cubicles strapped to telephones. That’s not how it works anymore!
We recently placed a Koru alum on to the Member Care team atCare.com, an incredible company with amazing leadership that runs an online caregiving marketplace for families everywhere. Customer care is all about listening to your customers, empathizing with their perspective, and then working to help them with their situation. Here is what your job might look like:
You’re probably going to use a CRM like Salesforce to track your cases — a queue of customers who each have a specific and individual challenge for you. Being prompt and detail-oriented will take you a long way in this role.
You’ll be interacting with customers using a few different methods —online chat, email, and the phone.
Throughout each conversation, you’ll need to have a high level of polish, be able to keep your cool when things are stressful, and become everybody’s best friend.
Be proactive in this role! In high growth companies, more people switch from customer care to other parts of the business than any other department. This is your proving grounds! Make an impression! If you see a trend in problems that members are having, write up a proposal for a solution and present it to your manager. They will likely appreciate this and you’ll earn a reputation for making an impact.
These are three common (and great) places to start your career, and there’s not-so-subtly a trend here.
The best places to start your career are places where you can show your employer what you can do — places where you can make a demonstrable impact and gain experience that will serve you throughout your career.
The most important thing is having a knowledge of what you’re getting into so you can hit the ground running, learn quick, and show everybody what you’ve got.