Dear College Students (and recent graduates),

You may or may not have any idea of where you want to focus your career and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and that’s absolutely okay. That’s a big reason why I’m here talking to you today.

When I graduated college, I literally had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. My dad owned his own small business and my mom was a teacher’s aide in school. While I had a great upbringing, neither parent provided much (if any) direction about what to study in school, companies to work at or where to focus a career.

I’ve always liked the idea of business and entrepreneurship, ever since I started selling tomatoes from my dad’s vegetable garden on the corner of our street for $.25 a pop. So when I went to college (Elon University), I decided to major in Business. Business is a broad major though, and I hated accounting and thought economics was a difficult pain in the butt, so I concentrated in marketing, mostly because it wasn’t super numbers focused.

Throughout my time in college, no one ever told me, if you study hard and work in X major, you’ll make Y amount of money. I just did what normal (dumb) college kids do. I worked, I studied, I partied, I got fairly good grades and I took the first job that I was offered post-graduation, in Technology Recruiting. It wasn’t because I necessarily wanted to work in Technology Recruiting, but because I had no idea what I was doing and a $40,000 job offer sounded like Warren Buffett money at the time.

But guess what? Working in recruiting sucked… 

I was working crazy hours, typically 7:30am to 6:30-7:00pm, then commuting another hour each way to the office. And for what? $40,000 and a minimal commission check from the professionals I placed into new jobs.

And don’t take this as a compliant that I simply sucked at my recruiting job.

It was quite the contrary. I was actually in the top 10% of my company in results, consistently. My bosses loved me, thought I was born to be in the recruiting industry. But I just couldn’t stomach waking up every morning to grind for $40,000 a year. I wasn’t fulfilled.

There was literally zero opportunity for advancement. No yearly raises, promotions were simply title adjustments and not truly material. I felt stuck in recruiting and I thought my career was basically toast in less than two years after graduating college.

Once a recruiter, always a recruiter I thought.

What did I do wrong, I asked myself? I went to college and did well, I even started a Master’s degree program.

Where did I go wrong? Simple. I didn’t research career paths when I was graduating college.

I took the first job offer that came my way because I thought the job market in 2012 was supposed to suck and I would be lucky just to get an offer.

But in my recruiting misery, I was actively applying to get myself the heck out of the industry.

Specifically, I wanted to work in software and technology. That was the only part of my job I really enjoyed, talking to super intelligent technology professionals and learning about what they do on a daily basis.

And then it happened. I found my way out of my recruiting hole and into the software sales world. After a year of trying to break into the tech industry, I received my first role as a Business Development Representative.

Honestly, starting a career in Software Sales has changed everything for me. If I knew about the opportunities in this industry, I would have made it my mission to start my career here the first day of post college graduation, but I didn’t.

But you have the opportunity to correct my mistakes and start in the industry from day one. And here is exactly why I think you, the college student (and recent graduate), should seriously consider a career in Software Sales.

1. Software Sales doesn’t require an advanced degree or certifications

When you think about some of the top earning positions, what comes to mind for you? Doctor, lawyer, finance? Those positions are all great and you can make a boat load of money, but… They all come with a huge catch. You have to spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in post-college education.

Want to be a doctor? How about 4 years of med school and another 3-7 years of residency work?

Want to be a lawyer? How about 3 years of law school? And it better be from a top-tier school or that money just went out the window.

Want to be a Wall Street big shot? You’ll probably need an Ivy League undergraduate degree and either a CFA or MBA in the future as well.

Want to work in Software Sales? All you need is a Bachelor’s degree. Yup, seriously. 

Aside from a Bachelor’s degree, you don’t need significant formal training in school like an engineering or finance degree to find a way to break into the software sales industry. It doesn’t even need to be a specific degree field, companies hire software sales professionals with Liberal Arts degrees, Business degrees, STEM degrees, it’s all over the place.

Below is an actual job description for a Business Development Representative position from NetSuite, a cloud ERP software provider.

Click to read the full size BDR job posting
Click to read the full size BDR job posting

2. You have an impact on YOUR compensation

One of my favorite things about Software Sales is how compensation is structured. Compensation is typically done on a 50/50 basis, 50% of your compensation being your base salary and 50% being your “variable”, or money earned on commission.

So if you have a $50,000 base salary, you are also expected to be bringing in another $50,000 by hitting your sales quota, in the form of variable commission, for a total compensation of $100,000 (also known as On Target Earnings or OTE).

The great part about how this is structured is two fold.

  1. You are paid a very livable base salary to support yourself from. This is NOT a commission-only type of sales role.
  2. Depending on how hard you work, you have a major impact on how much money you make within your variable compensation or commission. If you work hard, you’ll make more money, simple as that.

I don’t know about you, but I literally can’t work in a job that has a set base salary and that’s it. I would go absolutely crazy.

If you’re fine with working in a job that has a set base salary and you get a 3% annual salary increase each year, then more power to you, but that’s not me and I know it isn’t many of you either. I want to control my own income and Software Sales allows me to do so.

3. Earnings growth is rapid

When selecting a career path, especially one at a young age while in college or having recently graduated, an important consideration is the potential money you can make in the field. How much money do you start at, where can you end up in the future?

Quite frankly, there are not too many fields where a 22-25 year old has the immediate earning potential of well into the six-figures, however, technology sales is one of those (Finance, engineering, etc are others).

One of the incredible aspects of software sales is the rapid career progression that can occur if you are having success in the field. While your base salary and variable compensation might start somewhere around $50,000/$50,000, after 1-3 years of hitting your quota, you can realistically be making a base/variable of $75,000/$75,000, for total compensation of $150,000 and so on.

As your career continues to progress, it’s not unheard of for technology sales reps to be pulling in total compensation of $200-500k and above.

Don’t believe me? Well take this article from Business Insider below into account.

So, just how much money can someone make selling enterprise software? Top performers get up to $400,000 a year, year after year, our sources say. (Bear in mind that the average salary in the U.S. is about $46,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

“On average, an Oracle sales rep has a base of $110,000 and earns $250,000 a year, but there will be people at Oracle this year who earn over $500,000,” says headhunter Paul McEwan, a partner for technical sales recruiter, Richard, Wayne and Roberts.

Overall, at top-paying enterprise software companies like Oracle, SAP, HP, Microsoft, and IBM, the “top 20 percenters” — the 20% of salespeople in the company who consistently sell the most — make $250,000 to $350,000 a year, headhunters and enterprise sales people tell us.

The top 10 percenters “make from high the $200s to low the $400s, and are cranking in that zone, year after year,” McEwan says.

In a really good year, a top salesperson at these companies can even earn $1 million, says Eliot Burdett, CEO of headhunting firm Peak Sales Recruiting. – Business Insider

Yes, money is not everything when it comes to a career, but it’s a huge point of concern for the vast majority of job seekers. And in this respect, software sales has some of the highest earning potential out of any career path on the job market.

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