As a junior in high school considering potential career paths, “sales” never once entered my list of options. Many a band fundraiser had revealed my aversion to competition and discomfort with selling people, that I love, things they don’t need. Incentives even seem to have the opposite effect on me – if there was a reward for doing well or meeting quota, perhaps someone else needed that reward more than I. I better not try too hard…wouldn’t want to win! So, in selecting a university, major, and ultimate career path, never did I ever seek anything related to marketing, development, or sales. I, instead, sought a path that would take me to people in their greatest need; a career that is defined by self-sacrifice, not self-promotion. I wanted to be a force of good with as little acknowledgement as possible – always behind the scenes and never center stage. Always a serviceman, never a salesman. I chose the University of Kansas, Bachelor of Music Education in Music Therapy, and a career that would come to define so much of who I am.
And I became a salesman.
Every single day since I made the decision to pursue a career in Music Therapy, I have advocated, developed, and marketed for myself, my career, and my clients. As much as I resisted sales, I could not avoid the inevitable questions, curiosity, and resistance surrounding my career. Sales came to me in the form of my very own passion. I “sell” music therapy in grocery stores, on airplanes, even to my friends once they realize they don’t actually know what it is that I do every day. Thankfully, I believe in this product more than any other I’ve had to sell in the past. <Music Therapy over magazines ANY day!> But it has taken me a long time to become comfortable in the salesman role. I had to come to terms with my own aversion and realize that this was an integral part of this job I wanted to do every day.
Something that has made this pill easier to swallow is coming to understand marketing/development in different terms. So often presented in schemes and themes, I found that I could understand and rally behind my own development if I could see it in terms I already understood: therapeutic terms. If I could view a networking simply as developing rapport, meeting a prospective funding source in the same way I would conduct an initial assessment, contract development more like establishing goals and objectives, and requesting funds just like I would make future plans or recommendations for treatment… then I could understand the need and more positively motivate myself toward development. I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of development as a never-ending process.
Development is not necessarily a career – it’s what makes a career – it’s what carves out the future.
And while I still dread financial discussions of bottom lines, I understand that they are simply a jumping-off-point and a means to a brighter future for the people whose lives are about to be positively affected by the services those funds will provide.
My encouragement to you is to seek out what is uncomfortable and force it through a lens of what you already love. Is there an aspect of your job or dream that intimidates you? Stick it in front of you so you can see it clearly, acknowledge the frustration and your own shortcoming, then frame it in a light you understand and love so you can start to shift your attitude in a productive direction. I hope you find new ways to develop your potential, even in unexpected – maybe even avoided – avenues.