Today, June 4, marks one year as a full-time Technical Sales Rep with Ashland Water Technologies 🙂
It’s hard to believe there was a day when I thought university would never end. Though I spent a year total as an intern with Ashland during school, this year has shaped me the most. Having full responsibility for a sales account has been so challenging but so rewarding. If you asked me a year ago if I thought I’d sell something within my first year I would’ve said no way… But now I feel confident and excited about what I do. This career will be an ongoing challenge but I am so much more confident than I was in June, 2012.
So what have I learned in my first year as an engineer? An engineer with a difficult-to-explain-job? More than just technical skills, more than just people skills, but of course I learned some of that too 😉 …
1. Safety is #1
Seriously… I know you hear this over and over in every aspect of work/life but it is SO real and so true! With respect to industrial environments: watch where you’re going, stay alert, WEAR YOUR PPE! Hard hat, respirator, ear plugs, and steel toes everyday in the pulpmill. You also need task specific PPE like gloves, face shield, full rain suit, etc. Read the JSA. Read the MSDS. If you ever think that you can get away with something “just this one time” without the right PPE or the right tools, you are risking a lot. So just wear it… everyone else is doing it 😉
2. It’s OK to not have all the answers
In the first year of a new job your learning curve is steep. It will be that way for a while. Even now, when I am asked a question I want to answer it right away, thoroughly and correctly, but sometimes I just can’t. I had to learn to just say “I don’t know, but I can find out!” and get back to that person as soon as I found the information. I like to think that people understood that I am new, but I know my customers sometimes still expect as much from me as they did from previous reps who had years experience. Do your homework and keep on top of your game, but if you don’t know, say so! People will know when you’re BS’ing them 😉
3. It’s the people
Yes my job is in technical sales and learning the pulp making process was key for me to do well in my field. If I want to sell a customer a product to improve their process, I need to know what they need and how I can help. However, as important as the technical aspect is, the customer-supplier relationship is #1 (wait, #2… safety is #1 ;)) If people get to know you, they will get to like you, they will help you, they will talk to you and they will teach you things. Not to mention, your job will be way more enjoyable if you make friends! I love just hanging out in the office or the control room with a coffee, “shootin the shit” as they say 😉 This goes for any workplace… make friends, get involved, have fun! No one wants to go to a job everyday that they hate.
4. You are responsible for you
Each account manager has 1-3 accounts we are responsible for. We help each other when needed and my managers and applications team provide regular support but most of the time I am on my own. My job requires a lot of self-discipline. If I didn’t go in to work tomorrow, my boss wouldn’t know. But I would know, especially when deadlines began creeping up and I wasn’t up to date on the latest events at my customer site. I learned that putting in the time and doing your job well really pays off. Your efforts will reflect in your work just as your laziness will. Looking back on the year there were many times I could have put off issuing a report until I was told, but I knew that taking the initiative would benefit me in the long run. Work hard. Play harder 😉
6. There will be bad days
And bad days I had… I remember a someone telling me early on that with this job you have “high highs and low lows”. They couldn’t have been more right. If my mother or boyfriend are reading this they know exactly what I mean 😉 I’m sure there are many more lows to come but more highs as well! Next time you feel like things will never turn around, tell yourself that nothing is forever. Every storm runs out of rain. Do the best you can do and don’t let the naysayers get you down 🙂
7. Your car is your second home
As a sales rep you travel A LOT! But if you have a smart phone filled with podcasts and good music, or a family member/friend to call during travel it’s not half bad 😉 My car always has extra snacks stashed in the console/compartments, my gym bag is always in my giant truck and I have a sweet heated seat pad to keep me cozy in the winter. Keep it clean just as you would your home. It’s no fun to spend 5 hours in a car that smells like old (vegan) cheese and has no room for your tea and green juice because the cup holders are full of crap!
8. You CAN maintain a healthy lifestyle with a demanding job
#TRUTH. I was told last summer that I couldn’t be vegan while working this job. Too much traveling, too few options on the road, and if your customer wants wings and beer, then you go out for wings and beer. OK, that’s all fine and dandy but it’s all a bunch of excuses. I bring my own snacks/lunch on the road and I’ve been doing a pretty good job the last 2 months finding vegan options at restaurants. The woman at the cafe near the pulp mill has been amazing. She now makes vegan bean soup, veggie wraps, tofu stir fry and bean salads. We eat there quite often so I told her when I decided to go veg. Her response? “I was actually vegetarian for about 20 years”. Imagine that? How will you know if you never ask? 😉 I was a healthy eater a long time before being vegan… I brought many packed lunches to Wendy’s while my team had Baconators. If we went somewhere nicer, I ordered salad. It has nothing to do with travel or career path. It has everything to do with your attitude and willingness. Oh and those wing nights with customers? No one seems to give a crap what I order… and most beers are vegan 😉
As for fitness? I rarely miss a workout due to work. I will do it at 5:30 am. I will work out in my hotel room. Most days I go to the gym directly on my way home so there is no temptation to skip. Sometimes you have to miss a day but that’s no reason to give up 🙂 For any fellow new-hires out there, know that your superiors were all once in your shoes. Do your best, be yourself, and you will succeed!
I know I promised a summer meal idea but I wanted to commemorate my 1 year first. I guess you’ll just have to come back in a couple of days to see what I’ve been up to in the kitchen 🙂