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Why I gave up professional engineering to be a sales professional

Why I gave up professional engineering to be a sales professional

Why would anyone give up a professional career for sales? I know this idea sounds crazy and is very difficult for many to comprehend, especially those who are looking for a progressive career path. It simply doesn’t make any sense. I find the answer can be traced back to the ideas we are conditioned to believe as being socially acceptable.

First and foremost, the idea we should focus on building a professional career, in engineering, accounting, law or medicine due to the stability and reputability of these professions is instilled in us from a very young age.

Secondly, the idea a career in sales is meant for those who couldn’t make it through university is a widely held belief. The general view of a career in sales is that it is very tough and awash with rejection. There is also a stigma surrounding sales and the day-to-day work it involves.

These preconceived ideas of success, guided my study and career choices. Interestingly, I found out I wasn’t alone. Most of my classmates in university also grew up with the same ideas, instilled in them by parents and society.

Before I get into the reasons why I left my professional career for one in sales, here is a little background about me to help you better understand my choices. I grew up in a very typical Singaporean background where a strong emphasis was placed on academic and professional achievement. There was major competition among top students to get the best grades and/or distinctions.

The underlying reason behind this competition was the belief that professionals are better paid and people with the best grades are paid even more. Like many, I became one of these grade conscious paper chasers.

Now that you’ve learnt a bit about me, here’s why I decided against pursuing a career in professional engineering. (Please note these are purely my own thoughts and opinions, and it simply reflects the reasons for my choices).

1. The globalisation challenge - I realised that with globalisation, there are always engineering graduates from developing countries such as Vietnam and The Philippines who will be eager to compete for my job. They will be willing to work much harder and for less pay. In fact, my goal has always been the reverse; work smarter with higher pay.

2. Long wait for high income - No doubt the career path of an engineer is very stable with good income. In fact, as an engineer becomes more experienced, their professional income will grow in line with the experience held. There is nothing wrong with this. However, being the impatient person that I am, I wanted to earn more at a younger age. As such, being a professional engineer was not ideal for me as it takes years to achieve the level of income I want now.

Here are the reasons why I decided to pursue a sales career:

1. Personal development - I have come to realise most people who are very successful in their career, have usually started in sales. This, I believe, can be attributed to the soft skills one learns from doing sales. Skills such as communication, presentation and people skills are very important for sales professionals to do well. Interestingly, these soft skills are equally important to succeed in other parts of life.

2. Higher income without having to wait – As sales remuneration is highly performance based, I don’t have to wait years for my income to grow. I know that as long as I am prepared to learn and work hard, I will be able to make much more and in a shorter space of time as compared to a profession such as engineering.

3. Discipline – Discipline is extremely important to anyone in sales. It is not just discipline in managing time; it also includes discipline in managing emotions and also commitment to goals.

4. Setting goals – Sales is about setting goals every day. I have come to realise the importance of setting goals. It will almost always determine the destiny of one’s life and yet, goal setting is seldom mentioned or taught in school.

5. Rejection management – Most people don’t wish to be involved in sales because they don’t like or they can’t handle rejection. As much as we hate to admit it, rejection is part of life. In fact, it is a big part of life. Every successful person faces rejection on their journey to get to where they are today. I believed being involved in sales would be the best place for me to pick up this invaluable skill.

With all these points in mind, I made one of the most important, yet terrifying decisions of my life, which was to give up engineering and to embrace a career in sales. It has been 14 years since I made that decision and I haven’t looked back since.

I am always amused when asked how I mustered up the courage to give up six years of my studies to embark on a career most people avoid. My answer, as always is, “I would rather give up six years of my life than to give up 30 years to a career that has a limit to progression and earning potential.” My career in sales has enabled me to live the life I have always dreamed of.

If you would like to find more about a career with Appco Group Asia, please visit our career section.

Joval Gan is a former Organisational Head & Country Head of Hong Kong and Singapore.