An intersession class offered by the College of Business Department of Marketing over the winter break gave students a chance to travel the region and gain firsthand sales knowledge from industry experts.
This marked the fourth year of the class, Marketing 412, Professional Sales in the Field. Also known as “Sales on Wheels,” the class began after marketing department faculty started looking for ways to open students’ minds to the idea of taking good job offers outside of the Chicago area.
“Brainstorming on what our sales staff could do to educate sales students about the career upside when companies relocate them, we came up with the idea of taking students to bordering states to have them experience new areas and cultures,” explained Charles H. Howlett, director of NIU Professional Sales, College of Business.
Prior to teaching at NIU, Howlett’s 33-year sales career was with an Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical corporation, so he knows firsthand how widening a network beyond the Chicago area can be beneficial to a career.
In order to schedule the class, Howlett selected cities within driving distance from NIU, planning one-day stops at corporate offices to meet executives, review compensation and relocation packages offered to employees, and experience the culture.
“The primary lesson on this trip is living a week like a sales person and practical application,” Howlett said.
Within the class, teams are set up to discuss and present on topics like relocation, benefits, how to use the class experience to land a job, FICO and credit scores, understanding salary compensation types and social media. As part of their final, students select a company and develop a personal budget, an exercise that has them consider cost of living, starting salary, taxes and their monthly expenses.
Keegan Hayes, of Naperville, is a senior corporate communications major with a minor in marketing. She is pursuing her Professional Selling Certificate. Hayes said the focus of the class on providing students with advice and guidance for life after college was very helpful given her upcoming graduation in May.
“I knew the opportunity to visit firms and observe the inside operations would be a unique and valuable learning experience that I could apply in my future career,” she said, adding that meeting with professionals working in the field was helpful.
“Those individuals taught me more about personal budgeting, early investing, relocation opportunities, total compensation than I could have imagined,” she said.
Giuseppe LaGioia, of Plainfield, is pursuing a major in management and the Professional Sales Certificate. He was drawn to the class for the networking opportunities.
“Being able to meet with several different companies and learn about their culture, business practices and ideas is something that I try to take advantage whenever I can,” he said.
He said that meeting with working professionals from large corporations helped him gain insight into the intersection of their personal and professional lives, and helped him to consider how his future might take shape as he finishes school and pursues a career. He said a surprise lesson of the class was the importance of budgeting.
“For me it was one of those things that you need to do but just sort of shy away from,” he said. “However, after having an assignment where we had to plan a monthly budget out for our lives and track every dollar we spent for a month, it really puts into perspective on how much you actually spend and that you are almost wasting.”
Hayes said before taking the class, she wanted to live in either Chicago or Denver.
“However, this class made me open to relocation throughout my career, especially while I am young,” she said. “I learned that being open to relocation for promotion and growth opportunities can have a hugely beneficial impact on long-term career. Now, I can see myself relocating if an opportunity presents itself because it could be well worth it.”