Why Should Graduates Choose Sales Careers?

13 mins

With jobs set to grow around 4% between now and 2028, there’s never been a better time for g...

By Pareto Team


With jobs set to grow around 4% between now and 2028, there’s never been a better time for graduates to consider sales careers. A career in sales is an ideal choice for those who truly enjoy getting to know the ins and outs of their customers and thrive in a collaborative, fast-paced environment—with an untapped earning potential in many cases, alongside a real sense of achievement when you support a client in solving a real business need. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the versatility of a career in sales, discussing the graduate sales career path and detailing the likely positions along the way, from entry-level to executive positions. Our guide also highlights the transferable skills that sales graduate jobs provide before looking at the reasons why you might want to choose sales careers if you’re driven by financial and personal reward, showing how roles across the industry provide employees with a sense of purpose. 

The Versatility of A Career in Sales

Sales careers allow graduates to advance in their professional lives according to their own terms: the technical and soft skills they gain throughout the sales career path provide a robust basis for future leadership positions and even enable candidates to move laterally if they wish to. Project management, marketing, software development, and product management are all crying out for candidates with the solid commercial sense and customer-focused approach that a career in sales imparts. 

The best graduate recruitment agencies will work closely with you to understand your long-term goals, supporting you by connecting you with an early-career position that sets you up for long-term career success. 

So, what could a typical graduate sales career path look like, what are the transferable skills one can gain by following it, and what about the diverse range of industry opportunities that sales careers provide?

The Graduate Sales Career Path

Graduate sales careers are often variable, with the candidates working in them ending up in a range of positions as they gain the skills and expertise necessary to secure promotions and raises. For those candidates that stay in the sales career path, however, a typical route may look a little bit like this: 

Sales Development Representative (SDR) — 0 to 3 Years

With the best graduate recruitment agencies making it clear to candidates that they don’t need experience for these roles—just the right attitude and a little ambition—entry-level roles such as Sales Development Representative will be your starting point on the sales career path. 

You’ll learn quickly, likely receiving in-depth training on your company’s systems to ensure that you can utilise the latest in customer relationship management and sales enablement technology to generate leads, connect with key accounts, and drive up-selling and cross-selling opportunities alongside your colleagues. 

Account Manager or Sales Enablement Lead — 3 to 5 Years

Once you’ve spent a few years learning the ropes and providing great service to customers, you’ll likely be looking for your next challenge—which moving up to a mid-level position such as account management or sales enablement leadership can certainly provide. 

Often requiring three to five years of experience, these roles typically involve more responsibility and technical knowledge of the tools you’ll have used in entry-level roles in sales. Account managers will typically work closely with long-term customers, ensuring they receive excellent service. They’ll partner with the product development team to ensure that innovations are focused on solving customers’ pain points, ultimately driving satisfaction. 

Meanwhile, sales enablement leads will continue to focus on lead-generation duties, often acting as an expert resource for the entry-level members of the team, providing them with the resources and training necessary to connect with prospects and swiftly move them through the sales funnel.

Sales Manager — 5 to 7 Years

Once they’ve secured around five to seven years’ worth of experience, a salesperson in a mid-level role will often find themselves moving up to the position of sales management, coaching and mentoring their staff to hit targets whilst keeping a close eye on a robust set of KPIs. 

Admittedly, not all candidates will want to enter a leadership position, but the position of sales manager allows mid-level salespeople to begin to truly hone the immediate and long-term strategies that will enable their organisation to achieve its vision. Working closely to budgetary and time constraints, they’ll supervise and motivate junior and mid-level salespeople, analysing the latest market trends to identify new opportunities and set goals for their staff. 

Alongside these duties, a sales manager will analyse performance data, designing and implementing methodologies which aim to improve processes across the entire organisation. As a result, understanding data and statistical analysis techniques will set a prospective sales manager in good stead.

Director or VP of Sales — 7 to 10 years

Directors and VPs of sales require significant experience—around seven to ten years on average—since they’re often tasked with supervising the sales strategy for an entire business, working closely with the executive team and board of a company to bring their broader vision to life. 

As experts in performance analysis and sales forecasting, these professionals will typically have full financial responsibility for their division, ensuring that they’re driving continuous improvements, minimising waste, and prioritising fiscal responsibility. As a result, they’ll often use the skills in understanding and reporting on statistical data from their time as a manager, empowering a scalable strategy that drives successful sales processes. 

When it comes to sales careers, the director or VP of sales is critical to an organisation’s long-term profitability, directly impacting all revenue-generating activities.

Chief Revenue Officer — 10 Years or More

Often the end goal for those in sales careers, the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is a member of the executive team tasked with creating the high-level strategy and tactics that drive all revenue-generating processes within a business. 

Working cross-departmentally, they’ll ensure that salespeople are aligned with the company’s wider marketing efforts and create the budgets and incentive programmes that ensure the sales team is motivated, engaged, and well-resourced. 

Working closely with their colleagues in the executive team, they’ll ensure that all sales processes align with the company’s overall business strategy, adjusting messaging, pricing models, and operations to ensure that their company can achieve its overall revenue goals.

Transferable Skills For Life

A career in sales provides graduates with a broad range of technical and soft transferable skills, from communication and active listening to negotiation, creativity, closing, problem-solving, and resilience. In short, a sales career sets you up for success in just about any area of professional or personal life. 

With automation on the rise across the globe, it’s likely that the need to personally complete repetitive, laborious tasks will be minimised. On the other hand, the need for candidates who have no trouble connecting with, consulting, and driving the satisfaction of customers is only set to grow. 

Salespeople will often find it easy to transition between a range of career choices if they decide to move laterally once they’ve gained enough experience in an entry-level role, with marketing, HR, and management teams always on the lookout for the competencies that come naturally to those with a background in sales careers.

And if you don’t believe us, then take a look at the data: a study conducted by the Pew Research Center on behalf of Forbes found that roles requiring a robust set of soft skills such as interpersonal collaboration, delegation, and communication ability have increased by 83% since the 1990s, covering a range of diverse industries.

The Diverse Industry Opportunities of Sales Careers

The best graduate recruitment agencies will have connections with organisations across a range of sectors, covering everything from fintech to healthcare—meaning that candidates eyeing up sales can find themselves working in a range of exciting areas: 

  • Technology. Covering sales careers in SaaS, hardware, networking, and other technology products, salespeople working in this field will often work with a broad base of B2B clients, liaising directly with decision-makers to ensure that their products and services are resolving customers’ pain points and helping to generate revenue.

  • FMCG. The fast-moving consumer goods sector is dynamic and fast-paced, with salespeople selling consumer products to major stores across the nation, including food, drinks, and hygiene items. They’re responsible for maintaining a robust product knowledge, which enables them to build relationships with buyers based on a solid sense of trust and an understanding of store needs and consumer demand. 

  • Marketing. Selling advertising and marketing services to perhaps the broadest range of clients in this list, sales careers in marketing are intensely collaborative and project-based, with the representatives working in this field needing to manage their diaries effectively and develop a true commercial sense to best consult on their clients’ needs.

  • Healthcare and Life Sciences. If you’re coming from a scientific or medical background, you may be interested in the often lucrative commercial side of the healthcare and life sciences industry. Selling medical products and services to a range of healthcare providers, practitioners, and organisations, life science sales representatives need to be fully aware of the regulatory framework they’re working within, alongside possessing the requisite communication skills to translate often complex products into something a time-starved audience wants to purchase.

  • Finance. Whilst sales graduate jobs in finance are highly competitive and require a strong understanding of data management and analytics, for those who work hard enough to succeed in the sector, the sky really is the limit. One of the most well-paid industries when it comes to a career in sales, finance sales reps will utilise their knowledge of the market and ability to forecast to provide their clients, whether individuals or businesses, with sound advice and products that support their growth aims.

Whilst your first steps on the sales career path may not see you placed directly into your desired field straight away, with time, knowledge, and experience, you really do have free rein to pick from any of these challenging and exciting industries—enabling you to use your passion to drive revenue growth and solve customer’s issues. 

If you’re interested to learn more about where sales can take you, make sure to read our recent guide on Graduate Careers Advice: Getting a Job Without Experience for an in-depth look at how you can leverage your transferable skills to discover a range of roles within the sales industry.

The Financial and Personal Rewards of Sales Careers

For many, a career in sales provides them with an excellent opportunity for untapped earnings—with many companies having a commission, bonus, and benefits structure in place to further incentivise their highest performers. For dedicated and ambitious candidates, sales graduate jobs offer possibilities for financial and personal reward.

At the same time, if you’re driven by the desire to learn and enhance your skills, sales careers will offer you the opportunity to meet with the people you can utilise to expand your knowledge and professional network. 

You’ll often be working directly alongside business owners, product developers, VPs of sales, and suppliers, giving you a number of chances to gain a deeper understanding of how the sales process works and the impact that you’re having on your clients’ revenue generation abilities.

The Lucrative Earning Potential of Sales Careers

Once you’ve gained around three to five years experience in the sales career path, you’ll be looking at a basic salary of around £38,000—especially if you’re looking at management or team leadership positions. 

Opportunities for learning and development abound in sales careers, and the best graduate recruitment agencies will always encourage you to develop your skills and move to the next rung of the professional ladder. Indeed, as you progress through the sales career path, you’ll often find that your commission structure increases in line with your title. While the targets will likely become more challenging, your experience and knowledge will help you reach them, and the rewards are always greater for those candidates who are the most motivated. 

Even at an early-career level, sales graduate jobs often outperform the competition, with many positions’ salaries ranging from £25,000 to £35,000, depending on their location and a candidate’s experience and qualifications.

Sales Careers With Purpose

Sales graduate jobs are an excellent choice for candidates looking for a career with real purpose. 

Beyond offering a clear career path—as we explored in our first section—for entry-level professionals alongside a robust culture of learning and development on crucial transferable skills, professionals in this field will always know they have a job lined up, with a Talent Shortage survey published by Manpower Group highlighting that sales and marketing are amongst the top five most in-demand areas for 80% of UK employers.

For those who don’t want to be doing the same tasks day-in and day-out, the industries we explored earlier are also an excellent choice for those seeking purpose and fulfilment from their work. Sales is a dynamic role, where each day will see you meeting new people, having new conversations, and working on complex issues to provide a mutually beneficial outcome for your clients and your employer. 

And that’s just it—fundamentally, sales careers give you the opportunity to really help people. When you’re doing your job well, you’re helping your customers to get what they want, whether that’s solving a previously intractable business problem, growing and scaling their business to employ more people, improving peoples’ abilities to access jobs through user-experience-focused websites, or reduce the cost of the goods they’re buying. 

Closing Remarks

For graduates and professionals yet to embark upon a path, sales careers present a range of compelling reasons for candidates to join a burgeoning and exciting industry. With job growth projections on the rise and the promise of a collaborative, dynamic environment, a sales career path offers committed and ambitious individuals with an attractive opportunity. 

The versatility of sales careers allows for professional and personal growth, imparting transferable skills that extend beyond the field. The best graduate recruitment agencies will work closely with candidates to ensure that they’re connected with opportunities that align with their passions and long-term career goals, ensuring not only financial rewards but the possibility of discovering a job with real purpose. 

Whether you’re drawn to technology, FMCG, marketing, healthcare and life sciences, or finance, a career in sales can offer you a true journey towards success. As you progress, you’ll not only unlock untapped earning potential, but also find fulfilment in helping your clients meet their business needs. 

Sales is a career choice that opens doors to a broad range of diverse opportunities, making it a compelling choice for graduates and entry-level professionals seeking a rewarding and impactful profession.

Experts In Connecting Professionals With Exciting Sales Careers

For over 25 years, Pareto has been passionate about championing graduate and entry-level talent within the range of sectors we recruit for. Providing access to some of the most exciting sales graduate jobs with market-leading companies, we’re always keen to hear from ambitious and committed individuals that are looking to realise their potential. 

Contact us today to discuss your goals and our consultants will help you to discover a role with true purpose. 

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