Guest blog by James Strode who works at Global Legal Group (GLG):
Whilst studying for my BA in Geography, I began to consider the career paths I could take upon graduation. I realised that while I loved my subject, I did not want a career specifically related to this field. I was not sure what other career choices were available to me with a humanities degree. I spoke to a careers advisor at my university and she shared an invaluable tip with me: do not overlook potential career opportunities based on your degree title. Instead, look at the skillset your degree has given you and how you can apply this to a job. For example, you may think that you need a law degree to work in the legal publishing sector, but this is not the case. Skills are far more important than prior knowledge of an industry.
Identifying strengths and skills
The study of geography can be split into physical and human geography. At the end of my first year, I decided to specialise in human geography as I have always been interested by people’s interactions with the world around them. The highlight of my degree was my dissertation; I realised that my independent research skills were one of my best attributes. Moreover, I always did particularly well in group projects and assessed presentations, so I identified that a job requiring excellent communication skills would play to my strengths. I began to think about how these skills, and my interest in human interactions, could translate into a job. I realised that I would be suited to a B2B sales role (especially if it had an international focus) as there is a particular emphasis on relationship building.
I began to search job websites, when I came across a recruitment company called BMS Performance. I sent them my CV, and they invited me along to a sales recruitment assessment day. Numerous potential employers were there; I had to give a self-presentation, a mock sales pitch and undergo a first-round interview. One of the employers looking for new recruits in their sales team was Global Legal Group (GLG). They were impressed with my efforts, and invited me to their main office in London for a second-round interview for the position of an Account Executive.
GLG is a legal publishing company. Publishing houses produce a complete range of media. The industry has progressed significantly in recent decades, moving away from traditional print forms into digital channels too. GLG produces publications, in both forms, written by leading legal experts on a range of practice areas, designed to keep general counsel, government agencies and private practice lawyers abreast of law and policy globally. The job description specified considerable market and product research, and making business development calls to lawyers (in order to get them to showcase their expertise in the publications), which seemed in line with my skills. In addition, it stated that there was the opportunity for international travel, and as a geography student, this really appealed to me. Therefore, I was pleased to accept their invitation for a second-round interview and prepared myself thoroughly; I was delighted when one week later I was offered a job.
This job is not the traditional sales job that people may expect. On a daily basis, I approach and interact with top international law firms on the telephone, in order to assess their business development needs and ambitions. Alongside opening new accounts, we have sole responsibility in managing existing clients in our own portfolios. The most challenging aspect of the job is turning research leads into actual sales. You must really listen to each potential client and cater to their needs, to ensure you make them a viable sales offer. Following this, you have to be extremely convincing and astute in order to close the deal. However, I love this challenge and the most rewarding aspect for me is developing genuine long-term relationships across the world (especially as these often culminate in international travel to meetings and conferences).
To develop into a successful salesperson, you have to be confident working independently and very self-motivated, as you will receive a lot of rejection. A strong work ethic and willingness to succeed is required, but, this has its rewards in career development and remuneration. After seven months working at GLG, I was promoted from an Account Executive to an Account Manager. My hard work definitely paid off.
My main advice is to not overlook potential career opportunities based on your degree title. My geography degree gave me the provisional skills I needed to work in the industry, and with hard work you can create your own success. Visit careers fairs to speak to employers to find out what skills they are looking for. These can be great ways to network and potentially get a job interview. Moreover, recruitment companies can be genuinely beneficial, as they were in my case. And lastly, never forget the power of the internet and job websites.