Four Tips to Help Recent Grads Make Their Dream Jobs a Reality

In 2008, Doug Moon graduated from Purdue University with a major in business administration and accounting. Moon and his peers entered the toughest labor market in 25 years.

Not only did Moon find himself in a challenging job market, he chose to pursue a career in hospital sales, one of the most competitive fields to enter directly from college.

Twenty-one months later, Moon was a hospital sales representative for Hospira, the global market leader for generic injectable pharmaceuticals.

I wanted to know how Moon did it. Recently, I asked him how hard it was to acquire a job as a hospital sales representative.

“Very difficult,” Moon replied. “For me, the biggest obstacle was to find people who would help me get my foot in the door. Also, I was having a tough time finding a hospital sales position in Indiana, especially since I didn’t have prior sales experience. More than half of the positions I was looking at required 3 to 5 years of sales experience.”

But Moon made two smart career decisions. He understood that the shortest path to a career in hospital sales might not be a straight one. He decided to:

1. Look outside of Indiana and focus on the Chicago market.

2. Acquire sales experience wherever he could get hired.

Moon landed an entry-level sales position in Chicago with, the well known online jobs posting website. He sold job postings and resume databases to businesses with 30 or fewer employees. He averaged between 125 and 150 cold calls per day. After about three months, decided to lay off employees and Moon lost his job.

A short time afterward, Moon went back to his alma mater for a Purdue home football game. He met one of his sister’s friends, who was working as a marketing manager for Hospira. Moon asked her about possible employment opportunities. She told him about an entry-level sales program that could eventually lead to an outside sales territory. He obtained her contact information and sent a cover letter and resume.

A few weeks later, Hospira’s human resources called Moon and set up a phone interview. He seized the opportunity.

He prepared for the phone interview by looking up questions online and practicing his answers. That preparation paid off and he advanced to the next round of interviews.

The second round consisted of two separate phone interviews with different managers. One manager asked situational questions while the other asked personality-type questions.

Again, he advanced. One week later, Moon received a phone call informing him that he would be scheduled for the third round of interviews.

The third round consisted of four parts: First was an interview with Moon’s potential manager; second came an interview with Moon’s potential manager’s boss; third was a mock sales presentation and fourth was an interview with human resources.

Moon had two weeks to prepare for the four-part interview process. The only segment that concerned him was the mock sales presentation, which would require him to sell Ice Mountain to a business that was currently using Evian.

Moon knew that the time and energy he spent preparing for the mock sales presentation would mean the difference between success and failure in receiving a job offer. He studied everything he could find about Ice Mountain and Evian. He prepared graphs, compared the products’ differences, accumulated detailed information about both products and put the information into separate binders for each of the interviewing managers.

Because of his thorough preparation, he was both confident and comfortable as he entered the four interviews.

After the mock sales presentation was finished, Moon wanted to know if he had accomplished his goal. He told the interviewers his goal was to “wow” them.

“They looked at me with the biggest eyes and were speechless,” Moon said.

After his interview with human resources, Moon was told he would have one more interview.

“In my mind, I was thinking what is happening? This was not on the agenda,” Moon recalled.

It turned out that Moon had done so well in his interviews and sales presentation that he was offered a position on the spot. Moon later learned that he was the only person in his manager’s career to achieve that distinction.

Moon’s goal was to make the inside sales position a stepping stone to outside sales. At Hospira, the inside sales people were allowed to start interviewing for outside sales positions 18 months after their start date.

Moon continued to impress people, however, and was given the opportunity to start interviewing for an outside sales position after just nine months. He was offered and accepted a field sales position in Tulsa, Okla., where he continues to exceed expectations.

Less than 21 months from the time he graduated from Purdue University, Doug Moon accomplished his goal of attaining a position in hospital sales. His success illustrates four tips that recent graduates can use to achieve their dream jobs:

1. Don’t lose sight of the career you want to pursue.

2. Be flexible. Understand that you may have to start in another field and/or relocate in order to acquire the skills and experience you need.

3. Never stop networking. No one knows when, where or through whom you will meet someone who will connect you with a job opportunity.

4. Be opportunistic. Make the most of each interview opportunity by being thoroughly prepared.