Experiencing the world beyond the classroom is an essential part of a student’s learning and personal development. For most students, an internship serves as the outlet to gain real world experience, test drive a career path and establish a relationship with a mentor.
For students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh interested in sales, those real-world experiences come from the College of Business Sales Emphasis Program.
The sales emphasis is a 9-credit program at UW Oshkosh, which is open to all undergraduates and is designed to introduce students to the opportunities in the sales field through hands-on learning activities and access to professional mentors.
“Many people will have a sales experience at some point in their career. My motivation to connect students with professionals is to make sure that if a student does choose a career in sales they have the best shot at selecting a position within a company that is a really great fit,” Bryan Lilly, marketing professor, said.
Thirty-four sales emphasis students kicked off their spring semester by interviewing nine professionals from area companies who will serve as their in-house mentors. Through their first roundtable discussions, students asked professionals about best practices to fill a sale funnel, advice on what makes an employee on-boarding experience a successful one and different types of technology utilized in their day-to-day work.
“When I am teaching a lesson, students ask me, ‘Is this on the test?’ When the mentors take textbook theory and bring it to life, students think differently and connect ideas to the classroom giving them tangible benefits for their future,” Lilly said.
Juniors Amber Starr, of Mosinee, and Katie Kleman, of Oshkosh, are pursuing marketing majors with a sales emphasis and are excited about the content of this course.
“Initially, I took this class because I wanted to learn more about sales and thought it would open up other opportunities after graduation. After talking with the mentors, I can see that the experiences in this class are high-quality and directly applicable,” Starr said.
“I am excited that we are able to take field trips and have frequent contact with professionals. It makes the sales emphasis class stand out from other courses I have taken,” Kleman said.
Area alumni and professionals agree that their company exposure combined with access to a high-quality talent pool makes the partnership with UWO valuable.
“I believe that this course was the reason I found a home with Direct Supply as an account manager. During my interview, I was able to cite specific exercises and activities, from the sales emphasis program that highlighted my experience and showed I was the right candidate for the position,” Megan Baer ’14, said.
Alex Smith ’10, graduated from UWO with a communication degree and an eye on a career in television. Through a bit of networking, he changed directions and landed at SVS Services group where he now has the opportunity to help others find their place in the health care or technical industries. “Sales is relationship driven. I love helping students learn the art of communication and developing the persistence needed to become successful. The unique partnership allows us to also expose students to sales from our company’s perspective and the impact that they can make on a local, national or global scale,” Smith said.
John Sieracki ’09 graduated with a journalism degree and serves as a talent acquisition specialist for J.J. Keller, a company dedicated to giving back to the community. “I find it personally gratifying to help UWO students unlock their potential and begin a rewarding career in sales. I found J.J. Keller by accident while seeking marketing positions in the area. I took a sales position to get my foot in the door, and it is a risk that I am thankful for every day,” Sieracki said.
In the coming weeks, students have the opportunity to maximize their knowledge about the sales industry though company field trips, job shadows, alumni talks and additional working sessions with their mentors.
“I am grateful that the mentors invest so much time with our class. It also highlights the connection between my marketing degree with my sales emphasis,” said junior Josh Guhl, of Cedarburg.
“As a senior at UWO, I am grateful for the opportunity to gain industry information while still in school. It shows that the corporate community is as invested in our education and future careers,” history major Derek Dosedla, of Kansasville, said.
Current Sales Emphasis Program partners include:
Allegis Group (Aerotek & TEKsystems), Direct Supply, Fastenal, Impact Networking, J.J. Keller & Associates, Marine Credit Union, Northwestern Mutual Milwaukee Group, Sherwin Williams and SVS Service Group.
- Learn more about the College of Business or the Sales Emphasis program.
- PHOTO GALLERY: Sales Emphasis Program