Graduating from college? Get a job in sales.

I was a guest speaker today in a class of seniors at Santa Clara University. They are all Global Social Benefit Fellows – all super-smart, high-achieving students who want to change the world.

Each of them has just returned from a summer abroad working with social entrepreneurs in countries such as Uganda, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.

They are all 20-21 years old, graduating from college this spring, and eager to make a difference in the world. I was invited to give them career advice on choosing their first job out of college.

"Get a job in sales", I said to them. They looked at me with some confusion – I could tell that wasn't what they expected me to say.

Here they are, all very successful students whose very successful professional parents had sent them to an academically rigorous university, and now I was telling them to go get a job in sales?

Here's why: No matter where you end up going with your career, a job in sales will teach you habits that will serve you well.

  • You will learn to clearly articulate your position to others – an enormously useful professional skill, wherever you go.
  • You will learn that embracing failure is a key to success. Most salespeople lose more deals than they win. But they learn to keep their chin up through 9 "no's" to get to each "yes".
  • You will learn to listen. Most people think sales is about talking – it's not. It's about listening.
  • You will learn to make the ask. Rookie salespeople don't know how to make the ask. Neither do rookie entrepreneurs.

The young men and women I spoke to today were amazing, and inspirational. All brilliant high-achievers, all passionate about wanting to be social entrepreneurs.

I hope they go get a job in sales out of college. And then I hope they go on to change the world.