I had trouble thinking of a way to integrate alumni into the posts that we do for students, here on the blog. When reaching out to young alumni, a lot of their stories are rather compelling and, on some level, can relate to a wide variety of students. I thought about doing an interview style of questioning over Skype or Facetime, but that seemed too scripted. I wanted people to simply talk, and I would listen. Then it dawned on me, this is just like the Student of NIU posts! So, we have decided to create the Students of NIU: Alumni Edition and the first entry is a recent alumnus, Jeffrey Kamholz! – Louie Zmich: Student Intern
When I was a senior in high school, I started looking at colleges. I was on my own to pay for school, so I knew a mix of scholarships and work opportunities was a criterion I needed when looking for good business schools. I was also looking for a school relatively close to home that was simultaneously going to allow me a chance to succeed, as well as the opportunity to graduate in the best financial position possible. It was then that I found NIU and learned about the opportunities this university provides. I knew that I wanted a school with a good business program, and the proximity to home and financial opportunities on top of that were simply bonuses for me.
My first week on campus, I joined about 5 clubs. While I certainly didn’t stick with all of them, I found a few that welcomed me in and with which I was hooked. One of these clubs was Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity. That was truly the first step in my professional development. I met many of the people I was closest with through Delta Sigma Pi. Serving in other roles such as an ambassador for the college in the Northern Lights Ambassadors and on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, I tried to find ways to help the college in any way I could. Even as a freshman and sophomore, the college had given me so much. I got to know former Dean Denise Schoenbachler very well, and she is one of the people who I consider to be my personal mentor.
I was extremely fortunate to have experienced so much during my time as a student. By getting involved in five clubs, working three jobs, experiencing two study abroad programs, and completing a research fellowship, I found myself with quite a few memorable experiences under my belt…and I was only a rising junior in college. I eventually declared marketing as my major with a specialization in sales. I chose marketing initially because I thought it would get me close to advertising, and I was fortunate enough to get to know and work with some of the faculty I originally met as a freshman. Their impact on me was profound enough for me to declare my major as marketing. As I progressed down the marketing career path, sales seemed like the best option in which to start my career; it allowed me the most freedom in a customer-facing role.
“Throughout my senior year, I was fortunate enough to interview with many companies. The sales program not only gave me real-world experience selling products but also taught me how to market myself in order to show the value I bring to companies.”
Throughout my senior year, I was fortunate enough to interview with many companies. The sales program not only gave me real-world experience selling products but also taught me how to market myself in order to show the value I bring to companies. Drs. Ridnour, Peterson, Groza and Professor Howlett all taught with different styles but similar messages. With everything from mock interviews, the sales Corporate Golf Outing, to bringing in dozens of real-world sales professionals to network with, the college’s sales program truly prepares its students for success.
I highly recommend that students interview with more than one company; only by speaking to employees of those companies and doing things like shadow days will you be able to realize truly what a ‘day in the life’ is actually like. While it certainly helps to have an idea of the industry you want to get into, it is okay to not know for certain. Interview with a few companies, and figure out where you think you would fit best.
Fast forwarding to present day, I’m in the middle of a year-long sales training program with Bloomberg BNA. Because of the experiences I had during my time in the College of Business at NIU, I was able to stand out enough and put myself into a position to succeed. I have been extremely fortunate to find a company that has been willing to invest so much in me. I chose Bloomberg BNA because of the career development opportunities and the long-term career potential. I felt that the year-long training was unmatched; additionally, the company’s commitment to its employees is rather unheard of at this level of business. I have always looked for that “something more” in a company, and I found it at Bloomberg BNA.
So far, I have directly used skills and techniques that I learned in the sales program. Anyone who has gone through the sales program recently has read both The Challenger Sale, as well as SPIN Selling. I have so far applied the principles of both books in my mock sessions. (Yes, sales students, you should actually read the books!) Learning how to ask the right questions and listening to what the customer says are two of the most important skills that I have developed so far.
“Moving across the country and knowing very few people in a new location was a step I didn’t think I was going to take. Once I thought of it as an investment into my own future, the idea began to grow on me.”
Bloomberg BNA’s home office is located just outside of Washington DC, which meant I had to relocate for a year for the training program. Even though originally I had not anticipated leaving the greater Chicago area, I chose to accept a position that I felt was going to set me up for long-term success. Moving across the country and knowing very few people in a new location was a step I didn’t think I was going to take. Once I thought of it as an investment into my own future, the idea began to grow on me.
Recognizing the potential in the opportunity, I knew it would be the best decision and the best place to start my career. I view this year not only as an investment in my professional future but also in my personal life. Aside from a few months spent in Europe, I had never been away from Illinois for an extended period. I never thought I would be relocating- until the right opportunity presented itself, and I could see myself at that company.
If I was to give a bit of advice, it would be the following: It is okay to not know what you want to do; once you figure it out, however, be relentless in pursuing it. Overall, this was the best career move for me and for my future. While moving away from home certainly wasn’t easy, I knew that it was something I had to do in order to meet my own definition of success. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone in order to set yourself up for success.”