Years after I returned from my mission in Frankfurt, Germany, I found myself sitting across from the Director of Sales over a company in Seattle. I was fresh out of college and probably was on the lowest rung of the pool of candidates applying for the position with my Bachelors degree in German vs. all the other Business degree applicants along with their work experience.
In fact, the only relevant experience I had was my experience as a Mormon missionary. I had hesitated to include that on my resume, but since it was the only thing close to sales, I included it. Little did I know that would be what set me apart from the crowd and got me hired.
The hiring manager asked me a series of in depth questions about my mission. He asked me about how I handled my daily routine, how I organized my days. He asked me how I measured success and reported. I matter of factly told him about getting up early around 5:30 a.m. and working out, studying scriptures and the language and culture and then planning on areas to “market” to through door knocking, street contacting, and providing service.
When he asked me about my success, I paused. While I was on my mission, many missionaries thought success was only measured by how many people they baptized. In Germany, baptisms were few and far between. In fact, I only actually baptized one person personally and taught about 5 others who eventually were baptized after I left. I had learned on my mission that while baptism was a goal, I had learned that there are many factors out of my control. I learned to do my best and good things will happen. If it is a baptism, then great! However, if a person is only ready to commit to praying, or reading scriptures, then it is important to celebrate that as well. Even if no one listens at all, the personal relationship with God gained by sacrificing is priceless.
I knew that if I shared with him all of that, he probably wouldn’t hire me, but I did share with him how I felt that never losing sight of the goal was most important. I shared with him one occasion when I was the leader of a group of 10 missionaries, or a District. All of the missionaries were very discouraged, and it was up to me to lead them towards a positive attitude again. I did this through never slacking, listening to their needs, and working hard to stay positive. Over time, they all decided to change their attitudes and while baptisms didn’t flow, there were other smaller miracles that occured.
I went on to discuss how I kept track of “numbers” such as how many lessons I taught, areas we had visited, people who were interested, etc. I also shared with him how we worked with each person individually to help them overcome self-doubt and concerns to find God.
After our conversation was over, he reached out his hand to me and shook it saying “Congratulations, Elder! You’re hired!”
Little did I know that my experience as a Mormon missionary laid the ground work for a very successful career so far in sales. At that job over the course of a few years, I became recognized in the region and nation for my success and even became a national sales trainer for newly hired salespeople from around the country.
My next job in B2B sales was structured even more like my mission in that I had to create business from a brand new territory with corporate clients. Once again, I used the skills learned on my mission and became the top sales person in the nation for 3 years in a row.
Although being a salesman is difficult and there is definitely quite a bit of rejection, I can definitely say that it is nothing compared to being a Mormon Missionary in Germany. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my experience as a Mormon missionary not only shaped me spiritually, but in my career as well.
To all missionaries who may be struggling, or who will struggle out there, my advice is this: Hang in there. Good things will happen as you keep praying and relying on the Lord. Forget about the number of baptisms and just focus on the small things each day. Keep in mind that you are probably doing the hardest sales job in the world, but with the Lord’s help all things are possible. Who knows? It may turn into a career for you down the road!