Making the Move, Interiors & Sources

Interiors & Sources, June, 2000

Making the Move


Dear Steve:
I want to make a career change from design to sales. At the medium-sized design firm where I am currently employed, my job is to work out system space specs with clients. Reps call on us all day long and often I seem to know more about their products than they do. So I think I have the knowledge to be up and running in no time flat. How do I go about "jumping the fence?"

- Janice from L.A.
Dear Janice:
Making the transition from design to sales isn't always easy (even though it might seem like it should be), but most people find it very rewarding if sales is really where their heart is. The first thing I recommend is that you actively network with the sales reps that call on you every day. ("Network" as in go out to lunch and ask them for the nitty-gritty, requesting of course that they do not share this fact with others. But you can't expect your quest to remain a secret for long, so be ready to move quickly!) They know better than anyone who is hiring and who is not. If there's one manufacturer or more whose products you've specified a lot, try approaching them about a job. You've already established a positive relationship with them through your specifying patterns - after all, they know you have good taste! Among various categories of companies, textile firms seem especially open to hiring designers as sales reps. Almost every manufacturer has an AD & D rep, and designers are perfect for such a position.

Bear in mind that it's often tougher to get started than you might imagine, and the money isn't always there right away. (In fact, that's a subject you might want to explore with the reps you consult - obviously don't ask them what they make, but what the range is.) And remember: In sales, you'll be dealing with a lot of designers who "know a more than you do." Salespeople need pretty thick skin. But it's often a very rewarding career move in terms of excitement, and, in many cases, income. Plus you always have the option of moving back into design. (But don't necessarily expect your employer to snatch you up.)

Dear Steve:
Last week I was walking very briskly through a showroom and noticed that one of the salespeople had his resume on the computer. I was surprised and so was he. When I confronted him about it, he said he'd gotten a call from a competitor and he was updating his resume in case he "decided to speak to them further." He's a good employee and we wouldn't want to lose him, but this incident hardly inspires confidence that he feels the same way we do.

- Alex in New York
Dear Alex:
The easiest answer, of course, is: Fire him! Work computers are for business use only. "Updating" a resume at work, or even keeping one on the job computer, is grounds for dismissal for most companies. His move was disrespectful, unprofessional and astoundingly dumb. (You really wouldn't want to lose him?)

While it's true that it's difficult to find good people in today's job market, technically this employee was stealing goods and services. It's really no different than cheating on an expense report, for example. He can't be trusted.

Here's one good way to handle it. Bring him to your office and tell him that in light of this incident, it's necessary that he and the company part ways. You're not at all comfortable keeping an employee who could soon be working for a competitor. Plus, you won't be able to take the chance of being short-staffed. Then establish an end-date - perhaps three or four weeks later. During this transition phase, you will expect him to fulfill his normal functions, but you're willing to grant him time to go on interviews if he gives you one day's advance notice. And no, there's nothing to negotiate.

Employees: beware! Whether you like it or not, employers have the right to read your emails, trace where you've been online and go through your computer files. In most states, they don't even have to tell you if they do so. Some people seem to think use of company computers and email is a job "right." But when it comes to personal use - it just isn't so.