CTE Career Journeys – Sales Specialist

Antonette Adams

Sr. Product Marketing Manager • Career and Technical Education • National Geographic Learning | Cengage

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Career Journeys series is aimed to shed light on current career trends as they align to student career clusters. In this series installation, we have interviewed Aimee Steele, Assistance General Counsel in the law, public safety, corrections and security career cluster. Aimee shares with us the career journey that lead her to her current role with Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. Aimee dives into what motivated her to pursue this career, milestones that lead to where she’s at today, how she stands out in her field and advice for others looking to pursue this career. This series also offers career outlook data collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Interview information

Name: Ian Leonard

Title: Sales Specialist

Career Cluster: Marketing

Company: National Geographic Learning | Cengage

Additional Career Highlight Information

Career Outlook: About 1.8 million openings are projected each year, on average.

Median Salary: $62,400 per year + commissions in some instances

Education Needed: High school diploma or equivalent

*All career outlook data is collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Ian Leonard, Sales Specialist

Question and Answer with Ian Leonard

Q: What motivated or inspired you to pursue your particular role or career path?

A: I have this memory of meeting with the guidance counselor as a high school junior. Super nice person, but she point-blank asked me: “So, what field of study do you want to enter in college?” Not having a clue, I hastily mentioned dentistry. (If asked, my chemistry teachers would’ve more than disagreed with my choice.) In that moment, I assumed my career path had to be determined – and fast. In truth, my career path has taken different directions over the years – just like it has for many others.

Part of what’s led me to my current role is knowing where I can contribute most. Knowing how you can best contribute – to an organization, a community, or team – can lead to a more fulfilling career.

Q: What were the key milestones or turning points in your career or life that led you to where you are today?

A: In high school I used to give tennis lessons and coach at local clinics – absolutely loved it. A fellow coach asked if I’d ever considered going into teaching. (Truthfully, I was just looking forward to graduating and starting college, so…no.) The teaching itch made a comeback during college which led to teaching and coaching positions in my first two career stops. Teaching wasn’t anywhere in the original career plan – until an outside perspective got me thinking. Looking back, I’m glad I listened to ‘em!

Q: What strategies did you employ to stand out in your field and differentiate yourself from others?

A: There’s a belief among some educators that their skill sets won’t translate into other fields – relatively set schedules, curricula, school policies, etc. specifically designed for education. This mindset can apply to other professions, too. In truth, there are plenty of connections to other fields. An example – I was asked during an interview if I had sales experience. I responded: “I’ve been selling education for years – to students who don’t always want it. In sales, adults just tell you ‘No, thanks!”’

Ultimately, the teaching background gave me confidence to better connect with educators while working in a business environment. Plus, having professional connections to the classroom is something we embrace here at Cengage in serving our schools. It was a good lesson in that there are plenty of transferable skills among the professions.

Q: Looking back, is there anything you would do differently in your career journey or advice you’d offer individuals in or considering your field?

A: It’s normal to retrace your steps and wonder if you’ve taken a different route somewhere along the way. Starting college, I was determined to enter the business field – even start a business. Instead, a few courses in the education department took me ‘off course’ and changed my plans completely. In the end, going off-script turned out to be just as fulfilling and rewarding. Learning isn’t ‘one size fits all’ and neither is the career journey.

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