Jon's story: The more open the mind, the greater the likelihood of finding a career that you like

Career story

I have always been a quiet and reserved person who prefers to listen rather than speak. I don't like to be the focus of attention, which is why many people have wondered why I ended up doing sales work and decided to stay in the field.

I studied audiovisual communication at a vocational school, and currently I'm completing a Business Information Technology degree in digital service development at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. I've been fascinated by the IT sector for a long time, and future employment opportunities in the field will be very broad and versatile. I'm completing my degree while working full time, so I have a tight schedule. The most important thing for me is to ensure that there is a healthy balance between work and studying and that I don't burn myself out.

I have a diverse work history: I've done everything from a summer job at a slaughterhouse to working in a sales booth. After vocational school, I completed my non-military service in the Town of Forssa, and then I began looking for employment. I applied for many different jobs, mainly in my own field, that is, in audiovisual communication. Then I happened upon a sales job in optical fibre network installations on Instagram, but I passed on it quite quickly. After all, I wouldn't make it as a salesperson because all they do is just prattle on and tire people out until they can make a sale. But when I began running out of job options in my own field, I thought about it again and ended up applying for the job. After the interview, I was informed that they wanted to hire me.

At first, sales work was very mentally demanding. I had to face a lot of negative responses from customers and learn to get over them – after all, a new customer is always a new opportunity. I used to be very tired after every workday. My greatest challenge was when I got to lead a customer meeting, even though my immediate supervisor was there. I completely screwed up the meeting, but my supervisor managed to arrange a new meeting with the same customer. I broke down and burst into tears, and I thought I couldn't continue working there. But, after calming down, I decided to think about what went wrong and from what point of view I should approach new customer meetings. I realised that I approached the meeting with too much expertise and didn't focus on the customer's needs or listen to their opinions about the product I was selling. From then on, I practised by myself and with customers to actually listen to them and to completely be myself and stop pretending to be someone else.

It resulted in my greatest success in that job. The next time I visited that customer I changed my approach. I focused on listening to what the customer is using the internet for and, based on that, explained how they would benefit from an optical fibre network in terms of bandwidth and speed. The meeting eventually led to a sale, which left me feeling like a winner.

After this, a new challenge arose when my immediate supervisor left their position near the end of the project. This meant that the entire sales territory was left in my charge. At that point, I already had enough experience, and I felt that I was performing quite well, even though the workload was large.

At the end of the project, I'd had my first experiences with sales, and I've continued on that path. Over the years, the products I've sold have varied from mobile phone subscriptions to sunblinds. At the end of last year, I made a leap towards B2B sales, or corporate sales, when I started selling IT support services. My current job is the most satisfying and inspirational I've had so far since the IT industry is close to my heart.

Take extremely good care of your well-being

I faced one of the major challenges of my career last summer. At that time, I sold sunblinds, which are ordered in high numbers in summer. Managing and scheduling a large number of orders was so challenging that I felt close to burnout. Work occupied my mind all the time, even in my free time. My well-being was at stake, and I brought it up to my supervisor at that time. I'm forever grateful for how serious and helpful they were about the situation. They didn't downplay my condition for a moment, even though I thought myself as a weaker employee than the others, as I couldn't cope with the same workload as they did. I got a short sick leave, which turned out to be extremely necessary. After the sick leave, my supervisor immediately supported me in getting back to normal work rhythm. I also visited a psychologist to talk things through, which helped me a great deal.

After the summer, well-being became number one on my priority list, and I made sure that I took good care of it. I set a clear ‘deadline’ for myself on workdays, after which I won't look at, read or think about anything work related, but will focus solely on recovering. I have also lowered my threshold for discussing with my supervisor about issues that may reduce my well-being at work.

Free time is very important to me because that is when I can turn my brain off and concentrate on everything but work. Football is close to my heart, even though in recent years it's sometimes been painful to be a Manchester United fan. But I firmly believe that we'll soon be rolling in trophies. Information technology is also my passion: I follow its development actively, and I'm excited – and fearful – about its development and potential in the future. I also like video games, TV shows and movies, as I like to experience the stories of skilled storytellers in any form. My biggest career-related dream is to get to work with video games. I, too, want to be able to tell people meaningful stories that they can experience in an interactive form.

During my career, I've learned that the more open the mind is to all lines of work, the greater the likelihood of finding a career that you like. When I was little, I wanted to be a children's literature writer and a palaeontologist, but now they're far from my dreams, which are related to information technology and its development. Sales work has helped me to be more social and open. I'm no longer inside my own bubble all the time, and I dare to express my opinions and be more active in discussions. Openness, honesty and thirst for learning are things I try to invest in in my career, and I recommend it to others too!

However, the most important advice I could give to other working people is that you must take extremely good care of your well-being. Inform your supervisor as soon as you begin feeling that you can't cope any longer. The faster you recognise your exhaustion, the easier it's to recover from it and return to normal everyday life. Even if we make our living by working, you must never reach the point where work is your whole life.

Jon Mehtonen