Buying in bulk

Ashley Shanholtzer (right) and Anthony Farmer (middle) practice a sales presentation with Dr. Jason Garrett.

By Abby Rhodes
December 5, 2011

During their senior year, most students cast their resumes far and wide and hope a good company will bite before graduation day. For students completing a degree in professional sales from Bradley University, the situation is reversed. It’s the Fortune 500 companies who are baiting the line.

Anthony Farmer, who will graduate in May 2012, already has an offer from a company that approached him. “I picked Bradley and the professional sales program in large part because I knew it would lead to a job,” Farmer said.

Last May, all of Bradley’s marketing majors with sales concentrations and sales minors had jobs at graduation. In fact, one student racked up 10 job offers before graduation day. Every student set to graduate this month and 70 percent of those who will graduate in May 2012 already have full-time job offers.

“Employers seek our sales students because they’re able to hit the ground with the insight and experience of seasoned business professionals,” said Dr. Jason Garrett, assistant professor in Bradley’s Department of Marketing.

That acumen is fostered in small class settings where Garrett and Dr. Mark Johlke, director of the professional sales program, present real-world examples based on their own experience in the industry. Students conduct practice sales calls, which are videotaped then dissected like a professional sport game tape.

“Practice sales calls give students a realistic depiction of the sales career while developing skills they will use every day in their careers,” Garrett said.

Outside the classroom, participation in the National Collegiate Sales Competition and individualized career coaching from Garrett and Johlke help students discover how their skills will be best applied.

“Dr. Garrett and Dr. Johlke make a point to get to know each and every sales student as a person, what our strengths are, so they know which of us are best suited for particular job placements,” said Ashley Shanholtzer, a senior. “They make a great effort to help us network and give us exposure to potential employers, even beyond job fair settings.”

Shanholtzer is still five months from graduation but has already accepted a job with ConAgra Foods, a packaged food producer that supplies supermarkets and restaurants nationwide. After a successful summer internship with the food giant, she embarked on her senior year at Bradley with the security of full-time employment already earned.

“I’m going to be a sales rep for ConAgra, which I think will open up opportunities in brand management,” Shanholtzer said. “Once I’m out there talking with buyers about what they need, I’ll be able to go back to the marketing side and really mold products and distribution to what the customers want.”

Shanholtzer is now working to recruit more Bradley students to intern and work for the ConAgra. During job and internship fairs hosted by the Smith Career Center, she finds herself on the other side of familiar recruiting booths – once the eager internship seeker working to sell herself, now she’s the “buyer,” out to invest in more Bradley talent.

Farmer hasn’t decided yet which buyer will receive his talent come May, but recognizes the plurality of his options is a response to Bradley’s proven track record among employers.

“We have excellent companies coming after us, and I don’t think you’ll find that at other schools,” Farmer said. “Employers know that Bradley is putting out the cream of the crop, so they want to get to us before anyone else does.”