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Choosing your first job after university can be challenging.
Especially if you’re not 100% certain you want to pursue a career in your field of study, or which avenue to explore first.
After years spent grafting away in higher education, many international graduates that studied in the UK don’t know where to start in their job search. It can feel overwhelming, especially if your medium- to long-term employment goals will involve visas and immigration processes.
So while there are plenty of remote and office-based graduate jobs for international students in the UK, it’s important to find a job that has opportunities to develop, within a company you actually enjoy working for and that can (ideally) offer sponsorship once your graduate visa expires.
Where to start, you ask?
Whether your degree is in business, marketing, or any other discipline, sales is an option you will often see popping up on the job market.
A job in sales can be considered a strategic move for your future. Every commercial business has a sales component, and so the fundamental skills involved in business development apply to every sector.
Sales teaches you how to feel comfortable talking to strangers, how to think critically, how to problem solve, and how to negotiate.
You build confidence communicating at all levels, a lifelong skill that will accompany you in every future endeavour – be it interviewing for the job of your dreams, buying your first house, speaking at an event, or starting your own company.
The list is (almost) endless and we could go on forever about why sales is a good career choice, so let‘s hear it from someone that’s been there and done that. We sat down with Inside Sales Executive, Gaurav Verma, who wanted to lift the lid on his experience in sales after pivoting from pursuing a career in Engineering after university.
Gaurav started working for durhamlane as a Graduate Sales Executive in 2020 and has developed to Inside Sales Executive in just two short years, swiftly progressing through our internal competency programme Selling at a Higher Level. As an international graduate, he is the first employee for whom we have secured a sponsorship license for the UK Skilled Worker visa.
Hear Gaurav reflect on how he got into sales and what obtaining his employer-sponsored long-term work visa means to him.
Gaurav: My Bachelor’s degree is in Engineering, so totally not sales-related. However, during my studies, I realised that I was more interested in the business side of things than the more technical areas of the field. After all, engineering companies work like many other businesses: they might have the most brilliant products, but they also need to be able to sell them!
I’ve held a few sales roles in the past; back in India, I worked for an Italian multinational corporation for two years. That experience motivated me to study a Masters in International Business Management at Kingston University, and to specialise in marketing and project management.
During my Masters, I realised that my knowledge of engineering gave me an advantage in selling complex products and solutions into niche markets, with a level of confidence and capacity to understand technical challenges that are quite uncommon.
Gaurav: When I began researching companies to join for my placement year, I discovered durhamlane. We had recently come out of lockdown, but the pandemic was still affecting businesses globally. I wanted to work for a company that was still growing despite recent and ongoing challenges – durhamlane offered me this, and more.
Gaurav: Working side by side with colleagues in other areas of the business made me realise that there are many more business skills I wanted to develop, particularly in the areas of coaching, transferring knowledge and driving motivation as a Team Leader.
durhamlane is a fast-growing company, which has opened doors for many of my colleagues to advance in their roles and manage their own teams. Seeing how much opportunity there is for professional growth, I knew my journey at durhamlane was just beginning – so I reached out to Tracey Clarke, Head of HR, to discuss my options and how to continue moving forward within the company…
Tracey: Sponsorship is something that has been on our radar for quite a while. As a small business, though, it wasn’t really something we felt we could invest in – there is a significant investment that comes with sponsoring somebody, as well as the responsibility.
In the two years since Gaurav joined the business on a graduate visa, we have watched him grow and develop into an invaluable member of the inside sales team. Towards the end of that initial period, he told us that without a Skilled Workers visa, he sadly couldn’t work with us anymore – even though he really wanted to stay within the company, doing a role he truly enjoys. Obviously, we wanted to keep him!
Gaurav has consistently performed well and has always demonstrated that he wanted to stay with us. So, we had a really good chat with him and consulted with our leadership team. Together, we decided that this was something that not only we wanted to do for Gaurav to allow him to keep working with us, but it was also something that we wanted to do as a business, so that we could offer more appealing graduate jobs for international students in the UK.
Tracey: The type of license that we obtained for Gaurav is the Skilled Worker License, which allows us to sponsor people in different types of skilled employment, and him to work for us full time and stay in the UK rather than returning to his home country after completing his studies.
The sponsorship license opens up the possibility to recruit within a larger pool of candidates, but also to retain our existing international and multilingual workforce that we have trained in our Selling at a Higher Level methodology.
Accessing language skills is crucial for our clients to be able to break ground in new countries. By outsourcing all or part of their sales processes to us, they don’t need to alter their recruitment processes. This removes the complication of sourcing employees that speak the languages of the countries and markets they want to sell to.
But above this and what we’re ultimately excited about is the ability to better support our current employees, who live and breathe our values, perform well and want to be part of our accelerated growth journey.
Gaurav: My advice to other international students is to check whether a company has a sponsorship program in place when you apply for your first job in the UK. If there is, you should plan ahead and start the visa process as soon as possible. In my case, the process has taken about six months, as everything has been slowed down by the pandemic.
If your graduate employers do not have a scheme in place, don’t be afraid to be clear from the start and ask if they are willing to invest in you. Understanding if the company values you as an individual and a member of staff is an important indication of the environment you will be working in.
Spoiler alert – this pledge works in both directions. If you consistently perform well and take a proactive approach to your development, doors will open for you.
Thanks to this commitment from durhamlane, I can now look at the career progression opportunities I have in front of me. At the moment, I am working towards my next role by doing a lot of shadowing and learning more about the different customers we work with. Soon, new opportunities will come up and I’ll apply for the roles that I know I’m a great fit for.
Starting your career in sales will help you develop a business mindset and key skills that can set you up for a life of success.
If you’re an international student in the UK, who is looking for a graduate sales job with rich training and development opportunities, durhamlane can help.
Check out our graduate sales roles today or get in touch with us for a chat about life at durhamlane.