By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Andrew Burival had a leg up on the competition when he entered the job market.
The 22-year-old graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in supply chain management. He was also the first person to complete UNK’s professional sales certificate program.
“I truly believe it will open doors for me moving forward,” Burival said of the certificate program, which is designed for people looking to develop or enhance their overall sales knowledge.
The program focuses on areas such as marketing strategies, customer service and communication and the benefits of customer relationship management software, allowing participants to become proficient in the entire sales process while developing a variety of effective sales techniques.
Because sales positions exist in nearly every industry, the UNK program caters to a wide range of people.
“The reality is, many people who never thought they would go into sales end up in this area,” said Marsha Yeagley, a senior lecturer in UNK’s College of Business and Technology and coordinator of the professional sales certificate program. “There are a lot of jobs that you don’t initially think about being sales jobs, but they actually are.”
The UNK program is perfect for people who want to begin a career in professional sales, as well as those looking to advance in the field. This includes high school graduates ready to start their first full-time job, college students seeking a four-year degree and working professionals hoping to climb the corporate ladder or pursue a different career.
“I always tell people to follow their passion,” Yeagley said. “If you find your passion, more than likely there’s a sales career in that field.”
UNK’s 12-credit hour certificate program includes three required courses in marketing, professional selling and sales management, plus one elective selected from a list of eight options. The program can be completed entirely online for those needing this option.
Because it draws from courses offered in the business administration program, many students in UNK’s College of Business and Technology can earn a professional sales certificate by taking an additional class or two.
A native of O’Neill, Burival needed just one extra class to complete the program as part of his undergraduate education at UNK.
“Andrew wisely saw this as an opportunity to make himself more marketable,” Yeagley said.
For Burival, the certificate program reinforced the knowledge he gained through summer internships with Lincoln-based Sandhills Global and Kearney-based Cash-Wa Distributing.
“I think it’s going to be very beneficial for employers to see I have sales experience through the internships I completed, as well as an educational background in sales provided by the certificate program,” he said. “The coursework that goes along with that will really help me stand out.”
According to the Sales Education Foundation, which recognized UNK as a “Top Sales University,” sales program graduates advance in their careers 50% faster than colleagues who lack this education and experience 30% less turnover. They’re also more prepared for the positions, saving companies thousands of dollars in training.
“The sales certificate program is filling a need in business and industry by providing quality salespeople while aiding UNK students to strategically position themselves in a competitive environment,” Yeagley said.
UNK can enter into cooperative agreements with businesses to prepare new hires through the sales program, and each participant has the opportunity to take an assessment provided by the Sales Education Foundation that identifies their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to focus on sales jobs that are a better fit. That assessment is offered free of charge to program participants.
Burival, who landed a full-time position in Cash-Wa’s purchasing department, believes the professional sales certificate is a worthwhile pursuit for UNK students.
“The College of Business and Technology does a fantastic job of setting students up for success,” he said. “I owe them a debt of gratitude for opening my eyes to all these opportunities.”