Seven years ago, Sarah and Martine joined the sales force o a large office supplies distributor, ready to make careers for themselves.
Today, Martine is a successful salesperson, still doing very much what she did when she joined the company. Sarah, on the other hand, was recently promoted to regional manager, directing the work of more than two dozen salespeople.
To be successful in any career, it's necessary to see the difference between doing the job and taking the steps necessary to turn that job into a career -- to look beyond each day's hassles, each week's work, each year's goals, even beyond the job itself.
This is what Sarah has done. While Martine concentrated on being the best possible salesperson -- and gaining the salary, commissions and bonuses that came with it -- Sarah looked for a path to power, and the salary and perks that came with it.
So both women are financially successful now, but Sarah has the better future because she's shown management that she can discriminate between the company's requirements for good present-day work and its future needs.
She can visualize long-range objectives, in other words, and plan to accomplish them.
"Basically, the day-to-day work stays the same," said Sarah. "Our salespeople today have the same goals we had when I came to work here -- to sell our products and service our customers better than anyone else.
"But nothing stays the same in marketing, because products and customers' needs change all the time, and we have to be ready tosatisfy them. This means looking ahead, both in terms of products and our customers' needs.
"Once I became successful at selling -- filling customers' needs for the time being -- I started thinking about what our customers would need in the future. I studied new products, new office systems and looked for new and better suppliers for them," she added.
While Sarah was still mastering the job of selling on the road, she used the channels available to her in her own company to get information about new needs and new products. She talked to other salespeople within the company, too, and, whenever possible, to her competition. She listened hard to her customers, as well.
Most important, she wasn't shy about submitting well-thought-out and carefully written memos to her superiors when she had ideas she thought would benefit the company as a whole.
Martine did exactly the same things -- except she never used the information she gathered for anything but doing her immediate job. She thought about her job, in other words, not her career.
This told her superiors that Sarah was looking for more responsibility in addition to a bigger paycheck. And because she took on more responsibility whenever possible, she got more.
Martine has always concentrated on sales goals and salesmanship instead, relying on her job performance to win her raises and promotions. She's a top-notch saleswoman, but the big picture eludes her.
Sometimes all of us forget that daily job performance alone, no matter how good it is, builds a job -- not a career.
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.