Monday, December 29, 2008
Learning How to Learn
i realized something over the past few months. after years of responding to the questions, “what’s your major?” followed by “why a religion and communications double major?”, i’ve realized that knowledge in any field applies directly to any other field. for instance, my religion major has happened to equip me very well for certain aspects of business, particularly sales. so how does karl bart’s theology correlate with sales pitches?
here at calvin, the religion department routinely hands out the lowest GPAs. i think that’s because all students are required to take a 100-level and a 200-level religion course as part of their core requirement. and contrary to other core courses, religion faculty don’t lower their expectations just because most of their students aren’t religion majors. the courses are tough: students are expected to read some really dense articles, regurgitate the information in thorough tests, and churn out several research papers within a semester. if i find these courses difficult as a religion major, i can’t imagine how non-religion majors are faring. i’ve heard plenty of complaints, and i know my GPA would be a lot better if i didn’t take religion classes.
but calvin’s religion department is incredible, and i wouldn’t be studying here if i wasn’t majoring in religion. the department equips people for sales pitches in two ways. first, religion rewards diligence, and second, religion improves writing skills. i have some friends who participated in southwestern company’s internship program. for an entire summer, they worked 70-80 hours over a six-day week doing door-to-door sales. before they hit the streets, they go through the company’s orientation program. if i recall correctly, one of the rules-of-thumbs that the company teaches them is that ~15% of the people they approach simply will not buy the product. meanwhile, ~15% of those they approach will buy the product, just because they show up. your sales pitch determines what happens with the remaining 70%. the top interns earn $40,000+ in one summer because they’ve developed excellent pitches.
i have a lot of respect for southwestern interns, and they’ve taught me a lot about sales. the main lesson is that hard work pays off. even the worst southwestern intern can make a few thousand dollars in a summer if they spend 80 hours a week knocking on doors. it’s a bit of a shotgun approach—by virtue of statistics, ~15% of the doors they knock on will result in a successful sale. so they knock on a lot of doors. just like in calvin’s religion classes, diligence pays off. if students follow their professor’s advice and start their research papers two weeks before the deadline, they’ll earn a good grade.
of course, you’ll still need to be a decent writer, and that’s what high school and calvin’s english 101 course is for. like i said before, religion classes hone your writing skills. religion professors expect polished and well-researched papers, and they’ll dock big points if any student falls short of their standards. every point needs to be backed up, and all points must contribute to a logical conclusion. if the professor isn’t convinced by the student’s arguments, the student will receive a low grade. no if, ands, or buts—enough religion professors have already been placed on probation by calvin’s administration for flunking large numbers of students. just like how religion professors won’t accept a poorly-argued paper, potential customers will reject poorly-argued sales pitches. southwestern interns give their pitches in person, not on paper. i’m hoping to reach that level one day, because i think giving pitches in person is much harder than pitching by e-mail. at least with an e-mail pitch, i can leverage my religion-influenced writing skills.
i never expected any of this when i signed up for religion. but by sticking with a good program, i realized that the skills i’m developing can equip me for opportunities in many different fields. after all, i can’t go wrong with learning how to sell—within the next few years, i’ll be selling myself to various employers and/or grad schools.