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Jobs in direct sales are bad for students

By Preetha Gopalakrishnan, October 13, 2015 —

This fall, students will begin another year of panicking about not having enough experience for an entry-level position upon graduation. They will seek out any chance to get ahead — internships, startups and the traditional student positions layered on University of Calgary noticeboards.

But lurking among those flyers are ads for a corporation looking for student sales representatives — Vector Marketing. Bold headlines tout a path to financial success, self-employment and valuable experience.

At first glance, these flyers appear to offer an attractive opportunity, one that looks like everything an inexperienced student is looking for. Many students disregard the ads. But some sign up, hoping Vector will be their ticket to quick money and easy experience.

But then reality hits — instead of the imagined entrepreneurship opportunity, students are given a contract-based sales position selling CUTCO knives. Employees face commission-based salaries with no benefits and need to buy the knives in a starter kit before they can sell them. If these kits aren’t bought outright, then their cost comes out of the employee’s pay until they are paid off.

Yet students keep signing up for Vector and keep leaving disappointed. Why is this?

The way Vector presents itself makes the company seem like a perfect fit for a kid in university — no set hours, no expectations and no experience needed. And like niche cosmetics, weight loss wraps or any other multi-level marketing job, it’s true that people can make a lot of money with Vector. But it requires sales experience, connections and time — things the average student just doesn’t have.

Students often find they have difficulties selling more than a few sets of knives before their connections dry out, and few students have the time or experience to find new people to sell to. This often leads to students leaving Vector with a box of unsold CUTCO knives and a chip on their shoulder.

Students who have never encountered a company like Vector before won’t understand that their promises of wealth and success come with a handful of understated caveats. Most salespeople who have been around the block know how to spot a multi-level marketing company from a mile away. But a student who has only held down a couple of retail or fast-food jobs may not see the difference between something like Vector and a normal sales job.

Vector tries their best to seem as appealing to young people as they can, but students should make sure they know exactly what they’re getting into before they take the plunge.

If you understand the risks and feel like you have the experience and skills it takes to sell knives in between classses, then Vector might just work for you. But, realistically, you probably just aren’t cut out for it.


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