Linguistics Education Helps Lay Good Foundation for Sales Career

Linguistics Education Helps Lay Good Foundation for Sales Career

Jesstina McFarland graduated this month with a B.A. in Linguistics, a minor in Sales Leadership, and a full-time job waiting for her in August. 

Last summer, she interned with Thomson Reuters, which sells professional tax and accounting software to licensed CPAs. When her internship ended, McFarland continued to maintain her connection with the company, which led to her receiving a spot in their sales department, beginning in August. 

“I absolutely loved my internship at Thomson Reuters,” she said. “It gave me so much insight into what I’m in for with a sales career and the training was impeccable.” 

As an intern, McFarland worked in the company’s Tax and Accounting Division, and for most of the internship, she was cold calling CPA firms and passing leads to the full-time sales floor. She later sold training for the company’s software to existing customers.

“As a Linguistics major, I never expected to go into sales and I know the two seem completely unrelated, but they’re not. The beauty of studying linguistics is the transferrable skills you develop.”

Through her internship, McFarland learned a lot about the tax and accounting industry. She also learned how to generate interest on a cold call and how to dig into someone’s work process so as to have a better understand of how she could help them. 

Since the internship, McFarland maintained a connection with the managers and coworkers of the company through LinkedIn and spoke frequently with her internship manager. These connections helped secure her a full-time position.

“As a Linguistics major, I never expected to go into sales and I know the two seem completely unrelated, but they’re not,” McFarland said. “The beauty of studying linguistics is the transferrable skills you develop. I find that I am extremely analytical, which I credit to my major, and that helps me endlessly in the sales world.”

One of the highlights of McFarland’s Linguistics education was finishing her senior thesis, which focused on linguistically based racial discrimination in education and the legal system in the United States, with a specific focus on African American English speakers. 

photo of a girl with short brown hair in a black and white top
Jesstina McFarland

“I decided the topic for my senior thesis when I began to really notice the way that people in the business world view African American Vernacular English,” she said. “I wrote my thesis on dialectal differences in the United States and how speech perceptions can have often overlooked socioeconomic repercussions, specifically focusing on speakers of ‘Standard’ American English (I do not believe that there is a ‘Standard,’ there is simply a dialect of English that is most accepted in institutions) and speakers of African American Vernacular English.” 

For McFarland, this research helped illustrate that the broader population needs to be educated about this somehow.

“It is incredibly difficult to give someone with no linguistics background just a ‘brief overview’ of what my thesis is about,” McFarland said. “I do feel that my thesis allowed me to successfully apply my linguistics background to the broader world around me in very relevant way, but I wish I could find a better way of discussing the issue person-to-person with someone who has no linguistics background.”

Throughout her time at MSU, McFarland has worked for MSU Greenline, which she credits with leading her to a career in sales. 

“I definitely couldn’t have gotten to this point if it hadn’t been for all my experiences at MSU.”

“The way I always describe it is ‘fundraising for the University’ because that’s literally what it is, but the job means so much more to me than that. It has helped me to find my career path more than any other experience I’ve had at MSU, and it is the best job on campus,” she said. “I started out as a student caller there and I remember the lightbulb moment I had while I was at work the summer between my freshman and sophomore years that led me to apply for the Sales minor. It made me realize my passion for building relationships and led me to explore that further. Over the past four years, I have been a student caller, supervisor, and now manager for the program.”

In addition to her major and job at MSU Greenline, McFarland also credits her Sales Leadership minor with helping prepare her for her career in a very practical way. 

“Through the minor, I have created very valuable connections and have really been able to dig into hands-on sales experience through competitions, role plays, and of course my internship,” she said.

Now that she has graduated, McFarland is looking forward to using what she has learned at MSU in her new job with Thomson Reuters. 

“I definitely couldn’t have gotten to this point,” McFarland said, “if it hadn’t been for all my experiences at MSU.” 

(TOP PHOTO: features Jesstina McFarland (left) and a fellow intern (right) at Thomson Reuters)