When the pandemic hit nearly three years ago, Sara Jaramillo found herself contemplating what was next. While some people took up new hobbies and others simply tried to move forward, she decided it was time to knock off one long-standing item from her to-do list — finish her degree.
This week, she will graduate with a bachelor’s of business administration with a concentration in marketing.
“I would tell myself to take every opportunity that comes,” Jaramillo said. “You can’t even imagine what your life is gonna turn out to be.”
Jaramillo first attended The University of New Mexico in 2012 soon after graduating from high school. She joined a sorority, made friends and tried to discern what her future career should be.
Then, her hair started falling out. On top of classes, Jaramillo was suddenly dealing with the onset of alopecia, an auto-immune disease that causes the body to attack its hair follicles. Though Alopecia can cause varying degrees of hair loss anywhere on the body, Jaramillo lost clumps of hair from her head and quickly became bald.
The sudden loss of hair on top of university life and working on the side was too stressful and she decided to take a breather.
“I left because it wasn’t really a good time for me,” she said. “I just felt like it was good to focus on myself and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”
Jaramillo left UNM and got a cosmetology license at Aveda, so she could create wigs for people with cancer and alopecia. Over the next several years, she worked as a cosmetologist and bartender, traveled and moved to Arizona.
In June 2020, in the heat of the pandemic, Jaramillo returned to Albuquerque. She decided to use the move as an opportunity to finish her degree. She immediately enrolled at UNM and began classes that fall. Online classes for her first year back at UNM were challenging for the extrovert who didn’t know any fellow students.
She focused on her courses and soon discovered a passion for sales. After students returned to campus, Jaramillo joined one of the Anderson School’s sales competition teams.
“I knew I wanted to do something where I could work with people,” she said. “When I came across sales, I realized, it’s about building relationships.”
It was a sales class with Dimitri Kapelianis from the UNM Sales Center that helped her confirm her interest in the industry. Sales professionals and business owners would visit the class and tell students about their careers. The Sales Center helps give students practical experience in sales and networking opportunities with companies.
“We were able to actually meet different business owners and see what their careers were like, what their jobs were like. It was really inspiring to see if that was the way you wanted your career to go and to actually be in front of them and talking to them one on one,” Jaramillo said.
This past November, Jaramillo’s sales competition team competed at the International Collegiate Sales Competition in Florida, which she described as the Superbowl of collegiate sales. At the competition, participants compete in categories like speed selling, role play to effectively sell a given project, and management issues, where competitors have 24 hours to create a slide deck presentation to solve a specific problem.
Jaramillo used her opportunities at UNM and experience helping people as a cosmetologist to carve out a career she loves. She now works full-time as a sales location director at LaserAway, a medical clinic with more than 100 locations around the country.
“It’s not too late to go back to school,” Jaramillo said. “If that’s something you’re possibly thinking about, it’s going to be one of the best decisions of your life and you won’t regret it.”