Basketballer Charles Barkley was recently quoted as saying there are only “five real jobs in the world.”

These jobs? “Teacher, fireman, policeman, doctor, and somebody who’s in the armed services.”

OK, those obviously aren’t the only five jobs in the world (he didn’t even include “athlete”). He was making a point out them being the only jobs that matter. Cute. But the comment got us thinking around here, and I couldn’t let go of the idea of there being only five jobs. Then there were three. Then two.

I decided, after mulling this over for some time that there are only two jobs in the world: sales and sales support. That’s it. There are no other jobs. The sooner and the better you come to understand this, the easier your job search will be.

All companies have just one goal: to get people to buy whatever it is they’re selling. When hiring a new team member, what they want – all of them – is to find someone who will make a key contribution towards that goal. Figure out how you will contribute to that goal and how to convey that to your potential employer, and you are as good as hired.

If you are not the person who is directly responsible for selling the product, your job is to support that person.

It doesn’t matter what job you do. If you’re a journalist, a lawyer, or a computer programmer, you’re in sales. Someone has to pay for that magazine, the ads on that website, the legal services you offer, the program you’re coding.

I am a content producer. My job is to create content that brings people to our website so that clients will pay money to post their jobs and know that they will find quality applicants.

To test the theory we bandied about some jobs. Here are a few we discussed and the conclusions we came to:

Teacher: A teacher is always selling. Teachers sell education to kids and school programs and curriculums to parents. If a school doesn’t have butts in seats, it closes.

Payroll: A friend argued that the payroll person at his company works entirely internally. Yes, but she is responsible for paying employees and if those employees don’t get paid the company will have disgruntled employees, which could lead to anything from low motivation to mutiny to lawsuits – all of which is bad for reputation, productivity, and, of course, sales.

Garbage man: We have private collection in Toronto, so that’s a no brainer. If you do a bad job, people will use a different service. If the garbage collection is government run, however, that’s a different story, and it goes like this: all government employees reflect the government body to its customers, the voters, who pay for its services with their tax dollars. We are, in fact, a massive client base, and can oust that government through voting, theoretically, anyway. It might not feel that way, since many people don’t bother exercising their right to vote, but it is the case, and it applies to everyone who works for government, from the Prime Minister to the street cleaner.

Surgeon: GPs have to sell their practices to patients, so their positions in sales are clear. But what about the surgeon, who works for a hospital and whose job is to perform surgery and, in many cases, save lives? In places where people pay for individual care and insurance, they choose which hospital to go to and which surgeon to use, and money – LOTS of money – as well as lives, is on the line in big healthcare. In places where the surgeon works for the government, see above. If you are not a good surgeon, the organization you work for falls apart. If you are, that will be in the organization’s favour.

At any rate, most of us are not surgeons – and poking holes in this theory isn’t actually to your advantage. Here’s why:

The point I am trying to make is that the better you understand, and are able to demonstrate, how the role you are applying for supports a company’s bottom line and how you plan to do this, the better your chances are of getting the job.

One way to convey this is to identify a problem and outline how you would solve it. Another, as previously pointed out by Peter Harris, is to ask in your interview, “Who are you not reaching and why?” This shows that you are thinking about the company’s goals, and, presumably, how you will help achieve them.

Demonstrate how you will help the company’s sales.

Remember – in most cases anyway – the hiring manager wants to hire you.

Yes, there are times when the process is all a sham, when the employer has already chosen someone and they are just going through the motions for appearances. But, the majority of the time, they want to hire you. They need a job done and they don’t want to spend months trying to find someone to do it. They want you to be so amazing that the choice is a no-brainer, that all doubts are erased, that they can go to their superior and say “This is the person for the job. I’m sure of it” – and be right.

The opportunity is yours to take. All you have to do is sell yourself.