As a former technical consultant turned recruiter, I occasionally get asked about how to get your first opportunity to work in a specific technology, when you have no prior experience.
It’s always the catch-22, I can’t get experience if I don’t have it first, which I don’t believe is true if you apply some of the concepts below. Sure, it doesn’t happen over-night, but any remarkable success never does.
With the CRM market continuing to be red-hot and my primary focus in recruiting, this is the specific technology I get asked about the most, but I think these concepts can be applied to any technology or career choice.
1. Acres of Diamonds. In Russell Conwell’s book he discusses a farmer who hears about other farmers making millions discovering diamond mines, so he decides to sell his farm and go searching. In doing so, he ends up being unsuccessful but coincidentally the new farmer who bought his farm discovers the land that he just sold is the most productive diamond mine on the entire continent. Moral of the story: if the first farmer had taken the time to analyze and study his current surroundings before looking elsewhere, his desires to own a diamond mine would have come true.
How do we translate this story to the career step you’re looking to make? Regardless of where you work, who you know or what you do, I believe either your current employer or someone in your network has a direct connection to a technology you’re looking to get into. They could be an end user, an administrator, a consultant, or even work for a product company. Specific to CRM, most companies have a CRM system of some type, whether it’s a notepad, sticky-notes, Rolodex, phone or a more sophisticated technology. I suggest talk to your sales team or someone within your network sales team to find out how they’re using it to track their leads, accounts, opportunities, sales process, etc. Then, move into I.T. to find out who manages the CRM, what it is, how they do it, what’s the status, etc. and continuously spend time with them asking questions.
As you continue to gather information, ask if there’s an opportunity to tackle some of the easier requirements, enhancements or defects the I.T. team is currently working on. This may have to be outside of your current day to day responsibilities, but obviously some additional effort will be necessary to accomplish your new career path. Generally, I.T. has more work than resources, so getting some additional help would generally be greeted with open arms. But, you need to minimize the additional overhead for them, so they key is to learn, challenge yourself and look for solutions on your own. Create a demo environment (sandbox) and work on a few of the requirements they have, see what you can come up with and then present your ideas back to gather feedback, make changes, self-educate and over time, new opportunities will come your way as you get more proficient in your skill set.
2. Experience Needed – Will Work for Free. As ridiculous as this might sound, taking this leap of faith will lead to long term success. A notable example: Carlos Siqueira, who’s a Salesforce MVP now, just posted a 2-year anniversary about how he was able to break into the Salesforce technology by doing a 6-month Salesforce administrator internship (for free!). Sure, he hit some obstacles a long the way, but as he looks back on the sacrifices he made to get where he is today, he would do it all over again without hesitation. If Carlos can make this step, anyone can. But, the point is making the 1st step. Be vulnerable, be prepared to get rejected, to struggle, to be challenged, but keep moving forward and keep asking to help others and for others to help you. Working for free is never the ideal situation but gaining the experience and the ability to add actual hands on experience on your resume is guaranteed to give you more opportunities for the future. Unfortunately, certifications alone show that you’re committed to learning the technology, but the professional experience is what employers will always look for.
3. Put the “Work” into Network. Everyone who’s currently doing what you want to do has a story about how they got there. Sure, it’s their story and may not completely apply to you, but for each story you hear, there’s a potential for you to learn from their experiences to determine how to use that for your current situation. I don’t mean speaking to 1 or 2 people and stopping to say their experience was so unique and could never work out for me, as that might be the case. Rather talk to at least 20 people, whether that’s in a User Group meeting, via LinkedIn or at a technology conference. I’m confident that you will pick up small experiences from others that can be very relatable to where you are today. The contacts you meet who are willing to help will be a great sounding board for you as you continue to evolve into the career you desire. The key is continuous contact, share information, gather feedback and one of those contacts may even be who will lead you into your next terrific opportunity.
Feel free to connect with me for a more detailed discussion or to hear about my specific story or if I can help you connect with others to hear about theirs.