Author: Noah Clark
From January of 2008 to about September of 2011 I have been doing what can loosely be called “Technology Consulting” and I’ve worked on technology products for companies as small as a single founder all the way up to systems that supported 400 employees. I love technology, but I really wanted to head into the sales, marketing and Business development space focused on business, relationships and sales. That seemed more exciting than ruby on rails, a command line, and model-view-controllers.
Here is the process I went through and you can repeat with minor tweaks to create your own successful career change. Also, I must apologize in advance most of these ideas are borrowed or stolen from Ramit and Patrick in part or in whole. I’ve been reading them both for a number of years and their ideas have influenced me greatly. Reading either one of them is going to make you better looking, have smarter children, and get a job more quickly.
The Process of Getting Real
The first step in this process is something I like to call ‘getting real.’ It’s figuring out what your strengths and weaknesses are and using those to create an advantage in the job hunting process. You could have a really large network (if you went to a university you already do it’s called the alumni). You could understand technology in a way most sales and marketing folks don’t. It doesn’t matter, but you need to figure out what your competitive advantage is going in.
The second step is figure out what people are willing to pay for. It doesn’t matter if your passion is writing about the beauty of buffalo grass in sonnet format. The market doesn’t care about that and no one is going to employ you. Maybe you’re skill set and passion is for something that has been out sourced or eliminated because of computers, again, the focus is to figure out what people are willing to pay for. If you can’t find anyone hiring for the job, it’s probably a bad place to look.
The third step of the getting real process is to figure out how to put the two together. Because we’re in the midst of a recovery where cash-flow is king anything that bring in cash to a business is going to be in demand. If I put the two together “A deep understanding of technology combined with an ability to communicate that helps make sales, develop marketing, and develop business” that is my competitive advantage.
The last step of this process is figuring out who can benefit from my competitive advantage and who I would want to work for. If you’re thinking anyone or everyone then you’re doing this wrong. I have a very specific group of companies I was targeting. The requirements were the following:
- They had to be small enough that I could work independently. I don’t want to work in a big company with a process already in place.
- They had to be tech focused. I wanted to be able to take advantage of my competitive advantage and strengths.
- They had to be top players. I only want to work with people who are doing great work. I want to be pushed to do even better work.
What doesn’t Matter
I knew if I wanted to pull this off I had to focus on what I could control and not what I couldn’t control. During this process, I started to realize that this is one of the most important things that people who are getting jobs and raises are really focused on.
I could have sat around and said, “Oh, the weather is crappy” or “I didn’t go to the right college” or “Oh, the stock market is down. I guess no one is hiring” but I didn’t. I went back to my competitive advantage and looked at how I could use that to make the career switch.
Sure the Job Market is a little weak now, but there are STILL plenty of jobs available. Just last week I visited with a super small education company in the middle of no where that said they could immediately put 30 people to work if they could find the people with the right skills and were willing to work.
Experience matter a lot less than you would think. I had to be willing to learn quickly, try new things, and see what works on the job, but from my own experiences employers are looking for good folks that can get the job done. If you’ve proven your self as a quick learner and bring a direct competitive advantage that you can express clearly, “I can generate more sales in less time because I understand technology and I can talk to people” you’re going to get hired regardless of your previous experience.
No one has ever been hired because they were passionate alone. If you tell an employer, “I”m passionate about X” then you’ve already lost. Be clear and honest about what you bring to the table, and I promise you the worst thing you can say you bring the table is passion.
On Social Media
Everyone talks about using social media to get a job. You know your future employer is going to check you out on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. They also are going to Google you.
You should be electronically active in your profession. If you’re a programmer or engineer you should be on Stack Overflow and Hacker News. If you’re a designer you should be on forrst and dribbble. These matter because they send signals to your employer. Anyone can talk about what they had for lunch on twitter, but if you’re on any of the above mentioned websites you’re in the top 10% of your field. I actually saw this recently with a designer I recommended. One of the first questions asked was show me your Dribbble and Forrst profiles.
If you don’t already have an audience Social Media is a waste of time to start from scratch and try to build one just to get a job. You’re trying to get a job, not create one! What you can do instead is find the top 25 - 50 blogs on a topic you’re interested in and offer to do a guest post. Then when you go into the job interview you can, “I’m sure you read x,y, and z. I’ve been recently featured on x,y,z on the topic of what_im_interviewing_for”
On Resumes and Cover Letters
If you’re anything like me the first thing you think you need to do to switch careers is update your resume and cover letter. I knew from the very beginning that my resume and cover letter would only serve as the heal to the door kick you see in action movies. My only purpose was to get my body inside the door. The first thing you realize is that you can have an amazing bad resume and cover and letter and still get invited in for interviews.
Resume and cover letters didn’t matter as much as I thought, and they definitely don’t matter for the jobs I want. I applied at five different companies of which 3 had public openings. Of those, I interviewed at three companies and got two job offers. I point this out because it tells me my process isn’t broken. Although this is a very small sample size I can expect 60% of companies to offer me an interview, and of those that I interview with about 66% of them will offer me a job. These numbers might be a little higher than is reasonable to expect, but what this proves to me is that my process is not broken.
I don’t know what a good response rate is, but I do know that 60+ for both categories means that the system isn’t broken. I’d be concerned if either number fell under 30%, but the real goal here is to make sure that your process isn’t broken. I am 90% sure that if I sent out 100 resumes I would end up with 40 job offers. The people who you read about sending out hundred and thousands of resumes need to learn that if you’re not getting a single invitation to interview something is fundamentally broken. The same goes for interviews, if you’re getting tons of interviews but can’t seem to land a job offer something is broken with your interview process.
I may be an exception to the rule, but I have never been hired because of my resume or cover letter. I’ve only been asked for a resume as a formality after I’ve been hired. I’m sure that having an amazing cover letter and resume are a nice asset, but I can assure you that they are unnecessary. Anecdotally, the more emphasis a company puts on a resume and cover letter the less I enjoy working there.
on Researching a Company
You know how I focused on only a few companies. Here’s why. I do in depth research on each one. I want to know everything there is to know about them and then use that during the interview to prove I can add value to solving their problems. Focusing on them during an interview shows your smart, engaged, and to some extent keeps the focus off the skills you might not have and on the value you can add to their business by working with them.
I’m going to pick dropbox as a company I want to work for. If you’d like to work there check out their jobs page.
The first thing you’re going to do is install honey badger (you’ll need Chrome). This is just part of the information gathering process and of course you should explore their site, check out their wikipedia page, and generally click on every link that links out from wikipedia both as sources and other wikipedia pages.
Let’s get started.
Basic Information Collection
The purpose of this is to dig into the company and figure out who will probably be at the interview and to understand the company, their culture, and what they value.
So you’ll first be greeted by the “About” section in Honey Badger. Of course this isn’t enough so you should hunt around on the website. Pay particular attention to bios of managers and the about page. The about page is probably old and outdated. That’s good for you because it was probably written by a founder, which reveals what he thinks is important and probably what the culture of the company is about.
Maybe you’ll be lucky enough and the team will be filled in for you. If not there’s probably an about page that lists the managers, founders, VPs or C-Suite. What you’re really looking for who is going to be in on your interview. Once you’ve found these folks go to linkedin and type their names in.
While you’re at linked in go ahead and type the name of the company into Linkedin and do a search. Often times you’ll find that the company you’re interested in working for is really a subsidery of another or goes by another name, etc. This will help you fully understand the company.
See all those highlighted company names above? Click on one of the fine folks that works at dropbox.
See that little Dropbox link above? Click on it. It will take you to the company page, which allows you to see all the employees like in the screen shot below.
Now you should be able to figure out how the company works. As you search through these profiles notice if someone has had your previous job title and then during an interview you can leverage that and say something like, “I noticed Mike moved from my position to new position in five years. Is this something I can expect in my career” and then once they confirm or deny this in the interview you can take it to the next level by actually asking Mike what he did to get there once you’re hired.
Most people are smart enough to do research on the company that is hiring you, but have you done research on the competition? The goal here is to be able to speak the sector they are in and the challenges they face across the board, specific threats that other competitors present and of course how you add value to the company.
One way to find competitors is to type in the name of the product or company and type the word “vs” after it. You can now see something interesting here. There is dropbox vs evernote.
If you’ve ever used these two products you’d know that they aren’t really in the same product class. This would be an interesting bit of trivia to bring up at the interview — “Oh, I noticed that a lot of people are doing a comparison between dropbox and ever note online. It’s interesting that people see these two as doing the same thing. Do you see your selves as competitors? Have you purposefully positioned your self like this?”
Once you’ve done that you should just search for the general product or company name. In some cases related searches will give you a good idea for other things to explore. In this case it isn’t that great, but we can use the pages similar to link to find all the pages that might link to dropbox competitors.
The last bit to figure out competitors is to explore the competitors and similar options inside honey badger as you can see below.
It is now time to install rapportive. You should have a list of who you think will be interviewing you and who are the key players inside the organization. It’s time to use rapportive to find them on the Internet.
So, I’ll leave the creepy stalkeresque way to get their e-mail address up to you. Let’s just say that given enough time and resources you should be able to get everyone’s email address.
Because Rapportive can be so creepy, I’ve picked one of my co-workers to use their email address for. As you can see it can find pretty much every social media profile under the sun for them.
You’ll want to do this for each candidate that you’ll be interviewing with. Anyone else won’t hurt, but isn’t the best use of your time.
The next step is to google the company and read through every link on the first five pages. Also google the names of everyone you think you’ll be interviewing with. And lastly, setup google alerts for the company. You’ll want to know three minutes before you go into an interview that they just launched a new product or that they just hired a new VP of whatever.
This was the surface digging. What I did next was connected with people before the interview via Linkedin, Skype and at the local tech meetups. I also connected with people who they had done business with and with ex-employees.
Interviews as Practice
The first interview tactic I found incredible useful was practice interviews. I had never heard about this before and I though Ramit was crazy for talking about this, but it absolutely works. One of my first interviews I went on was an absolute disaster. BUT, then something happened the guy who was interviewing me said, “Most sales people already have a CRM system full of contacts and have a system in place” and then went on to tell me how he can tell professional sales folks from the posers.
Of course this was awesome. What did I do when I left? Went home and implemented the system exactly as he said, figured out how it all worked and used that knowledge in later interviews. This was incredibly useful for me and practice interviews aren’t just about getting better at interviewing as I originally thought, but their about doing recon and being able to test responses.
You should go on as many interviews as possible, even when you don’t think you’ll take the job. An interview is as much about you making sure the company is a right fit for you as you are for them. The company should be selling the position to you as much as you are selling your self to them. You might be surprised and end up being a good fit. The other thing is that if you go on interviews with second-tier companies you’re going to learn a lot about interviews.
Focus on the value add and create not your skill set.
As I’ve said before, during the interview you need to clearly articulate what value you add to the business. If you can’t do that you’re in trouble. The point of an interview is to tell a narrative about your self and your experiences in a way that connects to the dots for the interviewer to see that you can add that value to their business
For me, if I would have focused on luck and pretending like I had sales experience I would have failed. I focused on my original value proposition and put the focus on how my technology experience relates directly to me being able to sell by being able to understand technology and then related that to the customer.
Use the Company Interview against them
When I first interviewed with Mokriya, I interviewed with Sunil. Later I interviewed with Sunil and Pranil. I felt the first interview went really well. With the next interview setup, it was time to interview with Pranil.
Sunil, didn’t ask many questions, but Pranil mainly wanted to feel me out. Because I had learned about the company cared about (craftsmanship, design, culture) I could articulate those things back to Pranil, while Sunil was right there. Sunil gets the things he told me the day before (and I did agree with him on their importance) back to him and Pranil, who presumably shares those same values gets told exactly what he believes.
The briefcase technique
This is a technique I’ve picked up from Ramit. There was an a company I was interested in working for. I did a lot of research on their company, and even went so far as to talk to former employees about the work environment. Because of this I knew their pain points, and I knew that if I got a job there, I’d be able to quickly transition to something else. It seemed like a fair trade off, and I had done some work with SEO.
Time to pull out the briefcase technique
. It had two basic sections. The first section was how I could improve their own rankings, how they were loosing conversions, and other general SEO, A/B testing info. The other piece of it was how I could help them strengthen up the SEO weakness. Everyone who did SEO in the company did it in addition to either project management, sales, or marketing. I positioned my self as someone that could free up those folks to focus on what they were hired for while able to improve the companies service to outside companies, and increase sales all at the same time. The only thing the person needed to do was pick the order I should start working on them.
Oh, The Irony!
This may seem like a lot of work, but remember you’re not shotgunning resumes anymore and seeing what sticks. You’re picking a specific career paths, niching it down, and targeting specific companies.
The irony of this all is that to start working with Mokriya, I didn’t have to do any of the things above. The point is that the type of person who does all the things above is the type of person that people want to hire. When you start to do those things and understand the reason behind them you’ll start to be the type of person that is eternally employable.
That’s the real takeaway form all this: The person that would have done these things without reading this is always going to be employable.