This is the second article in my “How to Get the Job You Want” series. To view the other articles in this series, click here.
I had been working in data storage and backup for about 10 years when I got a Dell catalog in the mail. When I opened and skimmed through it, I was shocked to see EMC (my largest and most aggressive competitor) had its products listed … in a catalog? I immediately checked my notes and the model numbers were the same. I started thinking about how if enterprise technology was becoming available in catalogs, then the value and price structure would start to decline. I started doing research into other industries.
I decided I wanted to stay in technology sales with my next position. I eventually got the chance to interview with the sales manager at BridgeCom, a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier. I described the complex technology I had sold to large corporations in the past, such as the first SAN (expandable to 30TB) to a Fortune 100 enterprise account based in New York City. In comparison, that would be an order of magnitude greater, like 30PB in today’s technology (a lot of digital storage). I also mentioned my experience engaging with many different types of clients. I focused on my value to the NYC team and company overall and was offered the position of total solution manager.
In this new position, my focus was on selling our entire product line. I learned a lot from the telecom industry and not just about telephones, landlines, bonded T1 lines and VoIP. There was a strong focus on developing your own referral channel, which I excelled at, so within a few years, I had 150 client companies and 150 referral partners.
Leverage Your Contacts
By the time I was ready to move on to new job opportunities, I made sure to apply to places in which I had contacts. I spent some time at a video managed services company and then moved on to two different jobs in the AV integration industry. By applying to places where I had contacts (aka champions), I was able to learn each company’s interview process. This was incredibly valuable. A piece of advice: Always leverage your contacts to join a company; it saves a lot of time and lowers stress.
Let’s talk about strategies to get job interviews/offers for a second. Aside from leveraging any contacts you may have, another method is to leverage that company’s clients. Over my career of 35+ years, I have asked most of my clients which vendors (integrators, manufacturers, software companies) they prefer to work with to get some perspective. You may know (indirectly) a contact at one of the interviewees’ clients (i.e. use LinkedIn). You’ll never be sorry you reached out to someone!
After all this advice, sometimes the best career opportunities aren’t planned at all. My most recent job was a bit of a surprise. While talking to one of my clients (for whom I had just finished an AV project in their media room), he mentioned one of his vendors and spoke very highly about them and suggested I reach out. Since I had done a few projects, I knew about this software vendor. Two weeks later, a friend had also done some work with this same vendor and mentioned that I should meet with them — what a coincidence!
So, I met with this company in the summer of 2019 (I know; it seems like many years ago). We met and although I thought it went well, there were no specific next steps or action items for them or myself. When I received an email not too long after the initial meeting asking to discuss an opportunity, I was happy, thinking that this could be a large digital signage project that would require my system integration resources.
We met again in my secondary office away from my NYC executive suite office away from my home office (i.e. Starbucks on the second floor) and discussed this “opportunity,” which turned out to be a chance to join their company as head of sales. I thanked them and told them that I would think about it and give them an answer shortly. I wasn’t even looking for this position; it was the first time I was in a situation where I inadvertently sold my value and had to make a decision. Otherwise, I would lose what I call, “attention momentum.” They would lose interest or focus on someone else and my opportunity would disappear.
Keeping Their Attention
When you have an interviewer’s attention, don’t stop. Keep moving their process forward. Of course, if you don’t inquire about their process during your first (audio, video, in-person) meeting, you will not know what you need to do or say to get to their next step in the hiring strategy, which some companies may or may not have.
Finally, there are many people who have lost or changed their jobs in the past two years (as an example). I know this for certain as I was doing research (an entire week, and I have a long week) at the end of March 2020 to confirm email addresses for my contact list and I discovered a number of important trends:
- Many people (at least 30% of my 1200+ contacts) changed jobs between September 2019 and February 2020 (myself included).
- A majority of those contacts obtained a higher-level job at their new company (i.e. VP to EVP or director).
- Some people who stayed at their current company eventually were promoted (timeframe varied greatly).
Remember, even after you join a company, you still must sell your value. Don’t get complacent! My next installment of “How to Get the Job You Want” will expand on this. The goal is to become indispensable.
Here is a link with definitions to a few of the terms I used in this column.