The Best Career Strategy Ever
Stuck in your career? Still looking for that dream job, dream company, or dream career? Haven’t found your passion yet … or it hasn’t found you? Then you absolutely need to check out the One Thing Leads to Another career strategy.
It’s not some theoretical construct or research project; it’s how I managed my career in the real world, which I guess worked out pretty well. To be honest, I didn’t know I was doing anything special at the time, I was just doing what made sense to me.
Will it work for you or anyone else? Absolutely. It’s simply a set of empirical, common sense techniques for learning to follow the right pathways that will ultimately lead to job happiness and career success.
It’s sort of like climbing a tree. There are lots of limbs to try, but you look for the strongest branches and the ones that ultimately lead upward. Sometimes you hit a bad branch or it doesn’t lead upward, so you backtrack and find a different one. That’s okay, as long as you keep moving.
In fact, once upon a time Fast Company ran a story that featured one of my unconventional methods for climbing the corporate ladder called
Twice the Career in Half the Time
. There was another feature story where the writer called my career peripatetic. I know; I had to look it up too.
The point is don’t follow the popular or conventional path. Why not? Because, that’s what everyone does, so you won’t come out ahead. Also, most jobs are filled through intimate connections, and the higher up you go, the more true that is. That, more than anything, is why this is …
The Best Career Strategy Ever
Forget headhunters. Over 20+ years, every job change, including every senior executive job but one, was from a personal referral or
network (not social, old school). Only once was I ever actually placed by a headhunter or executive recruiter. If I’d known what a waste of time all those calls and interviews were going to be, I could have saved a ridiculous amount of wasted time.
- Groom yourself. When I hit a wall as an engineering manager, I decided to get some sales and marketing experience, so I took a step back and accepted an offer to be a sales rep and carry a bag to learn the skill-set. Sounds like a step down, but I met loads of executives at other companies and one startup CEO hired me to run worldwide sales. That resulted in my first successful startup experience and IPO.
- Interview constantly. You can’t possibly know what you’re missing until you see it, and looking exposes you to options and opportunities. Example: As an engineering manager locked away inside a big company, I interviewed a bunch of times, my name got around, someone called, and I got to move to California, open and manage a small operation, and interface directly with customers. Over the next few years I kept interviewing, again my name got around, the phone rang, and I eventually landed at my first Silicon Valley startup. It was a flop, but it opened up a whole new world - and network.
- Answer the damn phone. As an executive, I got more calls and emails a day than I care to remember, but I always took the time to at least listen/read and respond in some way. Well, two of those calls/emails that most people wouldn’t have replied to turned into huge jobs opportunities - one at a late stage startup that eventually went public.
Get out and about. Half of the job transitions I made began as meetings through my job at the time - a sales call, customer meeting, partner meeting, whatever. I was just working, doing my job, and got to know a lot of people who, conversely, got to know me. If you can, get a job where you’re occasionally out and about, meeting people outside your company. Then don’t forget to
schmooze and networkwith those you meet.
- Put everything on the table. When it comes to your career, you need to be ready to move, relocate, commute, whatever it takes. And don’t wait for them to bring it up. Tell them what you’re willing to do. Otherwise, they’ll just hire somebody close to home. I once commuted weekly between San Jose and Dallas for more than a year. If it’s something you want, just say yes to whatever it takes to get the job and figure out how to do it later.
- Act faster. Forget about opportunity knocking - you need to be there in the doorway even before its knuckles touch the door. When a potential prospect shows even the slightest bit of interest, don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. Act. Fast. And when you think you’re acting fast, act faster. Now more than ever, in this ultra-fast paced world we work in, if you snooze, you will lose, that’s for sure.
The common thread through all of this is gain exposure, network, follow up fast, keep moving, and when you see something you like, go get it. Sooner or later, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Just like climbing a tree, sooner or later, you get to the top.
By Steve Tobak