Dale: The good news is that you don’t need to start with all of them. In fact, I’d cut that list in half and just focus on LinkedIn and Facebook. (I recently heard a prediction that Twitter will be the next MySpace, which is to say that it will simply fade away. That made me smile.) As for the remaining pair, start with LinkedIn. I wish I could tell you that being on LinkedIn is optional for you, but it really isn’t.
J.T.: No, not at all. This is a case of “brand or be branded.” Choosing not to engage in social media sends a message about you as a professional – and, sadly, not a good one. Recruiters will assume that either you are not tech-savvy or you haven’t done anything noteworthy with your career – or, worst of all, that you have done something wrong and are trying to hide.
Dale: Yikes. And even if you decide you can do a search without recruiters finding you on LinkedIn, an HR person or hiring manager might just decide to check you out online and, if nothing comes up, well, that’s a big zero. The good news is that LinkedIn is easy to use.
J.T.: You start by learning to optimize your profile. By putting the right keywords in your profile, recruiters will find you for their open positions. There are lots of resources online that will help you, including at my site, CareerHMO.com. The key is to familiarize yourself with LinkedIn’s platform first; that way, you’ll build it right the first time. Before you know it, you’ll be engaged, and you’ll want to venture out and try other social media.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I have been in technology sales for many years. I want to switch industries, but continue to sell. What’s the best way to find companies that would be willing to hire me even though I don’t have experience in their industry? – Larry
J.T.: You’re in a great position. Sales skills are in high demand, especially when you’ve been in something as complex as tech sales.
Dale: Nevertheless, you’re right to plot your strategy. As you know, in a world where so many purchase decisions can be made online, the value added by the salesperson is in being an educator and consultant – your job is to teach customers what they need to buy and how to make that purchase a success. Said another way, you are in the knowledge business. Thus, the simplest transition is to choose a product or service where your tech sales career offers a natural advantage – something like selling health care equipment.
J.T.: However, you need not be limited. Instead of thinking about what you’re selling, think about who you’re selling. What I’m envisioning for you is an interview “bucket list” of companies that really impress you. Are there companies whose products and services you respect and admire? Or do you have personal experience with products that makes you uniquely qualified to share their value? By creating an interview bucket list, you’ll have a target list, just like you do in sales. Then you’ll start to sell yourself, which I think you will find fun and rewarding.
Dale: Good plan. It also will guide your networking as you seek out people who work with or for those companies. Meeting with them, you’ll pick up the industry jargon and, when it comes time to interview, you’ll have narrowed the industry knowledge gap, letting hiring managers see that you could easily make the transition. Plus, in most cases, employers will see your tech background as the plus that differentiates you from other candidates.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.