Intro: 5 Pillars Method
“I applied there, but never heard back.” How many times we have seen a promising company or exciting opportunity online. We polish our resume, send it away and cross our fingers. A day goes by, then three. The automated thank you email is all we have.
This series will show you how to build a bridge to your next big thing. You will take small, proactive steps one after the other to get yourself over the line. You will learn something from every step and evaluate opportunities more accurately. You don’t have rely on talent or luck for this success. You can invent and define your own career path with these 5 Pillars.
Events should unlock new relationships, fresh insights and clear next steps.
We all know we should attend events. Companies flood our inbox with ‘can’t miss’ invitations. They promise amazing insights and elite opportunities. Unfortunately, if you do not apply clear intention and a structured approach, events can waste your time.
This article proposes how to maximize career value from select events. Events should unlock new relationships, fresh insights and clear next steps. Investing here early will inform your strategy for the 5 Pillars.
Select only events where you can accomplish these three steps. Ideally this should be the annual summit for the company you want to work for, in the city you want to work in.
To Do List
1) Learn the ecosystem
2) Capture the narrative
3) Create next steps with hiring managers
Prioritize opportunities to listen to the voice of the customer and identify key frameworks.
At events, prioritize opportunities to listen to the voice of the customer and identify key frameworks. Referencing real customer stories while speaking with your target company shows empathy and critical thinking. Identifying frameworks (like agile development, DevOps, lean startup, cloud migration checklist) will inform your learning path.
Step 1: Learn the Ecosystem
Strike up a conversation that creates new opportunities at a partner or solution provider.
In the knowledge economy, we observe a proliferation of services. Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure, Platform and so on. It is difficult to make sense of these services before you understand the ecosystem: interdependent, competitive, and cooperative. Try to familiarize yourself with the dance among customers, partners, providers and professional services companies.
On the event floor, see them laid out side by side. Walk the aisles, take in the breadth and depth. Your #1 goal might be getting hired at the Big Tech hosting the event. Many roles depend on partnering inside this ecosystem. Strike up a conversation that creates new opportunities at a partner or solution provider. This also creates options in case your Plan A doesn't work out.
Step 2: Capture the Narrative
Companies spend a lot of resource to promote 2-3 key messages. You should take every opportunity to understand these. Write them down and unpack them later. Research the trend and predict why they chose this message over any other this year. Ask people at the event and review with mentors later.
By now, their employees have heard these hundreds of times at trainings and events. Reference these messages in your conversations to build rapport and signal in-group status.
I wanted to work for AWS, so I attended their annual summit in London. They placed three key messages in the keynote and every customer talk. This led me to research, reading and follow on conversations until I understood why. When I entered the interview phase, I could ask intelligent questions and spar with them on strategy. After my hire, interviewers told me this curiosity set me apart from other candidates.
Here were the three messages and why I believe they selected them.
‘You can retire legacy debt and achieve 35% cost savings with cloud’
Win on-premise migrations to cloud
Capture the wave of enterprise and small business
‘Startups innovate faster on..'
Win early stage startups
Most startups select their long-term partner extremely early
‘We put ML in the hands of every developer’
Win the data
Data has gravity, attracts additional ‘sticky’ workloads ($)
Step 3: Create Next Steps with Hiring Managers
Don’t miss this moment when your platform is strong.
How do you find hiring managers? At a live event, employees are staffing the booth. They wear badges, shirts and swag and stand under their company sign. Start a conversation on the periphery with someone who looks friendly, approachable and not yet burnt out. If you have an effective conversation with this person, they will introduce you to the hiring manager on the spot.
Companies want to hire people from events. They want you to speak with them! The fact that you showed up already speaks to your intention and follow through. Don’t miss this moment while your platform is strong.
How do you start the conversation?
1) Build a real relationship: have a human conversation. Your counterpart is not a machine. Ask them how their day is going.
2) Show genuine curiosity and interest. Most people they speak with are trying hard to impress them. You can set yourself apart by focusing on topics you are genuinely curious about.
3) Reference customer stories. Most employees will know about the headliners featured in the keynote. Make a gentle observation and invite them to share their thoughts with you.
Wrap up by asking if there is a hiring manager on site you could speak with today. If they are away from the booth, you are happy to wait. You then want to tighten and focus your communication. When you connect with the hiring manager, try this:
It's great to meet you. I'm an experienced (senior engineer / PM) here to learn about career opportunities and possible fits. I've been working on X certification and it's great to hear real live customers speak about this. I've seen examples today of how your product helps customers like Y benefit by partnering with you. Could you tell me a bit more about the customer segments you work with and how your team fits in to the organization?
This conversation signals you are ready to proceed to a first interview.
With this framework, anyone can be more confident and effective at events. You can select fewer events with higher return on your time invest. Build toward having productive conversations face to face with hiring managers. Decide clear next steps and follow through politely and on time.
When I used this approach, I created an inside track to the interview process. On my interview day, I was less nervous because I had spent time in the field with the hiring manager. This created a shared bond and aligned the hiring manager to support me through the interview process.
I saw the frameworks from my reading and certification brought to life onstage through real customer stories. I met new potential mentors, gained inspiration, and took plenty of photos and notes. When I returned to my job, I had clarity and confidence about my project. It was easier to evaluate my skills gap and select trainings once I spoke with people actually doing the job. #5Pillars
The next post in the 5 Pillars series is Projects. I will review how to develop a specialized project in your current role (during your 9-5!) that will position you for your next big thing. With the right project, you can create the experience you lack, validate your new skills, and set yourself apart in the hiring process.
Cover Image Credit: Teemu Paananen via Unsplash.