As the work world changes and Millennials and Gen Z seek validation, recognition and opportunities to contribute to organizations at a high level, the work and social culture of tech companies becomes coveted. A decade ago, I would’ve assumed I needed to be a developer to have a satisfying job in tech not realizing that, like any business, tech companies have numerous departments and therefore numerous opportunities to join. Customer Success is the perfect gateway into the tech world — of course, I’m a little biased.
Customer Success doesn’t require a bootcamp, a specific degree or particular industry focus, which makes it uniquely accessible as a profession. Despite its accessibility, any career pivot requires strategy. Here‘s how to ‘break into’ Customer Success.
Know the Field
Read About It: One thing I adore about Customer Success is the resources. Blogs, books and webinars can be found all over the internet written by thought leaders, published by CRM companies or hosted by your favorite B2B products. A relatively new field, CS is still growing and changing so keeping on top of trends can be tricky but there’s really no excuse for not knowing the basics of Customer Success.
Talk About It: You’d be surprised who is willing to sit down and chat for 15 to 20 minutes about their day to day. Speaking to other CSMs is the easiest way to really learn what the role is truly like and perhaps the easiest way to learn that no two CSM jobs are the same. Customer Success can vary based on the product and industry. Some sell, others don’t. Some have a quota and strict metrics, others don’t. Some are B2B while others are B2C and others still are B2B2C. It’s important to know what sort of environment you want to work in and what sort of customer experience you want to provide.
Think About It: Forming your own opinions on what you learn is key for the interview process. When pivoting, it’s important to show thought leadership in the field, to show you’ve done your due diligence and not only learned as much as you could, you really considered what you learned and have thoughts on making things better.
Build Your Brand
Strengthen Your Pitch: The dreaded “Tell me about yourself” interview question can also be viewed as “Pitch yourself to me.” It can be seen as, “Pretend we only have five minutes, make a strong case for why you’re right for the position.” Having a strong pitch is paramount when pivoting careers. Your pitch should outline your past experience, connect it to the reason you’re transitioning (as well as why you’ll be great at that transition) and end with why you’re standing in front of the hiring manager at that moment. Oh, and it should be 2–3 sentences.
What? I never said it would be easy.
Strengthen Your Presence: That pitch becomes the opening lines of your cover letters, the headline on your Linkedin and the tagline on your resume. The keywords and buzz phrases you create while making your pitch, should be consistent across all media surrounding you as a candidate. Create a portfolio of your projects and quantify or qualify your contributions to companies you’ve worked for.
Analyze Your Options
What are your transferrable skills?: I broke into Customer Success by way of Customer Support, this is still a popular transition amongst my peers. But once you understand the skills a CSM needs (client facing experience, strategic thinking, tech savviness, etc), you can make a case for your transferable skills and make a pivot from almost anywhere; marketing, sales — even product management.
Where do you fit?: Some companies want CSMs with certain backgrounds and may hire someone who has never held the title before because their other skills like accounting, consulting or development are relevant to the product and service.
Strongly understand your strengths and the service and mission of the businesses where you’re applying to work in order to make the best argument for yourself and your skills.
What fits you?: In addition to being the right fit for a company; not every company is the right fit for you. A huge part of a successful job search is understanding your wants and needs. What environment do you work best in? What products are you interested in? What kind of customer interactions get you going? What level of work excites you? Have your own standards of what you’re looking for, don’t just let yourself be swept away by the Job Search Tide.
I won’t lie to you, Customer Success can be hard to break into, especially when hiring managers tend to look for the title and ignore the duties. It’s up to you to highlight your previous experience in a way that makes it obvious for a hiring manager to choose you. Do the hard work and get the reward. A career in Customer Success awaits you.
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