Whether you want to feel part of the Ohana or are simply looking to land your next great opportunity, networking is part and parcel of professional life for those in the Salesforce ecosystem.
And while it’s perfectly possible to build a stand-out personal brand online, from adding content to simply playing a more active role on LinkedIn, there’s no getting away from the traditional method of doing it in person. Sure, that can be intimidating for the introvert, but there’s no getting away from in-person networking being an important part of your professional armoury.
That means Salesforce events should play a big part of this, with most Salesforce gatherings across the year being focused on the community coming together to educate and inspire each other, as well as connect. Whether that’s hundreds of thousands or professionals descending on San Francisco for Dreamforce, to a local user group meetup, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the dates in the Salesforce calendar.
With 77% of respondents in Mason Frank’s Careers and Hiring Guide telling us they’re planning on attending a Salesforce event this year, it’s safe to say that it’s the number one way to give yourself a chance to mingle with your peers.
So, why exactly should you be starting to save some dates in your diary?
Salesforce’s growth in customer base, alongside a massive digital skills gap globally, means that there are plenty of options on the job market already.
However, since 7 in 10 jobs are not advertised publicly, with up to 80% filled using personal and professional connections, having those relationships in place won’t just open closed doors, but will help you see doors you never even knew existed in the first place.
For the 40% of Salesforce professionals who told our Careers and Hiring Guide that a lack of career and promotional aspects were motivating them to consider a new role, and the same number simply wanted a new challenge, that’s a lot of doors to be missing out on! Okay, we’ll stop saying doors now.
While getting out in person isn’t a 100% necessity to find those opportunities, the Salesforce community is close-knit, so being out there seeing people face-to-face is an easy way for people to remember you, as well as finding out about opportunities that lie under the radar.
For contractors the dial shifts a little, of course: you are your brand, and so attending events gives you the best view of what’s happening locally, meeting Salesforce customers and identifying any problems they have that you can address.
Whether you’re looking for a freelance project or full-time employment, the ultimate outcome is that by attending Salesforce events you’ll come across more job opportunities, giving you exposure to a greater variety of Salesforce projects—making you a more valuable candidate as well as aiding your longer-term career development.
It would be an outright lie for us to suggest that every Salesforce pro is on the hunt for new opportunities, of course—in fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents in our Careers and Hiring Guide told us they expect to be working for their current employer in the coming year.
So, what else can you get from attending Salesforce events? If you look at almost every date on the calendar, the itinerary is made up of leading figures talking about new innovations on the platform, or existing products, and the best practices to make sure you get the most out of them, whether that’s from keynotes or hands-on workshops.
Increasing your professional network gives you greater exposure to those new ideas and conversations, as well as new perspectives on how to use Salesforce within your own organization. Getting out there and playing your part in the community is an important way to help build your own knowledge and increase your skillset, and attending events in person accelerates that even further.
With only 61% of Salesforce professionals reporting that they are satisfied with their training and development, connecting with the right people across the Salesforce community is a key way to build up what you know, as well as giving you new perspectives on how to use that knowledge.
While technical proficiency will always be right at the top of the list for any hiring manager looking for top Salesforce talent, soft skills also tend to feature quite highly and can often be even more desirable.
After all, the amount of people who can create solutions to complex Salesforce issues is far greater than the number of professionals that can explain them to stakeholders who don’t have as much technical proficiency.
While you might not enjoy networking, there’s no getting away from it being a great way to build your soft skills, including:
Confidence: interacting with strangers may be your worst nightmare, but it’s Networking 101 and the more you do it, the more confident you’ll become. That means feeling comfortable reaching out to contacts, taking a more active part in conversations and asserting your ideas, and being proactive in making your voice heard. And, who knows—maybe asking for that raise won’t be as daunting next time round either!
Communication: you won’t grow your professional network without having conversations back and forth, either verbally or via email/messenger. Making sure you’re understood properly can require you to sharpen your communication skills, in order to get your point across effectively. That can also mean being able to express your ideas or solutions more clearly, too. One pro tip is to ensure variety within your network—it’s okay learning to communicate with someone that mirrors your own background, but being able to do that with the much more varied world that makes up the Salesforce community is invaluable.
So you’ve signed up for Dreamforce, or a local user group, and have great ambitions of sharing your knowledge with your peers, or speaking to someone you think would be a great contact ahead of taking the next step on your career journey. But you get there, look someone in the eye, then freeze.
Finding an ice breaker or a reason to talk to someone can be intimidating, whether the conversation is happening online or in-person. Thankfully, it can be simpler than you think.
Most events will offer a chance to network, whether it’s through dedicated breakout sessions or over lunch. It’s important to remember that you’re all there for the same reason, so you have that commonality as a starting point. Asking someone at a Salesforce user group what they think of the changes to Genie is far more likely to proffer a response than asking someone on the street!
Remember not to expect everyone to come to you—some events will encourage and nurture new attendees, but larger gatherings can be easy to miss attendees. So, be prepared to make the first move.
Try and get a handle on the type of people you want to speak with on that day—prospective employers, clients, mentors or simply peers that would add value to your network. When you’ve established some of them, approach confidently and have a conversation starter ready.
These can include:
Have you enjoyed the event so far?
Are you familiar with any of the speakers?
Who do you work for/what is your role?
What brought you to the event?
They may not seem the most interesting ice breakers, but keeping it tied to the event removes some of the initial awkwardness until you become more familiar with striking up conversations on your own terms.
Want to keep the conversation flowing longer? Let the other person do the talking! There’s just one thing you’ll need in order to achieve this—questions. While every conversation shouldn’t feel like a Q&A, asking questions will help keep the conversation going, and also helps build stronger relationships as you learn about the person answering them. They’ll also likely reciprocate, giving you the opportunity to tell them about yourself as well.
Also, make sure you’re willing to speak up and deviate from the gameplan you may have had in your head. If you want to know more about something the attendee has said, ask them! You’ll be far better off asking, for example, how exactly Salesforce is being used in their healthcare org, compared to immediately following up with another, completely unrelated, question.
It’ll also improve your own knowledge base and understanding, which is exactly what you’re there for, after all.
It’s also worth following up with someone that you’d like to keep a connection to within 24 hours of meeting them—whether that’s a quick email to say you enjoyed meeting with them, or connecting on LinkedIn. You’ll be fresh in mind, but making sure you personalize your message rather than something generic, will ensure that.
Virtual events can be trickier to network at, but it’s far from impossible.
Use hashtags. Finding event hashtags on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn is a great way to discover who else is attending, find out their thoughts, and also take part in the conversation yourself.
Comment on what other people are talking about, post your own content about what you’ve enjoyed or are looking forward to about the event—and remember to reply to any comments and messages you get, to help turn those interactions into relationships.
Use the chat. If there’s a live chat for attendees, or breakout rooms that allow you to speak with others, use them. Virtual events offer the perfect opportunity to strike up conversations and ask people questions without the awkwardness you may feel in person, but they’re also even easier to hide in the background of. We’ve all heard of keyboard warriors, but they don’t always have to be a bad thing—so use the protection of your monitor to be bold and strike up a conversation with someone that you might not have the courage to do in person!
Get your socials sorted. If you’re online and taking part in those conversations then it’s even easier for someone to find and connect with you immediately. Make sure your profile is up to date, and tells people who you are and what you do. You’re virtual, which means you can let your socials do the heavy lifting. Make sure you use that to your advantage!
Having something well-presented and optimized also increases the chances of someone pro-actively reaching out to you afterwards. After all, imagine if you searched an attendee and spent a few seconds on their profile wondering if that was them, or if they even actually use (for example) LinkedIn. Best to avoid others asking the same question of you.
Want some inspiration on the Salesforce events in your area? This handy Salesforce events guide should give you the inspiration you need.
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