You finally figured out that the field of customer success is right for you. Congrats! But now you're wondering, “How do I stand out in this crowd of applicants?” This question is not new. I have asked it several times myself and heard it often from my clients. You could say that question was the impetus for the process that is now my coaching business and the “why” behind why I wrote my eBook, “How to Land and Succeed a Career in Customer Success: A Success Playbook for Your Employment Journey”. It is literally a crash course on key ideas, themes, and movements in the customer success space so that when you interview, you can speak intelligently about the field.
Knowing how to present yourself in the best light can be quite the balance. How do you emphasize your attributes without coming off as verbose or bragging? What is the best way to read your interviewer and know precisely what they are looking for in a candidate? You want to wow them with what I have coined your CS IQ™, but there is a proper way to go about this, one that will present you in the right light.
Below are 5 key steps to landing your dream customer success job, PLUS two real life client stories with (1) a lesson learned and (2) using your SuperPower to knock that employer's socks off during the job hunting process.
FOLLOW THESE 5 STEPS
During your job hunt, you may have figured out that the pursuit of your customer success “dream job” is a dance of sorts. It begins with a few key steps.
Prepare for the right employer and the right job. If the position you’re applying for is not the right job or company, it can take away from efforts that drive your success, growth, and upward trajectory, so spend time deciding what's most important to you in a company or job (see "Final Parting Words below for a tool to do this). And know that practice makes progress, so get some serious practice in before you jump right into applying for that #1 dream customer success position. It's important to improve your skill set, add to your CS tool box, get some job hunting experience under your belt so that you can nab that dream job in no time!
Craft the best possible cover letter, resume, and online presence. Your cover letter should provide one to three authentic, differentiating reasons why you’re an excellent fit for the job you are applying for. If you can’t do this, it's not your dream job. As for the resume, be sure you're using the right keywords and phrases by using the employer's job description as a roadmap. By using their language (and the language of customer success), you have a much better shot of getting real eyeballs on your resume--and not getting bypassed by ATS--and interest in YOU. Finally ensure your online presence matches who you portray yourself to be in your resume and cover letter. A little bit of variety in all 3 is good, but if they're vastly different messages, then spend time discovering who you really are, what your strengths are, what makes you unique, etc.
Connect. Don’t overlook this crucial step. Join networking groups--customer success or otherwise--where your ideal employers or potential managers participate. Engage in those groups, and comment on their posts, whether they be on Linkedin, Twitter or other similar networking sites. Believe it or not, they will begin to notice your responses to their posts and become more familiar with who you are, including the CEO. Familiarity and similarity breeds likeability, so the more you engage in what they're engaged in, the better your chances of them noticing you and engaging with you. So try creating your own post mentioning something they've said that resonated with you and tag them. Or comment on their posts. They may just check your profile out, at which time you can reach out directly! Also, check out what employees are saying about their company. Business review sites, such as Glassdoor, publish anonymous reviews from previous and current employees that can give you that insider information you need, including what their Customer Success Team is like!
Do your due diligence. Learn who is interviewing you. Is it a recruiter or a hiring manager for the company’s Human Resources department? If you get through the initial interview and you are in the next phase of the hiring process, this is where doing your due diligence can really pay off. Find out as much as you can about the individual you are about to meet with. I don’t encourage stalking them...well, maybe a little...or a lot...whatever, the point is you can find out almost anything on the Internet. Look for pertinent information, such as alma mater or common connections on LinkedIn. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other similar sites. The goal is to find anything that will help you make an authentic connection, and have you stand out.
Practice! Going in for an interview is not one of those occasions where I advise you to “wing it.” Think of questions they may ask. Look online for already prepared questions that they may use. Don’t be afraid to look in online forums and ask if anyone has interviewed for that job, at the company, or with your interviewer. You may even find a video on YouTube, a podcast, a blog, or article online that can prepare you for the interview. LinkedIn has an excellent course that can help you create engaging answers to typical interview questions.
Now, look in the mirror--or even better record yourself with your iPhone--and answer your questions. Next, ask a friend to run the questions with you. One caution: don’t over-prepare to the point where you sound like a robot. Be fresh and engaging and stay up on trends of interview protocols. Make sure you show your excitement about potentially joining the company and that you are enjoying the interview. Convince them this is the best experience in the world, show that positive attitude, and go in there with a fantastic smile on your face. You are, in a sense, a salesperson of yourself. Don't underestimate or undersell your product--which is you!
Know That It's a Numbers Game
In the job search journey, it's important to note some key facts. On average:
It takes 10 to 20 applications to get 1 interview.
It takes 10 to 15 interviews to receive 1 job offer.
To progress quickly through your employment journey, I recommend applying to a minimum of 10 jobs a day.
Now, if you are new to the job-hunting process or it's been awhile since you've been through the job hunting process, it's important to get acquainted with all the activities connected to this process. Even if you are new to CS and never have been a Customer Success Manager, you still need to go through the steps of filling out all the applications, attaching the cover letter, and getting that resume ready. It is a golden circle. The more you practice, the more you improve. The more you improve, the sharper your skills become...and the more ready you'll be when you finally go after your dream customer success job.
One is Not Enough:
a client's story of lessons learned
Over the years, there have been many examples of success and challenges for my clients. One such challenge, I have to own. I I made the wrong assumption, believing that this client understood some of the key nuances of the job search process. The truth is that not everyone knows the work necessary to find that “perfect” job, because they haven't had to go through the process very often...they're the lucky ones(!)...just not when it comes to job hunting.
So, some may not have the job hunting experience, others may not have the customer success experience, and very few people have both. No matter what the case, part of the exercise of finding that ideal position is first applying to as many employment opportunities as possible, because it's a numbers game.
As for my client, I wrongly assumed their understanding of this, only to find out halfway
through our sessions that they were applying to only 1-3 CSM jobs per week. Once I realized that we readjusted the process. They started casting out a wider net once I showed them the statistics above.
So, if you don’t get many responses, don’t worry. It's normal! Plus it helps you hone and practice your skillset, so it's not a lost cause or wasted time. Consider job hunting and applying is much like an evergreen "renewal" process, like they have in SaaS companies. That renewal is coming due, and as long as you're doing the work and giving those customers what they want, they will renew...or, in this case, hire you!
The lesson learned from the client was to apply to at least 10 jobs every day with the goal of two to three late-round or stage interviews.
So, prepare, especially if you are new in the SaaS or tech industry, or CS field. And remember, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes progress! And forward progress eventually wins the race.
After all, you can’t expect to make it to the Olympics after your first 5K run. It takes time and practice. Become super focused. When you reach the stage of two to three interviews regularly, you know you have finally hit your stride and are finally ready to go after the gold...the gold being your #1 dream job or company.
Sometimes Your Superpower is Undiscovered:
a client's story of skills transferrance
The ideal scenario is to have 2-3 offers at the same time, so you're in a better position to negotiate. This scenario happened to one of my client's journeys toward employment success:
My client had been interviewing for many positions on their own but weren't sealing the deal. They would get to a certain point in the employment journey and then progress would stall. They were not closing the deal. That is when they decided to hire me.
I took them through the process of self-discovery questions. What was this their ideal job? Where in SaaS did they want to land? With questions such as these, the self-discovery exercise revealed that though they were an account manager at the world's premier research and advisory company, they didn't have a true SaaS background, yet their dream job was to be placed in a cutting edge part of SaaS, called SaaS Ops.
However, the job description made it clear to them that they didn't have the proper background in SaaS Ops. That is when I decided to reassess and reorganize the plan of employment action by digging into their background. It was then wealized there was relevant work experience in their background. During their tenure at their current company, they worked on a project with a client who was in the SaaS space and it was a SaaS Ops-related project. That was it! We were able to demonstrate his SaaS operations experience through this project to accomplish his client's goals.
Then we focused the messaging to reflect that experience by rewriting their resume. Though they may not have matched the job description on paper, they could easily fill the position and perform it well.
This was a more cutting edge SaaS company, and had done away with the traditional cover letter. Instead, they asked applicants to provide a unique personal statement. Together we considered what would make them stand out among all the other candidates. What was their "superpower?"
Then I learned that my client was a huge Marvel movie geek! I then crafted a personal USP statement about which Marvel character embodies their work—Silver Surfer and Shuri. We emphasized their characteristics of loyalty and teamwork, while we correlated past experience with future ability. Within six weeks and three final interviews, they landed that dream job!
Final Parting Words of Advice
So, don't be afraid to recognize that many of your current skills, though outside of a typical customer success management job, can transfer well if you know how to change the perspective properly. For instance, an HR associate will understand the need for processes, project management, and relationship building which transition nicely into CS. Another plus is emphasizing any customer facing positions. Though it may not be a customer success role, it's still a customer-facing role, and is worth emphasizing. Relationship-building and helping customers achieve their goals are sometimes seen as soft skills, but in the customer centric universe of CS, it is everything.
Another thing to consider is your ability to be creative and promote your personal "superpowers" in a personal statement or cover letter. By practicing, researching, and using critical thinking, you will refine your abilities. If you aren't sure about how your skills match up to potential jobs, compare your Linkedin profile to other applicants for currently available jobs through their premium subscription. This job search feature lets you know if you are in the top 10% of applicants. It's a great tool to help gauge what jobs you are ready to apply for.
There are a few more resources that can help you, which will be part of my new content library platform that is coming soon. It has templates, scorecards, and other tools to help you. All the templates are built off my "Learning Your ABC's" Process of A.ssess, B.uild, C.apture. One resource from my content library (coming soon!), is a Decision Matrix that enables you to rate which categories matter most in the job you seek, including Product, Financial Benefits, Culture, and so on. You can narrow your employer choices through a grading process based on what you want from them and what they actually offer. See my P.S. at the bottom to get it!
In your pursuit of the perfect job, remember to do your research, take into account all that you have to offer, and don't forget to incorporate your education, experience, certifications, networking groups, and content created into your resume. I believe there's something about us that aligns to our dream job, we just have to find it! If you get stuck, look for an advisor or hire a coach like me. They can get you unstuck, and focus you on the things that will get you to the finish line of securing that dream customer success management job.
Wishing you great luck in achieving your customer success career goals...go get 'em!
If you'd like to know when my content library and free resources are available sign up for my mailing list at www.danasoza.com/mailing-list