Are you up a tree? Here’s the best career strategy ever

Here is an article written by Steve Tobak for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

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Are you up a tree?

Stuck in your career? Still looking for that dream job, dream company, or dream career? Haven’t found your passion yet … or it hasn’t found you? Then you absolutely need to check out the One Thing Leads to Another career strategy.

It’s not some theoretical construct or research project; it’s how I managed my career in the real world, which I guess worked out pretty well. To be honest, I didn’t know I was doing anything special at the time, I was just doing what made sense to me.

Will it work for you or anyone else? Absolutely. It’s simply a set of empirical, common sense techniques for learning to follow the right pathways that will ultimately lead to job happiness and career success.

It’s sort of like climbing a tree. There are lots of limbs to try, but you look for the strongest branches and the ones that ultimately lead upward. Sometimes you hit a bad branch or it doesn’t lead upward, so you backtrack and find a different one. That’s okay, as long as you keep moving.

In fact, once upon a time Fast Company ran a story that featured one of my unconventional methods for climbing the corporate ladder called “Twice the Career in Half the Time.” There was another feature story where the writer called my career peripatetic. I know; I had to look it up too.

The point is don’t follow the popular or conventional path. Why not? Because, that’s what everyone does, so you won’t come out ahead. Also, most jobs are filled through intimate connections, and the higher up you go, the more true that is. That, more than anything, is why this is…

The Best Career Strategy Ever

[Tobak offers seven specific suggestions. Here are the first three. To read the complete article, please click here.]

1. Forget headhunters. Over 20+ years, every job change, including every senior executive job but one, was from a personal referral or network (not social, old school). Only once was I ever actually placed by a headhunter or executive recruiter. If I’d known what a waste of time all those calls and interviews were going to be, I could have saved a ridiculous amount of wasted time.

2. Groom yourself. When I hit a wall as an engineering manager, I decided to get some sales and marketing experience, so I took a step back and accepted an offer to be a sales rep and carry a bag to learn the skill-set. Sounds like a step down, but I met loads of executives at other companies and one startup CEO hired me to run worldwide sales. That resulted in my first successful startup experience and IPO.

3. Interview constantly. You can’t possibly know what you’re missing until you see it, and looking exposes you to options and opportunities. Example: As an engineering manager locked away inside a big company, I interviewed a bunch of times, my name got around, someone called, and I got to move to California, open and manage a small operation, and interface directly with customers. Over the next few years I kept interviewing, again my name got around, the phone rang, and I eventually landed at my first Silicon Valley startup. It was a flop, but it opened up a whole new world – and network.

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The common thread through all of this is gain exposure, network, follow up fast, keep moving, and when you see something you like, go get it. Sooner or later, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Just like climbing a tree, sooner or later, you get to the top.

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Steve Tobak is a consultant, writer, and former senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He’s the managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based firm that provides strategic consulting, executive coaching, and speaking services to CEOs and management teams of small-to-mid-sized companies. Find out more at Follow Steve on Twitter or Facebook.


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