3 Skills to Practice in Any Career
Joe Sexton recently joined PagerDuty’s Executive Advisory Board. As an experienced leader in scaling high-growth SaaS companies, we asked him to share his thoughts on how others can scale their careers in today’s workplace.
These skills can apply to any field – technical or not.
Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Persistence and lots of hard work are well-known ingredients for getting ahead in one’s career. However, one thing I’ve learned that may run contrary to popular belief is that it doesn’t necessarily take decades of experience to get ahead and fast-track your career. Over the years, I’ve polished my skills in the following three areas and they’ve made a world of difference in moving my career forward.
There are thousands upon thousands of articles about how to be a better negotiator but it all boils down to preparation. Before going into a negotiation, with a customer or partner, do your research, identify the outcomes you deem minimally acceptable, and be prepared to “argue” your side using concrete proof points.
For instance, if it’s a customer, do your homework and establish your credibility by helping a customer clarify their needs. Prioritize the relationship’s importance so that it’s worth the extra effort to earn a customer’s trust and goodwill. Businesses built on a strong foundation depend on long-term customer relationships and sometimes it requires creative ways to satisfy both the customer and business. Things to keep in mind:
- Increase the number of variables you have to work with. The greater the options in your pocket, the better your chances of closing a favorable deal. For example, by including marketing programs in the discussion, you can help build value into the price which will come later in the negotiation. Your job is to find the package or products and services that most effectively increases the value for the customer.
- Negotiations can get confusing. Customers often get frustrated by a lack of progress and they can duck out of agreements they already made and raise new issues within a moment. One way to avoid this to summarize what’s already been accomplished and what still needs to be discussed. Brief recaps help maintain momentum and reassures customers that you’re listening to them.
- Focus on your customers’ interests. Commit to a solution after it’s certain to work for both parties. Some salespeople make the mistake of saying no without explaining the why behind it, which plays into the hands of an aggressive customer or competitor. If possible, find an alternative solution to the issue that can help with achieving a positive outcome overall.
Under-Promise & Over-Deliver
When we’re first starting out in our careers, often the impulse is to tell new coworkers and bosses, “Yes, I can do that! And more! I can do it all!”
We’re social creatures often driven by the desire to impress others, particularly at a new job or in new settings. Promising the world and not delivering on your promise isn’t the best way to move ahead in a career. Instead, happily take on work and projects that you know you have the skills for and aptitude to accomplish well, and then exceed everyone’s expectations. What will likely happen is that once you do this a few times, people will start to raise their expectations, and offer you greater responsibility. In rather short fashion, you may find yourself with a new title offering higher pay, more responsibility, and more interesting work.
The caveat to this is, of course, is not to under-under promise and over-over deliver. Be realistic and responsible about the degree to which you promise things. Consistently low-balling what you’re able, and even expected, to do will raise suspicions more than it will move you ahead in your career quickly.
Finally, strike a balance between making sure the right people are aware of your achievements but avoid being perceived as someone who “manages up.” Gaining the confidence of your colleagues and subordinates is always more beneficial to your career than spending too much energy on the higher ups. Ever notice a promotion that’s announced that gets overwhelming positive responses from the organization? That’s a person who focused on doing their best and everyone knows it. They will always go further in their career than the person who only worries about how they are perceived by management. But do make sure the people that helped you along the way get recognized as well. Everyone knows that if they see a turtle sitting on top of a fencepost, it didn’t get there by itself.
When it comes to networking, some people are naturally gifted with an outgoing and social demeanor, but not all of us are like that — some of us are introverts or relatively shy in unfamiliar situations. Regardless, networking is key to moving ahead quickly in your career. That old phrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” has proven true throughout my career.
Networking doesn’t necessarily have to mean working the room at a cocktail event and handing out business cards to everyone you lock eyes with. It can be as simple as keeping track of who you’ve worked with over the years, remaining connected via communication channels like LinkedIn or Twitter, and making a concerted effort to keep in touch from time to time. This way, when you are looking to move to a new position or to expand your company’s business, you can comfortably look to your network for support.
Networking isn’t just glad-handing and idle chitchat. It’s also asking for help. People like being asked for help — just think of yourself. When someone asks you for guidance, they’re also telling you they believe you have the smarts, skills and expertise to help them. Now that feels good, right? Same thing applies to networking. As you network, don’t be afraid to ask for help or input. On the flip side, always be willing to give the same help when asked in a networking capacity. Not only is it the right and decent thing to do, but it will make others want to help you in your career later on. Plus I’ve found you learn far more from teaching and helping others.
Of course, there are many other factors to getting ahead quickly in one’s career, ranging from choosing the right company that supports your professional development, to using your strongest individual skills to show your value in ways that stand out. For those who may not know how to get on the fast track, these are the three areas I’ve found over the years to be the most helpful in accelerating my career. Apply them to your own unique situation and see how much of a difference it can make!
Interested in joining PagerDuty and fast-tracking your career? Check out all of our openings on our careers page and apply today!