Marketing yourself as a SharePoint developer

Troubled times ahead, lay-offs more and more frequent, tougher job market, and customers suddenly thinking twice before jumping on the SharePoint wagon. How will you cope?

Welcome, class, to “Landing that High-paying SharePoint Job 101”. Today we’re going to talk a bit about how you can convince your customers to invest in you as their SharePoint developer.

1. Keep your customers’ needs in mind

Most people, and even more so with companies, think primarily of themselves. If you want to convince your customer to hire you rather than the next guy who walks in the door you need to show them that what you will deliver gives them value.

Consider the following resume:

“I have been working with MOSS for three years and have delivered more than 15 successful projects for Fortune 500 companies. I have worked in IT for 9 years and have extensive experience in C#, .Net, and SQL”

In itself, this might be an impressive wrap sheet, but you just turned your job interview into a numbers game. The customer can compare ‘three years on MOSS’, ’15 projects’, and ‘9 years experience’ with any other consultant, and if they find someone with higher numbers you just lost the game. Of course, beating three years of MOSS will be difficult, but you get the point…

Now consider this:

“I have worked with companies where I have shown how to use SharePoint to optimize business processes. I have accomplished this by reducing overhead, speed up deliveries, and provide better service to the customers, resulting in reduced need for manager intervention, lower delivery cost, and increased customer retention rate”

The latter resume focuses on what you have done and can do, not how long you have done it.

2. Do not sell SharePoint, sell problem solutions

The customer does not care about you. The customer does not care about SharePoint. A few months or maybe a year ago you could mention SharePoint to your spouse over dinner and customers would knock your door down trying to get you to work for them. These days customers want to hear about their own problems and how you can solve them. For all they care the product can be called “ACME’s click here to save your business ™” – if it fixes their problems, what’s in a name, right?

So, start by listening to what your customer needs. Then, focus on how you think that problem can be solved. If, by chance, SharePoint is the answer then all the better.

Let’s say your customer has problems with customer support – the time it takes to fix a problem is far too long. Your answer might be to introduce a knowledge management system to help support technicians find answers faster and make it easier to share new solutions. Using, oh, say a software solution that can be used for searching… Something that can be customized to provide a great user experience… Something built for sharing…

Notice that the solution is a knowledge management system. Not SharePoint. SharePoint just happens to be a brilliant system for sharing information and organizing that information, but you still need to sell the customer a solution to their problem, not a product.

3. Be confident in your own knowledge

You might be the most brilliant developer on the face of mother earth. You may be able to recite every best practice there ever was. In your sleep. While being gagged. That’s all great, but if you do not believe you are capable of providing added value to the company then you will never be able to convince the company that you are the right person. Again, companies are not there to do you a favor by hiring you, they are there to get as much value as possible from as little effort as possible.

So, when preparing for an interview or a sales pitch, focus your mind on where you are strong.

However, to really build confidence you must also be aware of your weaknesses. If you plain suck at SQL, no problem, take 5 minutes to write down, for yourself, what you can do to improve. Hate design and CSS? Great, spend 30 minutes online to map out a plan and find the right training resources. You don’t have to go through everything you plan, but it is important that you realize that anywhere you might feel below standard you can improve.

4. Be visible

I just went over my incoming calls on my cell phone, and of the last 20 calls, 15 were from head hunters and companies looking to hire me.

(Just in case any of those people are reading this: I do not have time to get dressed in the morning, much less take on more work. )

Why did they call? Most of them have found my profile online, especially on LinkedIn. Recruiters, being people, at least most of them, also Google you the second they find anything remotely interesting. Heck, I even Google many of the people who subscribe to my mailing list, just in case they know something from which I can learn.

What disappoints me is if I find nothing. I mean, how much trouble can it be to stop by a forum, either ask a question or even better, answer one. You can even write a blog article in someone else’s blog. Take two hours of your schedule and write a short presentation about something you did. Don’t worry, you are probably going to look like a fool, but at least I would much rather hire a fool I know than an expert with no visible track record.

And, if you are posting something that’s wrong, people will let you know. And you can learn. Which leads me to the final tip:

5. Gnothi Seauton

Yeah, I’m trying one of those ‘WTF!’ tricks to get you curious. Curious is good, because curious leads to discoveries, and discoveries leads to knowledge.

Go on, Google the phrase. You know you want to.

So what does ancient Greek oracles have to do with SharePoint? Nothing! But learning does. SharePoint is a massive field that takes a lifetime to master. You will never know everything there is to know, and that is a good thing, because that means you can continue to learn more and improve. Never, not for a single second, think that you know enough.

Once you have the attitude of wanting to learn more, to explore, and to be curious, you start gaining confidence. The only true confidence comes from knowledge, and just the knowledge of that fact can give you a competitive edge in an interview.

“Mr. Anderson. I see that you have never worked with BDC. We rely heavily on BDC, so why should you be our best candidate?”

“Ah”, you say, “you know, BDC wasn’t around until late 2006, so most people do not know that much in any case. Since that time, however, I have focused on learning [this] and [that] in SharePoint, and I am confident [yes you really are] that getting up to speed with any new technology, whether it is BDC or new features introduced in vNext, comes as easy to me as everything else.”

Because you like to learn and improve.

Know thyself

.b

Of course, having a bit of fun wouldn’t be a bad thing either…

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

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