The Salesforce ecosystem can be a wild ride, especially when it comes to your career and the path you choose. It has the power to surprise you, and take your career in directions you never thought possible.
Whilst there is no right or wrong path when it comes to your professional career, this post will focus on some lessons I’ve learned in my ten years in the Salesforce ecosystem. These might seem somewhat unconventional, or even counter-intuitive, but I hope they help you navigate the crazy world that is the Salesforce ecosystem.
1. Don’t Chase the Big Bucks… Initially
If you’ve already started researching careers in Salesforce, then I’m sure you’ve seen some of the crazy salary statistics flying around. In a nutshell, Salesforce salaries are so high due to the impact you as a professional can have on businesses that implement the system.
The good news is, once you have a few Salesforce certifications and a couple of years of experience under your belt, you might start seeing six-figure offers from companies and recruiters in your LinkedIn inbox.
This is extremely exciting and also fantastic for your self-confidence, but don’t lose sight of your professional progression. You have plenty of time to make good money in the Salesforce ecosystem, but you only get one shot at building a good foundation for the rest of your career.
2. Build Your Career Foundations
Following on from the previous section, in your foundational career phase (0-3 years), you need to ensure you pick a company that aligns with your professional goals and has a proper support system in place.
The company you work for, your colleagues, managers, and mentors will play a big part in your professional development.
However, this will differ depending on your own strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. If you are an individual who thrives in a team environment and enjoys having the backup of your colleagues, then working at a large end user or a consultancy may be perfect.
But if you are a confident individual who enjoys a challenge (and maybe has the support of external mentors), you may thrive in a solo-admin role.
3. Don’t Benchmark Yourself Against Anyone Else
There are plenty of stories in the ecosystem of Salesforce professionals achieving extraordinary feats in a record amount of time. You will most likely see individuals with only a few years of experience, over 20 certifications, or someone who has doubled their salary overnight.
It can sometimes be hard not to compare yourself to others, but if you create your own path forward, success will follow.
As long as you are learning and progressing as a professional, success will be right around the corner. Although six-figure salaries are common with around three years of Salesforce experience, remember that money isn’t everything. The Salesforce ecosystem commonly promotes other benefits such as remote and flexible working, which can mean a great deal more than money for some people.
4. Certifications Are Great, but No Substitute for Experience
Whilst we are on the topic of certifications, please repeat this phrase with me: “Certifications are great, but they are no substitute for experience”.
It’s quite common for newcomers to get sucked into a trap of believing that certifications create a shortcut to move up in the world of Salesforce. Every experienced Salesforce professional and hiring manager knows this is not the case.
Salesforce certifications are great to reinforce learning and prove to potential employers that you have a certain degree of knowledge about a product. But there is no substitute for working on Salesforce implementations in the real world, and experiencing all of the ups and downs that come with it.
One sure-fire way to maximize your certification journey is to ensure you are learning the concepts, and not just learning the answers to the multiple-choice questions. Ensure that, as well as the theory, you are practicing implementing and customizing the features in a developer org.
5. Ask for Feedback
Regularly asking for feedback from your colleagues, managers, and mentors, will move you towards becoming a complete professional.
I remember being a young, confident, Salesforce professional with two years of experience under my belt, and while I was pretty good at Salesforce technically, my soft skills were falling down, and it wasn’t until I had some honest, candid feedback from my colleagues that this became apparent.
It’s impossible for us as individuals to see these ‘blind spots’, so ask for feedback regularly.
6. Improve Your Soft Skills
This brings us nicely to our next point. Whilst Salesforce’s roles are largely technical, soft skills are still equally (if not more) important.
You could be the best Salesforce professional in the world, but if people don’t like working with you, or struggle to understand how you communicate, then you could quite easily struggle to keep a job!
This becomes even more relevant as you move up the career ladder to more senior roles. You could find yourself working less on Salesforce implementations, and more working with people: stakeholders, mentoring, and managing.
Skills such as verbal and written communication are vitally important in all Salesforce roles. There’s no shame in admitting these aren’t your strong suit, but just ensure you know these are an improvement area for you.
7. Plan Your Career Years in Advance
With all the career content in and around the Salesforce ecosystem, you might already have a goal in mind.
This could be to achieve the coveted Certified Technical Architect Certification, where you can earn some of the highest salaries in the Salesforce ecosystem. Or maybe you want to take control of your own life and become a contractor or freelancer.
Whatever your ultimate goal, you can plan your career path so that you are joining the right company, in the right role, to ensure you get experience in the right places.
It will be hard to achieve the CTA certification, or become a freelance consultant without working for a Salesforce consultancy who work on some of the most complex implementations around. Similarly, if you want to work as a solution engineer for Salesforce, you – ideally – need some commercial Salesforce experience that an end user wouldn’t be able to provide.
8. The Salesforce Community Is Your Lifeline
If you are new to this ecosystem, let me be the first one to tell you, the Salesforce community is an absolute gold mine for your career.
The nice thing about Salesforce, is that people are so willing to spend time with you and help you reach your career goals. After all, these people who want to help you, have been helped by Salesforce professionals themselves.
There are so many online and in-person communities to get involved with across Slack, Twitter, and LinkedIn, not to mention the official Salesforce community. Although I had to pluck up the courage to go to my first in-person user group meeting, the connections I’ve made have helped me throughout my entire career.
By meeting new people and building connections year on year, doors and opportunities will continue to open like clockwork.
9. Don’t Burn Bridges
The Salesforce ecosystem has grown considerably in recent years – Salesforce announced at Dreamforce 2022 that there are now 17 million Trailblazers across the globe!
Even though we exist in this huge ecosystem, it’s also very tight-knit, and Salesforce professionals will have large networks spanning the globe.
This means it’s a very good idea not to burn your bridges when leaving a company, and in general. While you may have very good reasons for wanting to leave a company due to individuals, internal processes, or management, it’s best to leave amicably and leave any sourness in the past.
10. Be Nice
Finally, be nice, be genuine, bring your whole self to work, and remain an optimistic problem solver – this will get you far in the ecosystem.
Salesforce can be a tricky expanse to navigate career-wise, with so many factors affecting your decisions. Whether you know exactly which path you want to take, or you’re waiting to see where the ecosystem leads you, I hope these tips help guide you to achieving great things.
Let us know in the comments if you have any ‘unconventional’ career advice…