5 Steps to Jump-Start Your Salesforce CareerSalesforce is a hot product and has created quite a stir in the technology industry. New customers are signing contracts every single day, and that means that more and more Salesforce Administrators, Developer and Consultants are needed.

Getting your Salesforce career started isn’t difficult, but it may take time. Salesforce has matured enough that companies are looking for experienced individuals with a proven knowledge of the platform and hands-on experience. However, by taking the appropriate steps to learn and network, you can find your Salesforce dream job.

Below are the five steps I think you should take to jump-start your career. I have also included some of the frequent questions I get about starting a career at the bottom of the post.

1. CREATE A FREE ADMIN PLAYGROUND ACCOUNT

Anyone interested in learning Salesforce should create a free #AwesomeAdmin edition account. This provides you access to all of the features and functionality of Salesforce, which allows you to explore and play with the newest features and get hands-on experience with the application.

Admin orgs are 100% free forever and will remain active as long as you log in once every six months. I personally still have and use my original admin org that is now four years old!

With this org, you can do the following.

  • Install AppExchange packages to test them and become familiar with the install process.
  • Build new features and functionality in Salesforce (like custom fields, objects, and workflow rules).
  • Create and execute APEX code (for those who are developers) including Visualforce.
  • Access the Salesforce Success Community, which provides an endless supply of Salesforce documentation produced by Salesforce and the community.
  • and much more.

The Admin account is your portal to learning and playing with Salesforce. It’s easy to setup so take a moment to that before you do anything else.

Click here to create your free admin playground account.

2. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

Once your admin account is created, it’s time to start playing! There are multiple resources available which I recommend for getting started.

Salesforce Trailhead is an interactive learning tool developed by Salesforce. It’s very similar to Code Academy in that it has modules you’ll work through using your admin org. Along the way, you’ll learn the basics of Salesforce while earning points and badges. It’s phenomenal (and totally free). Take the custom Admin Hero Trailmix specifically designed for this blog post which will help you get started!

Force.com Platform Fundamentals is the “old school” way of learning Salesforce. This large book is very detailed and thorough. It’s still an excellent resource and provides some in-depth content that will get you even deeper into the fundamentals of the application. This PDF version is updated with each of the three Salesforce releases.

If you are interested in the true documentation style training guides, check out this page that links to all of the Force.com books currently available for reference. If you attend Dreamforce, and you prefer printed books, be sure to go to the Developer Zone to get a hard copy of the most recent version.

Salesforce Cheat Sheets are also available. These quick reference guides can be printed and hung in your office. Even as an experienced Administrator, I still reference these on occasion for a quick reminder of how to leverage specific functionality. These too can be found at Dreamforce as a nice printed and laminated hard-copy.

Zero to Hero is a post series right here on Admin Hero that aims to simplify some of the official Salesforce documentation and provide an easy way to learn the basics of Salesforce.

Salesforce’s YouTube channel is also a great resource for those of us who like video learning. Between Salesforce produced topical how-to videos to hour-long Dreamforce session videos, this is an excellent resource.

3. JOIN A USER GROUP AND NETWORK

Networking is one of the single best things I have personally done for my career, and most of the people I have met have been through my local user group.

With over 200 users groups around the world, there is bound to be one in your area. These groups are 100% by the community, for the community. They provide a way to learn new features of the platform, learn how other customers are using Salesforce, and meet local Salesforce talent who can help you find jobs or answer questions you have on a regular basis.

To get the most out of these meetings, you need to overcome any fears you have with networking. Make it a goal to engage in a conversation with at least one person and trade contact information. You’ll find that this will slowly build your network and you’ll perhaps find a mentor or job opportunity.

Click here to find a user group in your area.

4. LEVERAGE YOUR SOCIAL NETWORKS

Social media is a great way to build your network and engage with others in the community. Salesforce users tend to prefer Twitter, but you’ll find Salesforce users sharing information on nearly every social network.

Jump into the conversation. Follow people or topics that are interesting to you. Begin to get on the radar of those in the community. I have learned a lot from users on Twitter and the Success Community. Find a channel that you can quickly engage in and have at it.

5. VOLUNTEER

Once you have a baseline knowledge of Salesforce, it’s time to apply that knowledge to a real-world scenario. If you’re needing to build your resume with projects before getting a full-time job somewhere, volunteering is an excellent way to do that.

Nonprofits all over the world are finding the value of Salesforce and due to limited resource, they are also looking for talented individuals to help set up or maintain their Salesforce orgs on small projects.

There are multiple places to find volunteer opportunities. Check out the Salesforce Foundation or Community Corps for virtual or local pro bono volunteer opportunities.

Now that we’ve covered the steps to get started let me address some common questions.

DO I HAVE THE SKILLS TO BECOME A SALESFORCE ADMINISTRATOR?

I get asked this question a lot. Many people are looking to make a career change, and there is concern that they don’t have the experience or background the become a successful Salesforce Administrator.

It’s important to remember that Salesforce is a tool, and any tool can be learned. It’s similar to learning Facebook, or Outlook or how to pay a bill online. To learn Salesforce does not require any particular background. Anyone can learn it.

A Salesforce Administrator is a business process expert. Administrators work closely with business stakeholders to learn and understand issues happening in existing processes or to gather requirements for new processes. The skill to being a Salesforce Administrator comes in knowing how to take those process requirements and implement them successfully in Salesforce.

There are multiple characteristics that successful Salesforce Administrators should possess. You should note that these characteristics are my opinion and not a requirement. But the really good Salesforce Administrators that I’ve met possess these characteristics.

  • Ability to listen and empathize with users. This is a “customer facing” position. Users are your customers. They deserve great customer service. If you have the ability to listen and learn about their problems, issues, and needs, you’ll do great.
  • Exceptional communicator. Communication is critical. Not only are the best administrators great at listening, but they are great at communicating. This role tends to work with individuals at all levels; from the CEO to the end user. Knowing how to communicate effectively with each at each level will bode well.
  • Ability to think outside the box. There is not a set way to do anything in Salesforce. That’s part of the beauty of the tool. That also means that for any one process or set of requirements, there are multiple solutions. You’ll need to think outside the box to ensure that all possibilities are captured and that the needs of the business are being met. This requires creative and critical thinking.

SHOULD I BECOME AN ADMINISTRATOR OR DEVELOPER?

Another common question is, should I become an Administrator or Developer?

This question is hard to answer because everyone is different. But, there is some basic information I can provide that may help you make a decision.

Administrators tend to be more customer-facing. We work with the business directly on a more regular basis. This requires a different skill set as a result. Administrators focus on declarative development (meaning we develop with clicks, not code).

Developers are typically knowledgeable in another coding language or have the ability to learn a coding language. While they do work directly with business users and stakeholders, they tend to operate more in the background; working more closely with the Administrator than the internal customer.

If you are interested in becoming a Developer, it is still recommended that you learn Salesforce as an Administrator. Ideally, you should not create code for something that can be done declaratively with the application. The only way to know what can and can’t be done with the platform using declarative development is to learn it! The best developers will validate this as well.

If you are still unsure of where to go down the track of Admin or Developer track, read this post, Beginner’s Guide to Salesforce Certification, to learn more.

Remember, you can do this! You just need to want it bad enough.

  By Brent Downey