Archive for ‘Start-ups’

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Risky Job Changes

Risk is always a consideration when changing jobs. What are the downsides of making this move and is this a risky move for me?gambling

Usually when you hear the word risk, reward is not far behind. With job change, the reward does not necessarily increase along with the risk.

So first, let’s look at what the downside could be when making a job change. First we should note that when someone is just getting going in their career, there really isn’t much risk to any job move you make.

1. low job security: Once you realize that your job security is not provided by the company you work for you will realize that a job change is not risky in that sense. Your job security is derived from your skills and value in the market. If a company is having financial problems, you can move along if you have built up your career equity. The risk is more about the fact that it is a pain and inconvenient to look for another job when you weren’t planning on doing so.

2. skill atrophy: For example, if you move to a company that is using legacy or proprietary technology then the risk is that you are limiting your options in the market and not growing your knowledge and skill set. Interestingly, skills can atrophy if you stay at the same job too long as well.

3. network dilution: If you are the best performer in your group or company and no one challenges you or motivates you to higher performance you risk losing your “edge”. Cultivating a network where you are the star does not provide you with the kind of reference network that will increase your value in the market. Chances are you will sink to the level of your peers if you stay around them too long. The risk is that your value will decrease with the quality of your references.

The other kind of risks are related to the “fit” of the specific job change you are considering. In this case both you and the company have risks.

The important relationship to consider is the inverse relationship between a risk hire and the quality of the company. Companies assume risk when they hire someone to do a job they have never done before. The risk is; will the new hire be successful at the new position, will they come up to speed soon enough and how much resources will be required to get them productive. If you analyze why a company would offer you a “risk fit” job, at some point you will ask the question, why couldn’t they hire someone that is qualified for that job? The answer will be that the quality of the company cannot attract qualified candidates.

The risk to you is similar, will I be able to perform this job at a high level? A case can be made that a good strategy is to move to a new company in a position that you know you will excell. Then grow into new roles and responsibilities once you are a known performer and the promotion can be done with less risk on both sides.

The point is not that you shouldn’t make risk moves, sometimes it works, but be aware of what you are getting into by taking a job you have never done before.

In general, great companies hire people that are qualified and a company that gives you a promotion and a job you have never done, may have some downside issues to be aware of.

So risk can be managed by understanding the downsides and the factors involved in a job change. With this knowledge you can make the decisions that will minimize your risk appropriate to the goals you are trying to achieve.

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Career Traction

When managers review resumes, one of the key points they look for is traction. If there is a succession of moves after only one year for the last seven years, there is no traction. If the job titles or amount of responsibility don’t increase over time, there is no traction in the job history.

Traction equates to passion, commitment, willingness to learn and take on more responsibility. All attributes required by startups. Without traction, it is clear that the person is a 9 to 5er and not the caliber of employee desired by a startup or any performance oriented organization.

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5 Reasons to not work at a Startup

1. Getting two to five times more accomplished and building my experience and therefore my resume much faster is not my kind of thing.

2. Working with the top 20% in my field and learning from some of the brightest individuals in my industry means I won’t be the big fish in the little pond.

3. I’m much more interested in collecting a paycheck than looking forward to getting up in the morning and building something useful with a group of other people that share my enthusiasm for what we are doing.

4. I rely on the stability of my established employer even though I know that job security doesn’t come from my company. I prefer to rely on a faceless, impersonal corporation whose sole concern is self preservation, rather than on my skills and experience which provide my real job security.

5. That sounds like a really good opportunity for me but I hadn’t planned on making a move now.

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Job Postings are Dead

Are job postings going to go away? No. The point is that a posting is a requirement that is fixed in time, when in reality a position’s requirements are dynamic and “alive” in the sense of being subject to change. This is especially true when an early stage company is building a team. The analogy is akin to building an amorphous jigsaw puzzle where each subsequent piece changes to fit in with the one preceding it. Hiring managers put the team together based upon the skills and experience of each additional member. The six job requirements that were posted originally have now changed, and the remaining three positions are much different than the originals.

The point is, not applying for a role at a company that is a match for you because you do not see a job posting is a major mistake. Good companies make roles for great candidates based upon the availability of the candidate.

Another fact to consider: The majority of hires are made prior to or without a job posting. Not submitting a resume to a “good fit” company is a very limiting proposition.

Bottom line: As you cannot really be described by a resume, neither can the opportunity available to you be described by a job posting. There are probably several different positions for you to consider. Don’t depend on seeing a job posting that fits your experience and interest. Find a great company first and then explore with them what you can bring to the team.

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Resume writing

Your resume does not get you a job. It gets you an interview. Therefore it should be written to succinctly describe your quantifiable accomplishments and create interest with the hiring manager.

When a manager receives your resume, they are going to read every line and take their time to delve into the details of your career……….. not.

Usually a manager will have a stack of resumes and quickly pass over them all. What stands out for managers is where you work or have worked, quantifiable accomplishments such as what products you have shipped or how much you have exceeded quota. What they do not look at is a summary or objective. At this point they are trying to fill their needs not yours.

As much as some people dislike the idea, buzzword compliance is necessary. Mainly to make it through the recruiters screen. But do not just throw a skill on without the experience. This will quickly kill an opportunity when a manager finds you don’t have the skills you said you did.

Beyond accomplishments, personal details can potentially create interest with a hiring manager. Certainly a blog is a good idea.

Here is a perspective on resumes from a managers point of view.

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Mark Andreessen Knows what he is talking about

In a post on Career Development, Mark Andreessen hits the nail on the head.

Take Away Points

Grow your value in the market

Be aware and available for opportunity

Manage risk and reward

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Offer Negotiation: the Chips are Down

Now its time to negotiate an offer, the sweat starts to pour, butterflies twitter in the stomach, and that’s just the hiring manager.

Once an offer is on the table, the pressure is at the max due to a time limit and the ramifications of a life effecting decision.

If you have a plan and process in place, the offer stage can be a painless and positive experience. Without them, not so much…..

First point, make sure you do not pre-negotiate your offer during the interview stage. If the company asks you how much you are looking for, whatever amount you answer will be your offer, no matter how badly they want to hire you. If you give them a number too high, it may preclude you from the process, even though you would want to enter into a reasonable negotiation once you realize that you like the opportunity. Too low and you are leaving money on the table. The best answer is my current salary is X and ” I hope you will make me your best offer”. Do not give a target number at this early stage.

Keep in mind that how you handle the offer stage and negotiation is the first decision you will make as an employee of the company. If you are indecisive, and difficult it may color the new managers opinion and change your first assignment from a potential team lead to a member of the team.

As I mentioned here to begin a negotiation, you must first know where you want to work. You will also need a stake in the ground, which is the reasonable amount of compensation at which you would accept the job. Not wow wouldn’t it be great if I got an FU offer. If the stake in the ground is $100k and the maximum offer is $99K, are you willing to walk away from the opportunity that you want with no second thoughts. Saying “the salary is not high enough” is not negotiating. A stake in the ground will give you a point to negotiate from and allow you to negotiate up from that point if possible.

Before you begin, you must be certain that you want the position at the company. Entering into a negotiation with offers and counter offers implies that you will accept the terms once both parties agree. It is bad form and un-professional to negotiate an acceptable package and then not accept the position. To be clear, this method will maximize the outcome with respect to compensation, while minimizing stress and pressure, but you must want the job and be ready to accept negotiated offer.

Let’s begin. First of all some basic negotiation tactics that will serve you well. Silence is your friend. The first person to speak after a term has been presented will usually be the one to compromise.

Say no at least three times and be silent after each.

Don’t be the one to start the negotiation. Let the company start with their offer. Then you will know if they are above or below your stake in the ground and can negotiate accordingly.

Once a company has decided you would be a valuable employee and are the number one choice for their position, the other value you have in the negotiation is your acceptance of the offer. This is the negotiation point that will maximize the offer and get the extra “gravy” to top off getting the position you want at a great company. Your acceptance is what you possess, to offer to negotiate up to the final number. For example; if your stake in the ground is $100K and the offer is $102K, say ” if you can hit $105K, I will accept your verbal offer pending receipt of an acceptable written offer. My start date will be xx/xx/xx.” If the manager needs approval of the VP, they can take it to them with confidence knowing they will get an acceptance, rather than hoping it will be enough, in which case they may just chose to wait and see if you take $102K.

That is the process that has proved to be effective in my experience. Not as easy to execute as to understand, but knowing how you are going to approach the offer negotiation will certainly make it less painful.

Remember, if both parties want the deal to go down and both sides are reasonable, the offer stage will proceed smoothly.

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Decision Time: Moving to Offer Stage

So you have made it through the interview process and companies are checking your references. Now is the time to decide which opportunity is the best for you.

Keeping in mind that logical decisions are preferable to emotional ones, having a structure to evaluate opportunities will minimize the emotional impact. Once you have an offer in hand, there is usually a time frame attached and now the pressure is building.

First of all, you can only take one job, so collecting offers only burns bridges and potentially limits your options in the long run. Every offer you reject will leave the hiring manager with a negative last impression. You will go from the great candidate that professionally took themselves out of the running, to the candidate that turned me down. Remember, it is an emotional event for the hiring manager as well. This will become important when you are interviewing at another start up in two years and there is the same manager you previously turned down.

A common problem is thinking that some factor will make the decision for you, such as “an offer I can’t refuse”. This is a lame approach and is leaving the management of your career in someone else’s hands. It is great for the company that can buy you, but will not produce optimal return for you in the long run.

Be logical and evaluate the opportunity based upon what creates value for your career.

Create a Matrix containing: Company, Project, C0-Workers, Technology/Skills etc… Rate each one and the one with the most pluses is the logical choice.

If all the offers were the same, where would you prefer to work? If you worked for free, which company would you work for. When you can say that I want to work for company A and I will accept a reasonable offer from them, you are ready for the negotiation stage.

Deciding this before you are handed an offer will allow your negotiations to proceed more smoothly while maximizing the result.

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Career Trajectory

Careers have momentum and direction. We call this Career Trajectory. After launch, the goal is to break free of the atmosphere where there is no friction. You all know someone in your field that has enough career equity that they can get a job anytime and anywhere.

There are different stages of a career which can be plotted over time. Each stage has different risk factors and variables associated with the job search and the evaluation process. It is a viable approach for any career, but our specific focus is the goal of working for emerging technology companies and start ups. The missile launch analogy being that in the early stage you can effect the outcome much more than in the latter stages. At one point there is a critical window of opportunity to reach beyond the pull of gravity and have the best and most sought after companies seeking your employment. Once that window has passed, the probability of correcting course towards the higher goal is limited.

For example, experience has shown us that between 8 to 12 years is the “career defining” phase. Whatever you are doing at the end of this stage will probably be what you will continue to do. In other words, if you work at big fortune 100 software company and after 15 years decide to move to a start up, the probability is low that you can successfully make the transition. The risk may be too high for the company building their core team. Some reasonable questions from the hiring company would be, why haven’t you worked in a start up before?..can you thrive in a less structured environment, and so on. The point is not that senior people cannot change, it is that making a hire at $80K has less impact than the riskier $ 120K mistake. Also, making a drastic change of working for a start up is much harder once life has given you a big mortgage, college tuition savings and the other things that constrain life decisions.

So, be aware of the fact that significant change to keep your career on the right path is more easily made early on and that once the rocket is well on it’s way to Pluto you cannot easily turn it 180 degrees towards another destination.

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A Big Company can offer Job Stability?

Tricycles are stable, but roller blades are so much more fun. Big Companies do not provide job security

Your value in the market provides your security. If you pay attention to building career equity, you can be secure with the fact that you can move on when you choose.