Archive for ‘Startup job’


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.


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.


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.


Interview Process

An interview is a problem solving scenario. The company has a need or problem and you are there to solve it. Having a plan of attack for the interview will help you focus and get the offer.the interview

The process can be broken down as follow; Discovery: Provide Solution: Relate: Close

Your Goals for the Interview Process are;

Make them want to make you an offer
Evaluate if it is the right opportunity
The order is important, there is nothing to evaluate until the offer is imminent

You accomplish this in the interview first by listening  and then asking questions.

Find out the company’s problem. Position and responsibilities.

Show how you can do the job. Use Past examples

Close: demonstrate and express your interest in the company. Get feed back from each interviewer, show interest, ask if they will recommend you to next level.

Salary discussion, do not give a target at the early stage. Initially it is best to say something like “Make me your best offer.”

Discovery: If they give you an open ended question like “what do you want to do here at X?” before you know exactly what they are looking for, a detailed answer may send you down a road that is not in line with their expectations. For this scenario, it is best to answer generally, “I would like to work on interesting technology with a great team? And then ask a question like “tell me about what you are looking for, what is you ideal candidate for this position?

Provide Solution:  They may give you 6-8 items that are the requirements. Once you have these, you can go down the list and demonstrate how you are a fit for each one.

Handling Negatives: If you do not meet one of the requirements, you don’t bring that up. But they may, and the best way to diffuse a negative is to agree with it and then outweigh with a positive. For example you are right, I have never done X, but here is an example of a project where I had never done Y, I came up to speed quickly and we shipped it on schedule. Etc….

No negatives or confrontational discussion. Agree with negatives and then outweigh them with positives.

Get Quantifiable Feedback and Express Interest:  If two candidates have equivalent skills and background, the advantage will go to the person that expresses interest and exhibits enthusiasm for the company and project. Each person you interview with get feedback.  For example, when you feel things are winding down, say something like “based upon what we have discussed so far, I am interested in Company XXX and the project. Will you recommend me to the next round? Yes is the easy answer and if they are positive they will probably have no qualms telling you yes. No is different and people don’t like to directly say no, so they may say something like, “I need to discuss this with the rest of the team”. In which case, if you feel it is not positive, ask “ is there something about my background that concerns you, do you have any questions regarding my experience?”

An interview is a very short span of time and significant decisions are made in that short time. If you walk out of an interview and do not have quantifiable indication that it was positive, it probably wasn’t. If you can get potential reservations out on the table you have the chance to out weigh them with positives. If you don’t ask the question you will never know. Also asking the question after saying you are interested shows that you are more assertive than the average.

Handling the Salary Issue:  If you give an answer to “what salary would it take to get you to join us” question in the early stage of the interview process, at the end, your offer will be that number, no matter how badly they want to hire you. The problem with giving that number at the beginning or during the interview process is, that if it is too high, you may scare them off before they find out that you are well worth that amount, or if it is too low, you are leaving money on the table.

The best answer is no answer, “ it is too early to discuss salary, I hope you will make the best possible offer.” If they persist, you can say “ I currently make $ xxx and I hope you can put together an attractive offer. “ this is just negotiation 101, once you know they are interested, you are in a better position to maximize the offer.

So remember, discover the problem, demonstrate you can solve it,  get feedback and close the interviewer on the next step.

see also

5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Manager

Decision Time: Offer Stage

Offer Negotiation


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.


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


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.


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.


Is Working at a Start Up better for my career than a Large Company?

We believe that a start up increases career equity more than a larger company. Value is somewhat based on perception, and the perception in the market is that only the top 20 percentile quality people can work at a start up.

Data Points:

Working with people better than you brings out your best.

Which reference do you think will be more valuable? Paul Buchheit or Joe Blow from Acme Big Company?

You get more experience and have more accountability at a start up, which translates to more accomplishments.

Start ups are typically ahead of the curve with respect to up to date tools and technology. The more leading edge your skill set the less people to compete with and therefore more opportunities.

Bottom Line: If you are motivated to get up in the morning and get to work on your project, you are in a good situation. But for maximum career value, work in a start up.


Career Equity

The object of managing your career and your job search is to maximize Career Equity. Your value in the market place translates to the quantity and quality of positions available to you. The moves one makes effect Career Equity either positively or negatively.

The variables that effect Career Equity are the following:

A. Organizations you work for or have worked for.

There is a perceived quality associated with every company or organization.

The quality is measured by success, usually financial sometimes technical.

Due to the dilution factor, typically the quality of individuals at a large organization cannot be as high as a smaller one due to simple averages. Therefore, perceived quality is higher coming from a smaller successful company, especially as viewed by other smaller companies.

B. Individuals in your reference network.(opinions of you are formed in the workplace, business meetings, trade associations and interviews.) be mindful of the impressions you leave.

If you work with people better than you, you get better.

If you work with people of lesser abilities you sink to their level over time.

Known quality individuals increase career equity, ie.. my reference is James Gosling vs. a middle manager at DEC. You want the manager to think “I know your reference and respect his opinions”.

C. Accomplishments and Skills

The more current and leading edge your skill set, the more options you will have.

The most important criteria to a hiring manager is quantifiable accomplishments.

Smaller companies afford the opportunity for more impact on a product or accomplishment.

Focusing on Maximizing your Career Equity will produce a better caliber position and ultimately higher compensation.