Category Archives: Careers & Personal Branding

Do You Hate Your Job? 5 Tips To Change That

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

“I knew I had to quit when I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning to go to work.”

Those words stuck with me. I heard them from a successful entrepreneur and I think about them almost every day. It’s a quick gut check against the happiness and balance in your professional and personal life.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard similar words from countless friends and colleagues.

The lawyer that started a legal career because it was a safe and steady job.

The financier that went to wall street because of the big bonuses.

The doctor that attended medical school because the parents said they should.

The consultant that joined a big named firm because of the prestige associated with it.

To the outside world these jobs are normal. In fact, they are celebrated. But to the individual they can sometimes feel like a cage with no escape. However the good news is that I’ve seen people successfully make the switch from a career they hate to a career they love. In all of these situations, there were at least five common themes that enabled these people to make the leap of faith and recalibrate their life for a happier, more successful career.

Hone in on your transferable skills. A friend recently described his job to me. He does “platform sales to financial institutions and hedge funds.” When I asked him what that meant he said, “I’m basically a waiter. My tables are my clients. My dishes are my financial products. My tips are my commission. And my job, is to basically keep my tables happy and answer any questions that the customers may have.” A waiter on wall street. Pretty simple. But a good waiter must have good people skills and good people skills are transferable to any industry. However, it’s not just people skills that are valuable. Organization, communication, and leadership are also very important. We sometimes take these intangibles for granted, but if you can hone in on your strongest transferable skills then you can figure out where else they might be applied in a setting that you enjoy.

Leverage your transferable knowledge.  Another friend of mine has been working in commercial real estate for the past few years. When he took a sales leadership position at a new technology startup, someone asked me, “what does a commercial real estate broker know about startups?” I said, “not much. But he knows more about real estate sales than anyone I know and for a technology startup that is focused on the real estate market, that’s a pretty big asset to have.” Sometimes a career change isn’t as big of a change as you think it is. If you have deep industry knowledge it’s likely that there are multiple opportunities and jobs that could benefit your experiences.

Try something new. I recently saw a Facebook status that said “Learning how to code. I’m a nerd and I love it.” In a million years I would have never guessed this person to learn to code or to even know what “ruby on rails” means. In school, you’re required to take classes in different disciplines. But just because school is over it doesn’t mean you should stop exploring new horizons. Take chances. Open new doors. Learn something new because you might actually enjoy it and it may very well lead to a new, professional path.

Ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help when help is needed. Sometimes it’s easy to let pride get in the way but as someone once told me, “ducks that quack get fed.” If you want to make some changes but don’t know how then simply pick up the phone, write an email and share your thoughts with someone. It’s human nature for people to help one another but no one can help you unless they know you are looking for it. So don’t be shy. Ask for help.

Recognize the difference between quitting and recalibrating. I wonder what Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg’s parents thought when they decided to drop out of school. Is that considered quitting? If it is then I plan to quit something as often as possible. There is a big difference between giving up and realigning your goals and objectives. Sometimes people are afraid to “quit their job” because it’s viewed as just that, quitting. But the thing is, it’s not. If you have a game plan and a strategy in place then you owe it to yourself to “quit” so that you can recalibrate your path to success and happiness.

Follow me on Twitter at @DanReich.

Five Questions to Ask Before Joining that Start-up

This post originally appeared on Harvard Business Review.

Mark Zuckerberg reinvigorated an entire generation when he added nine zeroes to the end of his bank account before he was 30 years old. He made start-ups great again. He showed the world that youth is not a preventative factor of success and that work can actually be fun. This theme of wealth creation while doing something you love is why an increasingly large percentage of graduates are turning to start-ups over more traditional jobs. It might also be why people are quitting their consulting gigs and investment banking positions to pursue a career in start-up land. Just yesterday I ran into a recent Harvard Business School graduate who quit her consulting gig in order to follow her dream at a new start-up.

Unlike big, established corporations or what we might classify as a “steady job,” start-ups present more inherent risk because there are more variables and questions for a prospect to consider. Things like: Does this start-up have the right team? Do they have money? What if I choose the wrong company? Nevertheless, this risk is often overlooked because start-up employee prospects realize that new ventures are more fun, are intellectually rewarding, and could have big paydays down the line.

But there are practical questions that all start-up prospects should consider when looking to join the next could-be big thing.

How many outstanding shares exist? Joining a start-up can have significant upside if you own equity in the business. That upside is determined by two things: the percentage of the company you own and the valuation or price of the company upon a liquidation event (e.g., the sale of the company). When you join a start-up you are often issued stock options. Maybe you are issued 1,000 options; maybe you are issued one million. This number is only as important as the number of outstanding shares in the company. If you are issued 1,000 options and there are 10,000 outstanding shares, then you may own 10% of the business. Make sure you ask your prospective start-up employer how many outstanding shares there are, so you can understand what part of the company you own. If they don’t want to tell you, then you may want to reconsider the job altogether. If they can’t tell you this, what else might they be hiding?

What is your stock option vesting schedule? Time flies in start-up land. When you get an offer from a start-up, make sure you understand how long it will take to actually receive the equity you are entitled to. A typical vesting schedule has a one-year cliff with a subsequent three-year earn out that vests each and every month. So if you think you might leave within four years, make sure you are comfortable with the vesting schedule. Four years is a long time in a start-up.

How restrictive is your noncompete or non-solicit agreement? I once read a noncompetition agreement that said anything I worked on — in- or outside of the office, during working hours and non working hours — was owned by the employer so long as I was employed there. This is a very restrictive agreement and in so many words says you are a slave to the company. Make sure you understand what this part of your contract says. Employees in the start-up world often bounce to and from various companies, so you want to make sure you’re not putting yourself in a compromising situation down the road.

Does the team have a track record? Winners know how to win. It’s why venture capitalists tend to favor entrepreneurs that have a proven track record (PDF). A VC once told me that he “looks to invest in people with an unfair advantage over their competitors.” These entrepreneurs are people who know the ins and outs of a successful path in a specific domain. Before joining a start-up company, make sure you have a very strong understanding of the team, their investors, and their advisers. This will give you a great indication as to whether or not the start-up has the right ingredients for success. If the team members don’t have a track record, that’s alright, but make sure you understand what it is that will put them on a winning path.

Why am I really doing this? The most important thing you need to ask yourself when joining a start-up is why. Some people do it because they hate their jobs. Some people do it because they want the credentials. Others join because they think they will get rich or it’s the cool thing to do. Ultimately, when you are looking to join a start-up you need to understand the real motivational factors behind your search, because if your reasons do not align with the opportunity, it is likely you will be neither happy nor successful.

With advancements like cloud-based hosting, labor marketplaces, online education, and video conferencing, it is now cheaper than ever to start a company. As a result, we will see continued growth from emerging start-ups and their respective employment opportunities. If you are debating whether or not to join an early-stage venture, make sure you are asking the right questions in order to mitigate your risk and maximize your chances of success.

Looking for a job?

So is Jamie Varon

“My name is Jamie Varon and I’m living in Danville, CA (if you haven’t heard of it, no worries) right now, hoping to move into San Francisco soonish, rather than laterish. The sole purpose of this site is simple: I want to get hired at Twitter and the only way to stand out in this competitive job market is to do something unique.”

I’ve heard many stories lately from people my age that have either lost their job, are about to lose their job, or haven’t found a job in the first place.

According to Forbes and their layoff tracker (as of this writing), there have been 511,925 layoffs since Nov. 1 2008 at America’s 500 largest public companies.

Something tells me that simply submitting resumes online and wearing a suit to interviews (if your lucky) isn’t going to cut it anymore. Time to think way outside the box and do something that demonstrates your expertise in your field. In the case of the recent graduates, many of us haven’t had enough work experience to substantiate a worth while track record.

So what to do?

Be different.

Things I might do if I wanted to be in…

  • Finance: Invest a small amount of money and demonstrate that you have the ability to earn good returns. Percentages not dollars.  See Stocktwits
  • Real Estate: Find a building you think is worth buying. Asses its value. Record its cash flow. Demonstrate why and how you know this is a good deal in a mini business plan.
  • Digital Media: See Jamie Varon – Screenshot of her site below
  • Doctor:  Study very, very, very hard for your MCATs.
  • Lawyer:  Study very, very, very hard for your LSATs.
  • Technology: Build something. Patent something.
  • Journalist:  Start a blog and a good one. Better yet, start a digital magazine and get some of your peers to be contributors.
  • Fashion/Artist: Create your own portfolio. Make it available online. Go to trade shows and network.

What can you do?

Here is a screen shot of Jamie’s site.

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Motivated by Money

You want to make a lot of money. Who doesn’t? 

You scope out industries, look at the highest paying jobs, somewhat consider the associated quality of life. Ultimately, you want a job that will make you a lot of money.

If you did this sort of exercise a year ago, or if you are still doing this exercise now. STOP!

The world is completely different now than it was a year ago. 

Ty this exercise instead:

Scope out emerging or exciting industries, look at the most rewarding jobs, completely consider the associated quality of life. In the end, you will find a job that you are much happier with, and ultimately, you stand to make a whole lot more money because you will be doing something you are passionate about.

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Business Cards, Contacts and Services

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

Image by luc legay via Flickr

The saying goes, “It’s not about what you know, but who you know”.

While I do not completely agree, there is some truth to this saying. Connectedness and networking matters. It matters a lot. The internet has made it easier than ever to enhance your current network of friends, colleagues, or like-minded individuals. Networking can and will increase your chances of success.

The business card, phone number, or email, just doesn’t cut it anymore. As a worker in the knowledge era, you should be leveraging the social internet to the fullest extent. Your personal brand or image is no longer reflected by just your in-person image. It now extends across the web. How are you developing your personal brand or identity?

Consider the following web services and ideas. How could they help increase your networking potential?

Of course, in-person networking matters, and will always be important. I’ll be at AdTech NY today and tomorrow doing just that.

 

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Are You In College And Thinking About Your Career?

Fred Wilson recently wrote a post about one of his portfolio companies and its search for interns in the NYC area.

In the Post…

Greg Yardley, founder/CEO of our portfolio company Pinch Media tells the following story about graduating from college and facing the career question:

When I finished school, I had a MA in Russian history and absolutely no idea what to do with myself – I started working as a customer support rep at an Internet startup because they were the first ones to offer me a job.  (If the startup was a week later with the job offer, I’d probably be a 911 emergency operator today.  Sometimes life can lead you to unexpected places.)  I was surprised to stumble across a field that I loved – soon I became a product manager, and now I’m the co-founder of a company. You never know – maybe there’s a career here for you that you’ve never considered.

Greg’s words could not be more appropriate to the current state of my career/life. Having recently graduated from college, I was faced with a choice:

  1. Enter the working world (with a conservative approach) – Get a job with will respected, high profiled employer. Good resume builder.
  2. Enter the working world (with a less conservative approach) – Join a startup, work on my own startup or company.
  3. Go back for more school – Law School, Masters, 5th, 6th year, etc.
  4. Travel and relax for a year or so

My original intent was to go back to school, however a unique opportunity presented itself, and now I am in the working world taking a less conservative approach then most of my peers.

As Greg said, “Sometimes life can lead you to unexpected places.  I was surprised to stumble across a field that I loved.”

This could not be more true.

Are You In College And Thinking About Your Career? Which decision would you make and why?