You only fail by not trying

So it’s been some time since I last posted. It’s been a strange week: I got a lot of response from a slew of resumes I’d sent out the last couple of weeks. It seems with job applications that when it rains, it pours. Getting responses and getting to interview is great but having everything mushed together obviously isn’t ideal. It’s hard to thoroughly prepare when your mind is pinging from one company to another. I just had two phone interviews today and now I can finally relax and enjoy the three day weekend.

I had applied to a role at a startup and then stalked a recruiter who seemed to be connected to the company to ask about it. He no longer is a recruiter for that particular group but we met up yesterday morning for a coffee chat to talk about startups in the Bay Area. I considered it an opportunity to just bounce ideas off somebody who was knowledgeable about the startup space to see if I had misconceptions, should adjust my job searching strategy, etc.

So at some point during our conversation, we talked about risk.  It’s understood that if you join a startup (particularly if you are leaving a big solid company) that there is risk that the company will burn through VC money and close shop and that you are left again looking for a job. Some examples lately: HyperInk, OnLive. I don’t remember specifically if he said I seemed risk averse (I don’t believe he said it that pointedly) but he basically said that individuals thinking of that kind of lifestyle have to be self-aware of their risk tolerance.  Some people (b/c of easily getting bored, liking autonomy etc) naturally gravitate towards that lifestyle and acknowledge that they may have to job search every year or so but that it’s worth the risk to be able to garner new experiences.

I mentioned that being unemployed, I crave stability so sometimes I find myself focused on big companies b/c they have so much buffer and you can stay there with a certain certainty of employment. (And then other times, I feel avid about startups. I’m so outrageously bipolar.) But then we talked about that: is there any risk in staying at a company for a long time? In the past, the answer is probably no (and it probably changes depending on industry). My mom stayed 15 years in her first job (it was a defense company in SJ) and only left for a new position when that company consolidated or somehow got rid of the roles. But now, do those jobs exist and should you try to get one?

I’ve heard a friend of a friend (a Sr. Product Manager at a Bay Area firm) say that if she reviews resumes and sees that someone has stayed at a company for really more than 2 years, she gets suspicious. TWO YEARS. I think that’s extreme. But the recruiter agreed, generally, saying that if somebody’s resume shows that they’ve stayed at one company for a long time, it makes a new company uncomfortable that that person becomes complacent and might not have the get-up-and-go to join a younger, perhaps smaller and more agile company.

I pushed him on this concept: I asked about the chicken and egg nature of it: that millenials or young people as a whole have never been in a situation where staying at one company ever led to truly being satisfied so bouncing around made sense as a life strategy. But as more of these people become hiring managers, this professional lifestyle becomes the norm and that people, if they want to remain competitive, need to mimic that within their careers.

He also mentioned that those companies that seem too big to fail, probably won’t fail. But they won’t fail because they’ll just get rid of whole divisions that don’t make sense in order to remain competitive within the marketplace. So you can be at Google or Yahoo or Cisco etc but that those companies will continue to purge and manage their talent according to business needs. Cisco’s entire business policy seems to be to eviscerate big groups of middle to senior managers in an attempt to lower costs and make their net revenues seem higher. They do this all the time. And my friend at another big tech company has been trying to find a department or role to transition into (she is currently in a contract that is ending) and recently learned that a team that she had been interviewing with had been closed down and that the team members had to fend for themselves and find new roles within the company.

So safe isn’t even really safe. It’s every man for himself and you gotta do whatever it takes to remain competitive. And you don’t do that by aligning with sexy companies; you do it by taking on challenges that will build up your repetoire, even if it lasts a short amount of time. The recruiter summarized this as: if you’re talented and if your resume shows that, you shouldn’t have a problem finding new gigs. But you can’t be afraid of uncertainty but really, uncertainty exists in every work situation, whether overtly or otherwise.

Are you tired yet? I feel exhausted.



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