Archive for March, 2013

Beyond the Money

March 22, 2013

As noted in this blog’s past articles, the market has been swinging back in the favor of candidates.  I’ve seen this manifest itself recently by significantly increased incidences of multiple suitors for a given candidate, resulting in multiple offers.  With all things being equal (which is never the case), candidates typically accept the offer with the highest base salary and total compensation at plan.

This week, however, I witnessed a candidate accept an offer that did not boast of the highest salary and total comp.  Why did he do this?  Because he’s smart.  He did his due diligence on the companies, got introspective to assess his career aspirations and looked well beyond the shiny penny of cash compensation.

When putting aside the money, there is a bevy of variables to consider in assessing opportunities.  It is for this reason that no two opportunities could ever be equal.  Let’s take a moment to venture beyond the blinding flash of the cash and look at the intangible, yet vitally important attributes that must be factored in when making a thoughtful career decision.  For each of the following attributes, consider the list of questions and use them as a template for gaining as many data points as possible to make an intelligent career decision.

Position

  • To what extent does this position draw upon your strengths while offering up new and interesting challenges?
  • Will you be picking up additional skills that could bolster your marketability down the road?
  • Are you genuinely excited about the role and its responsibilities?
  • How will your performance be measured, both in the first several months as you ramp up and then on an ongoing basis?
  • How much latitude would you have in determining the future direction of the role and its day-to-day activities?
  • Who does this position interface with and what are those people like?
  • What are the work arrangements (e.g., cube, office, work from home, travel)?

Company Space and Solutions

  • To what extent is the space the company plays in a growing one?
  • How innovative are their solutions?
  • Are they viewed as the thought leaders in their area of expertise?
  • What is the company’s reputation in the industry?
  • How do they stack up in the competitive landscape?
  • Is the roadmap for the company’s products/services and the application of these products/services pointing to growth in their current market and/or making entry into expansive, new markets?
  • What is their prioritization on R&D and Marketing?
  • What do analyst firms say about the company and the space they play in?
  • Is their solution a vitamin or an aspirin and is it deemed a drop dead, must have or a nice to have?
  • How effectively is the company differentiating itself, communicating a compelling value proposition and establishing brand equity?
  • What do customers have to say about them and what are the metrics around net new logos as well as existing customer retention/expansion?

Leadership Team

  • How battle-tested are the leaders?
  • Have they done this sort of thing before…and with successful results?
  • Do they appear to be in alignment on vision, strategy and tactical execution?
  • How approachable and accessible are they?
  • What do people, who have worked for them, have to say about them?
  • What do your own contacts, who know of the company and its team, have to say about them?
  • What is their philosophy around company culture and how important is it to them?
  • How forthcoming are they about the challenges the company faces?
  • How natural was it to communicate with them in the interview process?
  • How passionate are they about the company and its solutions?
  • Why did they join/form the company?

Culture/Work Environment

  • Aside from how the leadership team describes the culture, what does the general employee base think of it?
  • What kind of vibe do you get when you’re in the office?
  • Is there energy, activity, collaboration, humor, fun, open communications, passion, intelligence, urgency, and overarching sense of purpose?
  • To what extent do you fit in with these attributes or lack thereof?
  • Does the environment fall on the micromanaging or autonomy side of the management spectrum?
  • Are meetings convened purely on an as needed basis or are they held regularly and deeply ingrained in the company’s operations?
  • To what extent is creativity and ideation valued, encouraged and acknowledged and how often are new ideas acted upon?
  • How politically charged is the environment?
  • Does the company appear to fall on the process-oriented or results-oriented end of the bureaucracy/agility spectrum?
  • What is the company’s take on work-life balance and does it align with yours?

Investment in You

  • Is there any equity component to your offer and if so, is it substantial enough to make a material impact on your life down the road or is it more of a token gesture?
  • How discernible and achievable is the career advancement path?
  • Granted, there are no guarantees for promotion, yet is the leadership team committed to rewarding stellar performance with greater responsibility, salary increase or additional equity allotment?
  • Do they have a track record of doing so or can they articulate the specifics of such an advancement?
  • Will they provide or pay for career development programs that are relevant to your role (e.g., certifications, training)?
  • How generous are the benefits – healthcare, vacation, 401K, etc.?

Financials

  • How well capitalized is the company?
  • What is the condition of their cash flow, money in the bank, burn rate, and rate of top line growth?
  • Are they profitable, on a road to profitability, in pure high growth mode, turning things around, or possibly headed for a downturn of fortunes?
  • Who are their investors?
  • How much investment have they taken in and what has been the purpose for each investment round?
  • What is their exit strategy and timeline?

Naturally, the cash component has to make sense for the opportunity to be a viable option.  After all, it’s the primary form of remuneration that fuels our personal lives.  One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is to choose a career opportunity based on tangibles (compensation and benefits), only to leave that company shortly thereafter due to issues associated with intangibles.

When you take a full, holistic view of an opportunity, it’s these intangible attributes that will ultimately determine the viability and longevity of the career move, the degree of gratification, the chance to thrive and achieve sustained passion, the likelihood of success, and the ability to further your career.  If these outcomes align with your career goals, then do yourself a favor and look beyond the money.

 

Action items:

1.  Make a list of all the important attributes in a job and then rank them by importance.  Make sure to include intangible elements.  Don’t just focus on compensation and benefits.

2.  In the interview process, make sure you’re given plenty of time to ask all the questions necessary to help gain insight into the intangible elements of a company’s being.  Outside the interview, ask people in your network about the company, its products and its people.

3.  Money can buy you short term infatuation, but it can’t buy you long term love.

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