Ellie Mirman's Startup Marketing Blog

Choosing Your Next Job: What Are Your Non-Negotiables?

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Jan 21, 2015

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"Choose your non-negotiables." I heard this piece of advice a few times as I was going through my recent job search. I was lucky enough that I had multiple options of companies I could join and I was trying to sort through the different opportunities. As I met with venture capitalists along the way - to get suggestions on companies and other tips - I heard this particular tip on how they think about investing and how I could think about choosing my next role.

There's no perfect opportunity. No perfect role at a perfect company that has the perfect team, perfect market, perfect product. Every opportunity has its winning attributes as well as some things it lacks. The same goes for investments. One startup might have the most experienced and promising team. Another might have a great product with incredible traction and revenue growth. There are a number of different factors by which to evaluate a potential investment.

  1. Team - experience, intelligence, passion, industry insight
  2. Growth - customers/users, revenue
  3. Industry - market size, growing industry, competition
  4. Terms - deal (compensation package for the job seeker, investment/valuation for the investor), role (day-to-day responsibilities for the job seeker, board involvement for the investor)

(By the way, there are articles on this topic on (at least) two great VC blogs: For Entrepreneurs and Both Sides of the Table. Check them out.)

Different people will weigh these factors differently but what's important to recognize is that you can't weigh all of them #1. So the question becomes, which factors are non-negotiable for you? For me, my non-negotiables looked something like this:

  1. Smart, passionate team
  2. Huge market with a problem that needs to be solved (and a problem I could get excited about)
  3. Role leading marketing, where marketing still needed figuring out
  4. Boston area

The other factors were flexible. For example, I originally went into my search thinking I'd join a team of 10-50 people and I'd be the first marketer. Instead I joined a team of almost 80 and became the third marketer on board. The job had what I really cared about.

Before I defined my list of non-negotiables, I met with a number of companies that had a lot of great qualities (including many of my must-haves) but missed one of my non-negotiables. I quickly realized a pattern: I loved the people I was meeting (slam dunk on point #1) but I couldn't get excited about the industry (point #2) and so I couldn't seriously consider that opportunity. While this was certainly not time wasted - in fact, those meetings proved valuable for a variety of reasons - I realized I did need to figure out how I was going to make my decision. After all, no opportunity is perfect, but some opportunity would be right.

For the job seekers out there who are lucky enough to have multiple opportunities in front of them, think about what are your criteria for the "right" opportunity. What are the things you won't compromise on? It could be working with fun people, it could be having a stable income, it could be learning a new skill. There are so many factors that could be important to you, and these factors may very well change at different parts in your life. All are legitimate and you get to choose what you care about most right now.

Photo Credit: MonkeyC

Topics: startups, work life, job search

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