Tag Archives: Mentorship

Redundancy is key

To be a manager is to make yourself irrelevant.

Mark Suster agrees.

Finding the talent that ensures you’re protected in case someone gets hit by a “beer truck” (or in my case, a “soda truck”) makes life really easy.  But let’s be honest, the folks that are attracted to a small company that has potential are not necessarily the folks who have “been there and done that”.  They won’t immediately be at the level in their career necessary to take on your top levels of executive management.  So what needs to happen?  You spend more money hiring top talent that accepts positions below their capability in the off chance something happens above them so they can fill the shoes?  That seems a bit too altruistic for someone who’s in it for the money and the potential upside of a hot startup making the big time.

Instead, you need to invest in your people.  Make them capable to fill your shoes.  Mentor them, guide them, teach them to do your job.  Increasingly give them more and more responsibility.  Don’t just thrust it on them, but nurture them so that when the time comes, they can do the job you need them to do.

By the way, this is not to say you should expect them to do the job you need them to do before you formalize that role for them.  You have to do right by your employee.  If you expect them to be your CTO, give them the job roles and responsibilities of your CTO formally.  Or set their expectations by placing them on a performance plan that in some period of time enables them to take that job.  Don’t just expect it of them without any communication.

Negotiating…for that perfect job

I had a professor once impart advice to our class. He said, just before we effectively entered the work force, “Do that which makes you happy.”

Okay, a bit dramatic. But, when applied in the context of a job, it makes sense. You will likely be at a job for an average of three to five years, give or take. When you look for a job, you should really make sure that it’s a mutual fit. Your employer is not doing you any favors by giving you a job. You should consider your long-term happiness when applying for jobs and finding a suitable match.

When you find an employer that you think is a good fit, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Consider the following as a guideline to think about stuff that’s important to you and will help you mature as a person, personally and professionally:

Time Off

Just because there is a corporate policy for a set amount of time does not mean you cannot negotiate for additional time off or come to an understanding with your direct manager. Often times, I ask my potential manager if he/she would be okay if I needed to ‘borrow’ some paid leave ahead of time so that I can plan a slightly longer vacation. Consider negotiating floating holidays on top of getting your birthday off or something of that nature.

Professional Development

Lay down your expectations on how you can grow to do your job better. “I expect to go to 1 professional association conference a year to better my personal skills and learn from my peers.” That will serve a few purposes, including networking in your peer group, giving you a forum to share your experiences as well as learn ways to improve your skill set within your domain or area of expertise. Your employer should be prepared to invest in you as much as you invest your time and effort into them. Other options here may include:

    • Trade shows / conferences
    • Opportunities to speak in front of large groups within or outside your company
    • Travel to other offices within your company / organization to meet your colleagues
    • Writing opportunities on a company blog, technical white papers, etc.
    • Continuous Education classes reimbursement

Additional Compensation

Variable compensation based on performance is a personal favorite of mine. If you have confidence in your abilities and can show your employer that you are the type of individual who not only will set ambitious goals, but will do what it takes to meet them, then they should be prepared to reward you. If you value $$$$, then that’s what you should negotiate. If you value a title bump or some other reward (it could be a coveted trophy in your group), make sure you discuss this. The point here is to understand what your employer has at their disposal to reward you for your hard work and efforts. That will help keep your expectations in line with reality (you may not be able to get that 100% bonus you dreamt about!).

Career Path

I think this is self-explanatory but often times, I’ve been afraid to ask…well, where do I go from here? What happens in 2 years? Is a promotion a possibility? Will people report to me? Will my responsibilities grow? I’m not sure where the hesitation comes from for others, but sometimes, I’m just so psyched to get the job in the first place (maybe it’s already a bit of a vertical jump from where I am, either in salary or in position), that I neglect finding my next target. Finding that next target is important so you can hold yourself accountable and measure your progress properly.

I’m not saying that everything above is something your employer will bend over backwards to accommodate. However, if something is important to you, in a win-win positive professional relationship, that something should be important to your employer. After all, you’ll probably be at that job for a while and that’s time that should better the company as well as give you a paycheck and some professional satisfaction.

Effective Meetings

In my experience, an effective meeting is one in which every attendee leaves understanding what needs to be done.  It doesn’t matter if the meeting is 15 minutes long or a working session that spans 2 working days.

A lot of people dread going to meetings, primarily because they see it as a time where a bunch of people get together, talk but do nothing.  I’ve attended some pretty poorly planned meetings myself, and the key takeaways / lessons learned are:

  1. People need to know why they are there.
  2. Everyone needs to be level set so they have a common understanding of the discussion.
  3. Even in a healthy 30 minute discussion, it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s said or decided.  Someone needs to be taking notes and provide a concise summary at the end.

Often times, people walk out of a meeting with either no clue what the point of meeting was or no clear resolution.  Addressing the 3 points above helped me.  Hope this helps you!

Help me! I need a job!

I often get asked to “help” get someone a job.  The “help” ranges from resume rework for a friend to hooking family (or something just as close) with a job.  Either way, my approach is pretty much the same.  Here’re some learnings I’ve had in reviewing resumes, writing my own, as well as going to and conducting interviews.

Know yourself

Know who you are and what you want.  Prepare in advance for the typical questions you might receive in your target industry (google is your best friend!).

Don’t embellish what you’ve done — you’ll either get caught in the interview or get fired when discovered if you get the job.  Be honest and let your work stand for itself.  Take pride in what you’ve done, be open and honest about it and give your potential employer the opportunity to see who they could be hiring, not someone you think they want.

Want the job

Sometimes you get caught up in your job search and with tools like Dice and Monster, it’s really easy to bulk submit your resume for a slew of “interesting” jobs and hope for the best.  But really, what you’re doing is shooting craps.  You need to invest time into your job applications.  I’d rather apply to 10 companies in 1 month and get 2 interviews than apply to 1000 and get 5.

Investing time means many things to many applicants.  Specifically, know the company you’re looking at.  You have a lot of material at your disposal with the company website, social media pages for their products, company blogs, industry articles, etc.   Plus, you may even find friends or acquaintances that are working for that company that you can tap for additional information.  If you still like what you see, pour all that great information into a well written cover letter that explains why you’re a great fit for the company and the job opportunity they have.  Then take the job requisition and custom tailor your resume to address each and every single one of the bullet points listed in the “job requirements” section.

Have a sense of humor

Face it.  You’re not going to get an interview, let alone job offer, for every application you submit.

If you do, what are you doing reading this?  Contact me ’cause I could use some help myself! 🙂

Take rejection with a grain of salt.  If you are up for constructive criticism, reach out to the interviewers or human resource representatives and ask what happened to your application, where you did well and where you stumbled.  Asking for feedback humbly only makes you look stronger to the company and also may win you some favor in future applications (the world truly is a small place).

Here’s one of my colleagues takes with regard to job applicants.

If you need help with your resume, feel free to contact me.