This is Part 2 of a series of posts on what I’ve been fortunate enough to learn about startups, career, business and relationships. Part 1, on priorities, can be found here.
Just over one year into my first startup experience (after several years spent at Google), I’ve learned more than I could ever have hoped. But not everyone assumed that would be the case for me.
As I was leaving Google, I had an odd, skip-level meeting (that’s corporate-speak for meeting with my manager’s manager). He was supportive but warned, “With all the resources available to you here versus elsewhere, you may not get the learning opportunities at a startup that you’re used to.”
I was pretty floored, but then I realized: at huge companies (even ones as startuppy and forward-thinking as Google), there’s a big gap between what’s promised and available and what’s actually reality.
I’m exposed to every aspect of the business here at Dailybreak, compared to the silo of one small division of a large team that sat in another large team that was divided by regions at Google. Being exposed to all areas of the company allowed me to make a radical change in my career path — one I really wanted to make before but was unable. And that opened my eyes to a HUGE learning from my first year at a startup:
PURSUE WHAT YOU ARE BEST AT DOING - AT A STARTUP, YOU NEED TO BE DOING THAT FULLTIME!
At some large companies, like Google, the party line goes something like this: “We promote lateral movements for your career. If you see an opportunity outside your core role, pursue it on the side, and if you’re good at it, you’ll eventually be able to move into it fulltime!” These lateral moves are appealing to those who start entry-level and wish to move into new paths as they figure out their careers.
But the lateral move can be a real bitch at a large company. It’s not a knock on big corporations, but it IS the truth you face. There’s too much process, too many decision makers involved, and not enough motivation for the business to shift you to a new role or location. (I should know - I pursued a full-time role on Google+ for quite some time, but because I was already a Google sales rep and because I was located in Boston, it would have been easier for me to apply from outside the company than shift over).
(Insert joke about Google+ here. I get it - it’s not Facebook. Be patient. It’s different.)
At Dailybreak, when I saw the opportunity to contribute to the product team, I jumped at it. I created content on train rides to NYC. I worked at home and on weekends to help out.
And here’s the beauty of the startup world: when others saw that I was great at what I was doing, they almost instantly offered to move me over.
Why? Because at a startup, it’s CRITICAL for everyone to deliver their best for the company to have a chance at surviving. So if someone proves (as I did) that they’re the best at a certain aspect of the business that isn’t their core job, smart entrepreneurs will shift that employee to a new role to do that fulltime.
Unlike at more established companies, there aren’t gobs of cash and tons of resources available for startups to throw at talent deficiencies. They need to ensure their small, understaffed teams are cranking and producing at what each individual is best at doing.
So, if you’re at a big company and feel you need to switch gears in your career — or you’re at a startup and see another role that looks appealing — go after it hard!
Combining passion and opportunity is an awesome thing. Now get going!