Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his son who will soon be a fresh IT graduate. His son received tempting job offers from three companies and he was kind of puzzled as to what company to choose at the start of his career.
After discussing with the young man for about ten minutes, I was a little puzzled myself, because he was not actually looking for advice, but for valid reasons not to join any of those companies.
Getting Closer To The Best Company
The first question to ask is – what do you want from life? A regular job where you do your work, get paid and that’s it?!?
In this case, the logical choice seems to be a large company. It’s easy to get “lost” and “choose” your level of involvement. It’s also reasonably safe if you do your homework. Obviously, it’s not bulletproof, even public companies can fail in several hours, but most of such events are usually exceptions. Do not expect to get rich either.
Let’s assume that you are extremely action-oriented. You want to matter, to bring a significant contribution to the company output.
In this case, a startup is a much better choice. Fewer people, more responsibilities, working directly with founders, maybe even becoming ridiculously rich or changing the world. Nothing is guaranteed, but it might just happen.
Is Public Image Important?
Company notoriety/public image is not so important as it might seem. This is good in estimating how efficient their marketing is, but most of the times it does not carry valuable information for you. Better invest your time on checking what they do. Try their products. Understand their market. Remember that even fast-growing companies become notorious after their first boom.
For example, there are many outsourcing companies in IT, providing services to lots of organizations. They range from startups to large public companies. Their customers might be startups as well, banks, utility companies, even governments. In IT outsourcing industry, it does not matter if you choose a large company or a startup – except maybe for job security, there is no fundamental difference between the two. Do not expect to get rich being the fifth joining an outsourcing startup. This will never happen.
Some industries are on their sunset, while others are in kindergarten. Pick an industry that extracts value from the market in an accelerated way. That’s why the most important thing you can do is to understand what the company does. There is no good or bad company – as long as you control the experience, you will learn in any situation. In fact, you may learn more things from a poorly managed business. While getting paid.
Outsourcing might work forever as a business (this is actually debatable), but it’s very cost sensitive and pretty bad in extracting value from the market.
On Top Or Over The Top
My friend’s son didn’t want to join any company because he promised to his best friend that they would follow an idea. Yes, he wanted to start a new venture. We didn’t discuss much about their idea; instead, I wanted to scare him, explaining the type of sacrifices he would have to make, especially if the startup would be successful. He didn’t seem to be too impressed, which in fact shows just the type of character one needs for such an adventure.
The industry is even more important when you start your own company, as it will influence your success to a great extent. Markets are everywhere and some are easier to access than others. But this is another fairly complex topic.
My best piece of advice for those starting out is to never pick their future employer by name. Pick an exponentially growing industry that can teach you how to rapidly capture value. And if you want to grow at a rapid pace, smaller companies are usually in better shape for a fast run. Remember that you are your most valuable investment, so this is the only guaranteed way to get rich.