Freedom From Choice, That's What You Want

In today’s Internet job market, there are just too many choices.

The word on the street is, “There has never been a better time in history to look for work,” so I recently found myself dipping my toe into the job market. Let’s just say the rumor is true – in the world of the Internet there are more choices and opportunities than one could possibly imagine. I never knew looking for work would be so good for my self-esteem.

Overwhelmed is an understatement of monumental proportions. Just three days into my official search, I had more than 15 meetings scheduled for breakfast, lunch and dinner (what is it about meals and interviews?), one written offer and two verbal offers.

Suddenly I realized that at some point the tables had turned. I’m interviewing them – they have to sell me. I was in demand, in the driver’s seat, in control, needed. It felt good. So I took my meetings, and stoically listened to the pitch.

With a televangelist’s enthusiasm, one entrepreneur after another sold his story. It’s the “next big thing,” a “no-brainer.” We are “different than everyone else in this space.” “Sure there are others, but we’ll be best of breed.” ” If we run fast enough, in sixth months we can be acquired.” This is how a VC must feel when he reviews business plans.

Based on recent conversations with individuals in similar circumstances, this is not an isolated incident. This is true: A friend of mine was offered an executive position, five percent of a company, and a significant six-figure salary after shaking the interviewer’s hand. This is also true: Another friend received three job offers in one day and had only been looking for work for three days. Another true story: An outstanding candidate told a VC that she had already narrowed her search to three companies and couldn’t consider another choice. The VC got mad at her – that’s right, angry that she wouldn’t take a serious look at his opportunity.

Well, let’s look at the facts. There are more jobs than people to fill them, and that number is going north every day. In just the third quarter of 1999 alone, VCs poured more than $5 billion into Internet start-ups. These nascent companies are fiercely competing for vital, scarce resources – which includes you and me.

So I started thinking: It wasn’t me and my 18 years of marketing and sales experience; I was just available. I had become a commodity – the necessary body to plug into the marketing and sales portion of the Powerpoint presentation. And the competition for my attention was just heating up.

So how do you make a decision with so many options? If you find yourself in the job market looking at Internet start-ups, here are a couple of questions that I asked myself as I sorted through all the noise:

  • Is the concept a product, tool or company? – There are a lot of ideas out there, but is the idea something that can become a sustainable, scalable business?

  • Does the concept solve a real consumer problem? – Is it a nice thing or a necessary thing?

  • What’s the competitive landscape? – Are there significant competitors (or potential competitors) and what resources do they have?

  • Is there a competitive barrier? – Does the company have an edge that’d be difficult or impossible to duplicate, or is it “run as fast as you can to establish yourself before others figure it out”?

  • What’s the potential market size? – How big is the market that the concept is based on, and how much marketshare can it realistically be expected to obtain?

  • Does the current team have it together? – Who are the principals – do they have previous successes behind them? Can they build a team? Can they raise the money?

  • Can I make a real contribution? – Will your participation be significant in making the company successful?

  • Can you drink the Kool-Aid? – It really comes down to if you believe in the concept within your heart and can devote your waking days and nights to making it happen.

It finally came to the time I had to decide. I remembered the classic line from Devo, “Freedom from choice, that’s what you want.” There was just too much to sort through, too many tough choices. I used all the screens and lists, did the pluses and minuses, and finally made a decision.

So what was my final choice? I started my own start-up – of course. Hey, need a job? It’s the next big thing.

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