It’s easy to hate your job.
I’m surprised to meet anyone who didn’t face disappointment in their first “real” job.
While it’s nice to make money, the pleasure wears off. You make more, you spend more. The effect money has on happiness has diminishing returns.
Once you make more than $75,000/year, an increase in pay does not have a significant effect on your happiness (figure will vary with your city’s cost of living).
So what do you do?
Find a job you love. But that’s easier said than done. And loving your job doesn’t always mean loving what you do. It’s much more about who you do it with.
It’s easy to join the wrong company. This is doubly true for startups. Many founders and managers will promise you the world and never deliver. When you’re in this situation, it’s easy to become discontent.
These are the telltale signs on how to choose the right company:
Ask about their ambitions on transparency
In startup culture, there are many adages every founder says. One of which is, “We are a transparent company.” I’ve found that this is bullshit with a lot of companies.
What they really mean is “if things are going well, we’re more than happy to brag about it. If not, then it’s best if they don’t know.” It’s easy to justify this kind of thinking as a founder. But it’s wrong. Founders refrain from telling bad news for fear that their team will lose motivation.
If that’s the case, then the company was already screwed from the beginning. A strong team will mobilize together at the signs of despair.
Transparency is one of the most important factors for joining any company. If you believe in a mission, then you will invest your energy to create something awesome. But to create something awesome, the team needs to know what’s happening at higher levels.
In your interview with a founder, ask them for some examples where they had to deliver difficult news to the team. Or ask about how they’re transparent in ways that many teams aren’t.
At Testlio, anyone in the company can look at the dashboard and see how much money we have in the bank. Every week, our co-founders update the entire team on how each investor meeting goes. It doesn’t matter if it was a streak of yes’s or a bunch of no’s, we are always in the know.
Do the founders have their own office? If so, get out
At a small company, no one should have their own office. I don’t care what ridiculous reason they have to try to justify it. Even Zuck doesn’t have his own office (though he does have his own private meeting room).
The early stages of a startup is like fighting a war with time. And when time is never on your side, you need to be sure that your leaders are in the trenches with you.
This has a dramatic effect on your team’s morale. When a founder is out there with their team, then the team knows that they’re accessible.
When the leaders are accessible, the team is able to build a stronger relationship with them.
If the team has a strong relationship with the founders, the team just moves. This creates a strong level of trust, allowing everyone to move fast and make impactful decisions.
Do they have a list of core values? Do you agree with them?
Core values are the company’s most important asset. By having a well-defined set of core values it sets a direction for the company. Any decision in the company can be facilitated by passing the situation through the company’s core values.
If the company does have a set of core values, do you agree with them? If you don’t, then you shouldn’t be there. Nothing against the company, it just wouldn’t be right for you.
Part of what the company’s core values guide is the company culture. Many people tend to think good culture means a place where everyone would be happy. Quite the contrary. If you want your company to have good culture, you should want to hear the occasional “that place isn’t for me.”
The goal of culture isn’t to attract everyone or even the best people. Good culture attracts the right people.
Whether it’s hiring, firing, product, or culture, a good set of core values puts the company on a path. At that point, it’s up to the team to make sure the company keeps moving.
Ask The Founders For Examples Of When They Hired Smart People And Got Out Of Their Way
“Hire smart people and get out of their way” is another common adage in the startup community that every founder says but few do.
Founders should hire people smarter than them. There should at least be two examples of when a founder let someone on their team just do their thing.
This is incredibly important. Founders need to trust their team. If they feel that they need to be involved in every decision, then this will slow down the company’s speed.
One of my favorite stories to tell new potential hires is when our Head of Sales, Michelle Surya, approached me and we started talking about how we need to throw an event for WWDC. She later told me that it would cost $3,000 and asked if I cleared it with Marko and Kristel (our co-founders).
I hadn’t but said that we should go ahead and do it, and if they decide not to support it, I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket. What’s awesome is that she said that she would, too (thanks Michelle!).
Michelle did an amazing job with the event and we had people flooding our Twitter account asking for invites to our event. At this point, I hadn’t told our founders about it. I wanted to see their reactions to us authorizing this expenditure without their approval. Kristel saw and questioned what this WWDC Testlio party was. I told her. Then, I ended the conversation with, “Oh by the way, it’s going to cost us $3,000.” To which she responded, “Fucking awesome! Let’s do more!”
I know me not telling them was not being transparent, but it’s important to test your founders. If they fail your test, you’ll know to get out. If they pass, not only can you be 100% confident in them, but you’ll have a great anecdote to tell potential hires to get them excited about your company.
Tell Founders What They’re Doing Wrong And See How They Respond
Good founders are receptive to all forms of feedback no matter who it’s from.
Many people are too attached to their pride. Too often people take constructive criticism personally. This leads to poor relationships in the company.
Sometimes startups need to take in wild suggestions to correct their direction. Sometimes things just suck. And doing the same thing over and over isn’t going to get you somewhere new.
In your interview, tell them what you would improve or how you would do things differently and link to the effects from your experience.
This is my favorite thing to do in an interview. On some occasions, I have even made up a pretty wild suggestion just to see how they would respond. If you can sell it well and the founders seem receptive to trying it, you may have found yourself the right company.
Do they hire people or hire a role?
Companies aren’t solely successful based off of an idea or a person. They’re successful based off of a great team.
The best founders I’ve met know that incredible talent is hard to come across. Sometimes when they come across talent, there isn’t always a role that fits them. This is a frustrating problem.
Do they hire the person anyways and helping them figure it out? Or do they let them go, risk losing them to another company and try to approach them later?
At Testlio, we believe in hiring people and creating a role for them. Smart companies doesn’t let talent get away. Great talent always finds a valuable place.
I’d recommend asking them this exact situation and see what their response is. If they’re great, they should respond with a real example.
Choosing the right company is an arduous task. Join the wrong one, you waste everyone’s time. Join the right one and then you’ll never find yourself on a job board again.
If you’re currently on the job market, take these tips:
1. Ask about their transparency
2. If the founders have their own office, get out
3. Make sure they have a list of core values that you agree with
4. Prod founders for real examples of trusting their team
5. Give them constructive feedback and see how they respond
6. Ask for real examples of when they hired people and created a role for them