Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dear Director...

Another reader writes in for advice, but I think the value in these columns is from readers' input, so add your $0.02 in the comments section.

"Dave" writes in with the following (edited slightly for length):
I have been at a tech startup for almost the past 2 years as the director of marketing. The startup is backed by top tier Sand Hill VCs and in the hottest tech segment right now. I feel it's time to move on for several different reasons: my passion is no longer strong at the company, there's no real carrot here in terms of salary and options, and I need to build up my resume with other successes to enter a top tier MBA program.

I've explored options with several companies where I have gotten a similar pushback--lack of experience and/or track record (these were high level 100k+ jobs where other candidates were late 20's and over 30). Keep in mind that I am in my early 20's and this is my first full time job after college--although I have done several high profile internships. I'd prefer to make a latteral Dir Mktg to another startup, although I might be open to a senior mktg role at key segment in a larger company.

I'm really stuggling on my next step and where I want to take my career. What I do know is that I have a knack for mktg and am an entrepreneur. On the side I am launching a new B2C startup, manage my own real estate rental investments and supplement my income with stock/options trading. On the other hand, I realize that part of the issue is that I may be just a tad too ambitious and just want to win too bad.

There's a lot of info in there, but I will put in my two cents on a few issues that caught my eye:

1. Getting that Carrot - Have you talked to your manager about getting that carrot? While I wouldn't tell him you are considering leaving, I would bring up what you have done for the company, how you feel about your compensation, and your desire to be rewarded along with the company's growth and success. You might be surprised at his response. If you haven't said anything, he may just assume you are happy with your current situation. And getting those options might do wonders for your motivation.

2. Business School - With your background and inclination for entrepreneurship, I am not sure that you really need or would benefit from B-school, except for the possibility of networking. Even then, there are other ways to get the same level of contacts, so I am not sure taking a couple of years off and spending lots of money for a degree is needed in your case. I do believe b-school is helpful for things like finance, accounting and the drier parts of business that are harder to "pick up from experience", so just make sure you are eyeing business school for the right reasons.

3. Putting in the Time - You mention that you are in your 20s and this is your first full time job. And it sounds like you are doing pretty well at it, but just aren't currently excited about it. Unfortunately, a lot of career growth means putting in the months and years at one job. A job isn't always running around 100 mph with your hair on fire, but doing the little things day in and day out, even to the point of drudgery. What this does is your case is get you experience past the point of product introduction and growth, so rounding out your experience in the product life cycle. For large companies looking at resumes, seeing lots of time and experience as a Marketing Director in one company looks better than job hopping between start-ups and an MBA, but this sort of brings me to the next point.

4. Strike Out on Your Own - From what I read, it sounds like the large corporate marketing path isn't right for you - at least not at this stage in your life. You say you are an entrepreneur and have a deep desire for winning, and that just says "start-up" to me, but one where you are pulling the strings instead of being an employee. My biggest recommendation is to go down this path - start your own company where you are in the lead, or with a group of people where you are the top marketing person. I think this would give you the excitement, job satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that you aren't getting in your current start-up position.

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