Saturday, April 17, 2010

Interviewing your Prospective employer

Now I have to come back to two points about careers and making the right choices, because I am painfully remined of how bad things can go with a company in the "patient capital" late start up ( F-up) phase. They are running out of cash and I am bailing out, having noted that they have actually a pretty inefficient core "technology" from which it wil be hard to compete while making any decent gross margin.

1) You are interviewing the firm as much and more than they are you!

People forget this: we are nervous and want to match our best abilities against the job decscription AND offer some more, often superfluous info to them. We then get given a standard corporate blurb back at us an in the end of the day, none of us is all that much wiser about the possible exchange of values. We both know it will happen though, and given you are the least bad candidate you will get the offer.

Now, you actually have learnt rather little about the job and they have learnt just enough to know you will be able to function at the hands of the politics and flagrant lack of trianing you will get.

When I was a self respecting masters graduate, I considered a two week work trial ( as supported by the dole office, BA or whatever they are called now) as being a total sell out of my skills and abilities. Now I see it, even at first job level, as a really powerful means to gather info, understand the job and lay down some assertions about what you actually want to do.

In a two week period you will get the core tasks of an entry level graduate job and get to work ( or maybe only fleetingly) with your manager. Thus you will get a real insight into the job and if it is at Aardvark Galactica selling widgets to nobody's then you get the chance to say no.

A MUCH BETTER situation than I have now: the company's technology takes too much manual time to produce results and is therefore destined to be over run by faster, leaner competitors who are more customer quick-win oriented. I knew this within two weeks and that my bosses were aresholes but I perciveered because CGM monitoring is pretty trendy and I need a lift. So I coulkd have spent two weeks with them, as I suggested actually come to think of it, and turned round and said the job was far too junior and played to only weaknesses in attention to detail and motivations. Instead I am six months in, they are going belly up and I am stressed to hell.

So a two week trial is pretty good actually.

2) You need to get the RIGHT first job or know you need to move to the next RIGHT job asap!

I have been in the wrong jobs for all the right reasons, and had maybe two trials or . contracts both of which lead to jobs. The trouble for MSc-ers is that you have no real networking route or trail blazed into the big FMCG brands and you must languish in 2nd rate public service and SME marketing in Scotland if you will not move. In this market it is very, very easy to get a marketing job which turns into a nightmare of doing either sales donkey work or having all the monkeys in the department put on your back: ie all the shit no one else wants to do gets queued for your desk from day 1!

The MSc is a double edged sword because really it prepares you for MBA graduate jobs, while people do not respect it as much. So while being qualified to do strategy work you are actually too sharp for the jobs often on offer and cannot compete with "full MBAers" for those jobs you should aim for. I mean I worked with some prick recently who kept on refering to "fluffy" in the marketing department, AS the marketing department actually: market strategy being too important for the likes of marketers to touch !

A work trial of two weeks can allow you to swing in, get a grip on the company's failures and possibilities and then present yourself as a more strategic analyst and planner than the original "marketing exec' " role was specified as.

More often though, you will be able to see if the job is really just a sales admin type job or if it has very little of interest. You may be able to then play anouther card, often played actually, taking a part time position to cover only those functions you feel are relevant to your qualifications. This is really cunning because it buys you the RIGHT experience to shine in AND TIME to look for other jobs, start your own consultancy or take a convenient second job in.

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