For those of you who lived through the mid to late 1990s, you should smell something familiar in the Boston air: a technology boom. I know Massachusetts has a 6.7% unemployment rate and is still recovering from the worst economic downturn in a generation. But the evidence of the boom is all around us: new startups being formed, companies being acquired, and even a few companies preparing for IPOs. Sitting in a coffee shop downtown can remind you of Cambridge in 1997, with technology business being transacted all around and a sense of optimism in the air.
The last boom in the 1990s lasted long enough for some of us to ride one and maybe two companies to a successful exit. This means that if you are considering making a career move, the stakes may never be higher for you to make the right call. Also, if you are not thinking of making a career move, you should re-confirm that your current company is where you want to be for this boom.
Below are some tips to maximize your chances of taking advantage of the emerging tech boom in Boston.
#1: Define Your Success Criteria
Everyone makes a career move for a reason. It could be compensation, a new role, to take on greater technical challenges, reduce a commute, join a startup, make money, or to achieve a successful business exit. Before starting to talk to companies, take the time to define and prioritize your success criteria, to ensure you have some level of objectivity when evaluating potential opportunities.
#2: Define Your Fail Criteria
Everyone has things they refuse to repeat in their next opportunity. For example, you may never want to work on product with high technical debt, work for a micro manager, commute to the suburbs, or work in a large company. The list will obviously vary widely by the candidate and so is obviously very personal. But the key is, if you encounter an opportunity that has one or more of your fail criteria, you know it is not the right for you.
#3: Cast a Wide Net
To make the right career decision, don’t be afraid to cast a wide net. Engage your network, make new connections, leverage colleagues, recruiters, VCs, and anyone else you can think of that can help you get in front of the right opportunities. Networking to find your next job requires a little time and effort, but will pay you back in current and future opportunities.
I have met several people whose job search goes something like this: a recruiter calls wanting you to look at an opportunity. After saying yes, you get sent on a 3-4 interviews and at the end of a few short weeks have a couple offers. Great, right? Well, not so fast. Angel List has 1,086 Boston-based startups; LinkedIn 3,224 technology companies; and Boston has 11,677 people with the title recruiter. ;) If you have looked at four companies in your job search, you may have seen 0.1% of the potential opportunities in the local area.
#4: Pass Fast
Casting a wide net requires that you evaluate a lot of companies quickly. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in opportunities you are unlikely to accept. If an opportunity does not meet your success criteria, or has one or more of your fail criteria, just politely move on. The hiring manager on the other end will respect this, since it allows them to focus on other candidates for whom this might be the right fit.
#5: Be Patient
When it comes to making a critical career decision, it’s better to be right than fast. Don’t run from your current opportunity into one that is only slightly better. Take a deep breath, relax, and don’t rush it.
#6: Look For Disruptive Opportunities
Post Dotcom-boom I had a long standing Boston venture investor give me what I considered sage advice. It went something like this.
“You tech guys always focus on the problem and technology when deciding whether to join a company. You forget that big companies are built by strong management teams, executing in disrupted markets, supported by board members that have track records in building big companies.”
The Boston landscape has many great fast growing businesses. It also has its share of “feature companies” (companies that have a great or interesting idea, but which is unlikely to produce a large business). Look for the opportunities that likely have the potential for substantial growth.
Enjoy the Boom
We’ve gone through some tough years since the financial meltdown, and so it’s nice to see the signs of growth around us again. Take the time to make some well informed decisions about your next opportunity, and enjoy the boom.