Interlude – A new job, and the 1% of startups

It’s 7am and I’m sitting in Seat 25F on a JetBlue flight from Long Beach to Oakland, because today is Day 3 at a new job, and naturally, we’re going to meet with a major client.
I knew I wanted to work in October, or at least figured I should close the resume gap, but hadn’t set anything in motion. Then an email arrives (two weeks and two days ago), out of the blue.

“Hi Megan! T- gave us your information after meeting you this past July. Since you have a background in HR and have been part of the flex economy, and we’re a startup launching a site to help flex economy workers find jobs, we thought we should talk! ”

We didn’t do much of an interiew, just shared a little about my background and mainly talked about their company, their strategy, a new role they’re creating. I don’t mean to say they just handed over a job, just that they seemed much more focused on launching into the work at hand than picking apart my resume, which they didn’t even ask for.

I’d spend two hours the night before getting it in shape, but who cares, really – it needed to get done anyway, and this was the kick I needed.  But as I’m talking to them I pass them a resume anyway, thinking surely they’d want to know a little more about me before bringing me on as employee 3.  Granted, it’s a temporary role, with the future unknown.  Should things not go well, we’ll easily part ways at the end of 2015.

“So, what do you think?” 

I walked out of our meeting with a tentative commitment.   That afternoon, I asked one of my work friends/mentors for his two cents.  I don’t know if I can do it, if I’ll be successful, if it’s going to work.

He told me this advice was tailored not just to the situation, but to me, and what he thinks I’ll want to do in my career:

Go for it.

So I talked to two of the most smart, successful young men I know.  Amazing people and friends, and solid careerists.  
I don’t know about this, guys.  Am I making a terrible mistake if I do this?  I think I’m making a terrible mistake. What if their site doesn’t catch on?  What if their competitors are already too big for us to gain traction? What if I can’t do this job?  What if…

One said, in short: F yes, good for you, this is awesome, and I think it’ll be good for you. I think you should go for it.

The other said, if I tried to create the ideal opportunity for you, I don’t think I could come up with something better than this.  It’s basically a tech startup, recruiting for other tech startups helping people – primarily Millennials- find cool jobs where they get to work on their own terms.  It’s pretty much in your backyard, and it’s only a short-term commitment.  I actually don’t know any reason not to be TOTALLY excited about this. 

So I asked my parents.

It’s only two months, Megs.  That’s really no time at all.  What’s the downside? You’ll work for a couple months, learn a ton, and have a brand new eperience under your belt.  These are only good things.

Does no one understand the potentially immeninet, terrifying possiblity of abject failure?!?!  

So I asked this mentor lady who regularly helps me sort out life.
It sounds like a great option, Megan.  And I don’t see you failing in this – I actually think it really sounds like you.    What are you so afraid of?

Fair question, since I’d compulsively asked pretty much everyone who’d give me the time of day.

What are you afraid of?  helps you get to the heart of things, especially if you kind of force yourself to keep digging until you find that raw, gut-level thing that’s driving you.

So I stopped to finally answer the question to her:

I’m afraid I’m going to fail.  I’m afraid the people I’m recruiting won’t like me, I’m afraid I won’t be smart enough to hack it here, I’m afraid I won’t succeed, that I’ll be found out, exposed as somehow not good enough.

Do you ever have those moments where you finally come to terms with how you really feel, and think, oh GOD, that’s depressing?

Me neither.

And on it’s face, yeah, these are kind of depressing thoughts.  But I’m also surprised how much that fear of not being ‘good enough’ seems to resonate with people, people that seem totally, perfectly together from the outside.    I wish I spent a little more time asking my friends about this, making more airtime for any of those things they don’t feel quite great about so I could meet those fears with, “yes, me too.  I still think you’re amazing.”  

In the face of those fears – what if I can’t, what if I don’t succeed, what will people think, I guess the options are pretty simple: Try anyway, or don’t.  Risk, or don’t.  Put yourself out there, or don’t.   Scared as I felt about this new job  I also knew I’d be crushed if they called back to say, never mind – we found someone else.   I didn’t want to miss my chance, and even if I failed, at least I actually went for something.

So I told the company I was in.  I didn’t feel confident, really, but maybe that would develop with time.

Last week I went in to sign paperwork, but first dropped off my friend Ashley and her boyfriend at the airport.

“So are you EXCITED for your new job? ” Ashley asks.

“Um, well. Kind of.  I mean, still pretty nervous, I guess.  But I’m gonna go sign the papers today.  I figured I’d just pop into Idealab on my way back -“

Wait, Idealab?”  says Oliver.  “This is an Idealab startup?  Why didn’t you lead with THAT?”

Apparently he’d worked with the accelerator that’s funding our group years prior and thought they were great.  And they seem to be, inasmuch as you can tell this, 20 hours in.

And I’ve barely met the two co-founders, but they seem great as well.   Smart, successful, energetic, strong leaders.  I think I’ll really enjoy working with them, and I know I’ll learn volumes.  And they’ve made it clear:  don’t be afraid to fail here.  Ask forgiveness, not permission.    We’re not going to micromanage you, we’re going to give you honest, direct feedback along the way to help you grow.  But you’ve got a lot of value to add, value that we need.

Now I just have to believe it, and do it.

They told me Day 1 99% of startups fail.  I have 7 weeks to do everything I can to help us hit that narrow 1%.

But the plane’s landing now. Go time.  🙂

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