How to do career transition?

If you always ask yourself – How do I move from my current industry to a different one? – this article is for you. I shifted from IT industry (easy to get in, difficult to get out) to Venture Capital (VC) industry (difficult to get in but easy to get out). I am now trying to shift my wife’s industry from consulting to films (a tough one!).

Although you can argue that I am really not in VC industry and my wife is yet to join films but as we walk this journey, I see a clear process that you need to follow to get there. The irony is that it’s such a simple process and yet so few people are able to get there. The challenge – as you would have guessed – is implementation and perseverance. You need to keep moving closer to your goal – every single week (if not day). It took me four years and I am still not quite there (although I now don’t want to get into typical VC industry but a more evolved one – VC3.0). So, the simple steps to get there:

  • Volunteer your time: The best way to know about an industry is to volunteer your time in the industry associations – offer your help for free. This way, you not only get to know about how the industry works but also get to meet and know influential people in the industry. The people in these associations, interestingly, are more open, have an inclination to help others and appreciate your commitment (as they also offer their time to association for free). You may also get recognition for your work in both public and private networks/events.
  • Acquire skills: The reason I put this one after volunteering is that you get huge discounts on courses once you are inside the system. As you are a free volunteer, you can attend many paid conferences for free (depending on your repo with coordinator), get Groupon like discounts for skills training (I got 66% discount) and be visible to people. Trust me, world is small and people do take notice.
  • Network: It goes without saying that you need to build relationship with people who will push your case. Even if you attend events and target talking to at least 10 people, you will pretty much know people who will help you in some time. Don’t ignore people who are in the same boat as you are – transitioning; as they are the people who keep track on right events/people to target. Do help them and they will in turn help you (if you choose the right people).
  • Take the plunge: This is the hardest part – deciding whether to join at this steep cut in salary! My answer – the sooner you join, the sooner you will be able to recover the cut. If the salary meets your financial obligations and matches your expectations of profile, take the plunge. Once you are passionate about something, money comes sooner or later. However, be creative about your salary structure. I got increment in 8 months (though in different company) and it was better than my previous job.

In the end, it’s easier said than done but the rewards are worth more than all the efforts. Imagine a life where you enjoy 16 hours of work every day (ok, ok, 12 hours, you may not enjoy everything still) rather than living in a world where work and enjoyment do not exist together. Go, find a job you love before it’s too late!

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Insight into “help-ecosystem” for networking!

I was often confused to ask for help from someone I know I can’t seem to help later. A small incident revealed an important insight into this. I had a RAC seat (for non-train travelers,  in RAC one seat is shared between two passengers) during a train trip. A family boarded the train and they had three seats in one compartment and one in another. I overheard them that they are not going to use the fourth seat and then quickly asked them if I could use it. They agreed and one person went all the way to the other compartment to confirm the seat for me. We never exchanged cards and I don’t think I would possibly be able to help him later.

Now, given such a scenario, how many of us will ask for help? I have seen that lot of people are afraid to ask for help in this or other scenarios. Does it tell something fundamental about our behaviour?

The fact is that the “help system” is not mapped one-to-one. You help someone and it comes back to you through some other person. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you can’t help the other person as long as you are giving it back through someone else.

The bottom line? People who keep helping others get the ability to ask help from others whenever required (leave the exceptionals). So, if you are not asking for help, think whether you are giving it back to the system or not?

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Challenges of joining a start-up

I gave you a very rosy picture of start-ups in my previous article. But it is only half the truth. Let me present the other side of the story – the dark side.

Salary: Salary (for me) was by far the biggest challenge. Once you get used to taking high salaries without much work (this was my personal experience, so don’t conclude…), it becomes very difficult to accept the opposite. You need to keep in mind that the entrepreneur doesn’t make his big money in salaries but in selling his stake.

Closing-up: As data suggests, two-thirds of start-ups are not able to raise the next round of capital. So, you are likely to face the issue of stagnation or closing down 67% of times. Although getting another job is not such a big problem but the last few months before closing of the company are quite tough.

Lifestyle changes: If you are used to flights, five star hotels, taxis, secretaries and large cabins, think twice before joining a start-up. In start-up language, these are all luxuries. You may not get any of the above.

Relocation: Due to changing conditions, you might need to relocate to set-up another office, to solve burning issues, etc. Ensure that you are aware of short and long term plans of the company to avoid any shocks.

Frequent changes: Changes in a start-up happen so dynamically that by the time you think about your next step, your company might already be on its death bed. I had to change both role and location in a span of 8 months.

Finding another job: The start-up community is quite connected and if you search for another job (while in the start-up), the word will spread quickly. So, you need to be careful if things don’t work out!

Adjusting back to corporate life: Once you experience the journey of a start-up, working in a large company becomes very difficult. You always miss the excitement and the challenges. You have got to experience it to believe it.

In the end, plan and think about all the above issues but if you think you will have all the answers before joining, then I wish you good luck in your present job.

Steve Jobs once said – “If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you will certainly be right”. If you want to feel worthwhile before that day, take your chance and join a start-up!

Posted in Entrepreneurship | 2 Comments

Why join a start-up?

I have closely seen four start-ups – two I worked for and two my wife. I always suggest that everyone (who has the risk appetite) must join a start-up to get a feel of the passion at work. As lot of people ask me the benefits of joining a start-up, I have listed down few. I would put a disclaimer that this is based on my experience and it might vary significantly from someone else.

Career transition: My objective to join the start-up was to get into VC/PE industry. I realised that start-ups are much more open to the idea of taking people based on what they can do as opposed to what they have already done.

The upside potential: You join a start-up in the hope that it will become big and offer you better returns in the long run (of your small stake). Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) became a billion dollar company in three years. If you had only 1% in the company, the value of your stake would be close to 56 crores.

Test before joining: I joined my start-up for a week before committing for a full-time job. Start-ups also allow you to work part time before you join them full-time as the cost of incompatibility is very high due to small number of employees.

Challenging Work: I enjoyed the challenges associated with small fights and smaller wins every day. You own the entire piece of work and the joy of getting a new order or closing a new deal or getting great customer feedback fills you completely.

Learning experience: I learnt about varied new businesses – retail, dairy, technology, real estate, etc., about building partnerships, selling a small company service. It gives you phenomenal learning experience.

Wide and deep network: I built a strong network of people (investors, advisors and entrepreneurs) which is still paying me dividends.

Role clarity: As I worked across domains and played different roles (sales, consulting, etc.), I got more clarity about my strengths, my moments of joy, etc. The exposure allows you to understand the role you might want to play later in your career.

Family & fun: We used to work long hours, travel extensively, understand different businesses but it never felt tiring. It used to feel like a small family working together to make it work.

Flexibility: Start-ups give lot of flexibility to work as they are desperately in need of quality resources. My wife has been working from home for past two years in start-ups. No big company was willing to allow work from home from day 1.

Finding another job: Last but not the least, if your start-up doesn’t work out (as in 67% of the cases), it is not very difficult to find another job. After my start-up experience, I was able to convert all job interviews (don’t forget the pressure of losing the monthly cash inflow) and I kept negotiating hike on the small salary base. In the end, I was able to make up for the earlier steep cut and a hike on it. So, fear of not getting another job is completely unfounded. I know many people who started their own ventures and got jobs later without much difficulty. The challenge is that after seeing the excitement at a start-up, working in a large, well established firm becomes very difficult.

Before joining a start-up, be careful about the pitfalls too. Wait for my next article…

Posted in Entrepreneurship | 4 Comments