I’m a programmer both by temperament and by classical training. So, I often think about life in terms of functions (in the programming or mathematical sense). What are the parameters or inputs passed into the function? What does the function return as a result? The typical set of inputs people put into their what_job_is_right() function goes something like this:
Should I work for a startup, a scale-up, or an established company?
If a startup, pre-funding, post-funding, or no funding?
Pre- or post-IPO?
What will my title, salary, and benefits look like?
There's one important input that should be on the list which is often under-weighted or ignored completely and that’s growth.
When people are looking for a new job or their first job (as many of the world’s recent grads are right about now) it’s tempting to seek out the highest salary, the best benefits, or the shortest commute. But I would argue that you should focus on finding a company that’s solving for growth. We talk about growth a lot in the tech world, so what does it actually mean for a job search and how will you know a company like this when you see it?
Most people would say to look at the size of a company. The thinking is that at a small startup, you’ll have more opportunity to make an impact. Or, if a company is big, you’ll have more resources and support to have an impact. Right?
I’m going to let you in on a secret: The size of the company is mostly noise -- very little signal. That is, knowing the size of a company doesn’t tell you very much.
There are small companies that are somewhat conventional and there are bigger companies that are creative and innovative. So instead of focusing on size, it’s more important to understand the mindset of a company by looking at how they’re investing in three key growth areas.
Is the company growing?
Growth creates natural opportunities for learning and advancement. New teams, new initiatives, new challenges; they’re all results of growth. That’s invaluable for someone who’s hungry for responsibility. But you want to know not just that a company is growing right now, but if they have big ambitions that will drive them to keep doing so. A track record of rapid growth makes it tempting to become complacent. That’s why it’s important to ask: Are there big challenges yet to be solved? Look for a company that shows no signs of slowing down on innovation or resting on their laurels. Look for companies that are perpetually unsatisfied. They are never done learning.
Are people growing professionally?
A fast-growing company can create huge learning opportunities. But you don’t just want to be learning, you want to be learning by doing, too. Do employees have the autonomy to run with projects? Is their mission clearly defined? Do they have access to the support, resources, and information they need to be successful on that mission? When you’re picking a company to join, ask yourself if they have the potential to make an impact. And, can you impact the company’s ability to create that impact? A company that trusts employees to move the needle is usually a company that wants to see you move the needle on your career, too.
Are people growing personally?
This last one is usually considered a ‘nice to have’ in the job search, not a requirement. But there is a massive multiplier effect when companies invest in both employees’ professional and personal growth. We’re happier, more engaged, and drive better results when we don’t have to decouple the two. We do our best to invest in individual mastery at HubSpot; whether employees stay for 11 months or 11 years, we want them to leave HubSpot smarter, more curious, and more confident in their craft. That’s why we offer things like ongoing Master Classes on topics from personal finance to negotiation skills, manager trainings, tuition reimbursement, and a Free Books program. People don’t just want to grow during work hours; empowering them to think differently can go a long way well beyond the office.
If you’re in the process of looking for your first job, I suggest forgetting about the size of a company. Size is trivial. If you want growth, find a company that’s solving for it. Look for a place that will surround you with amazing people, teach you something new every day, and create opportunities for you to make an impact.
I’ve found that those inputs tend to be the most useful when crafting your own algorithm to make this important decision.