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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

The world's leading venture capitalist of today shared the career advice below almost a decade ago. While the advice is targeted at the young, I think the experienced ought to pay heed.

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The Math Behind a Move

Calculate your position and earning potential before you start your job search.

By Andrew Klappholz

It’s time for a new job. Or is it? The decision to seek new employment seems like simple arithmetic for most — you must find a job when you don’t have one or you aren’t satisfied by your current position. But the assessment is more like calculus for salespeople who have to weigh market conditions and the staying power of your employer and factors such as your timing, the length of the sales cycles or your commission payout.

Greg Alexander — author of "Topgrading for Sales" and CEO of Sales Benchmark Index, a consultancy that focuses on sales-force effectiveness — cites four major reasons a salesperson leaves a company to sell for another:

  1. Change of boss. Many times, a salesperson is there because he enjoys working for his manager more than company or product. When that manager moves on, you might want to follow suit.
  2. Change in territory assignment. If you’re moved to another territory — especially one with fewer potential clients or where you feel less suited — that’s likely to diminish your income. Even if the new territory is of a comparable size, it takes time to learn it and develop new relationships, which may not be part of your plan.
  3. The product becomes less competitive. Know of anyone who specializes in selling VCRs? “They’ll move on to try to catch the next hard product,” Alexander said.
  4. The quotas become unrealistic. If the market will only bear $800,000 for a product and your quota is still $1 million, you have a problem.

Most salespeople choose to stay in sales. More often than not, they also stick to the industry and region they know. It’s not a simple issue of comfort, said Roy Cohen, a professional career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide"; staying within your current industry and region helps you convince a hiring company that you can walk in with a book of clients ready to hit the ground running and impact revenue.

But that sort of thinking can be limiting. “I think people have a lot of fear, and fear has the potential to immobilize people,” Cohen said. “You must take some risk — not to be fearless but not to be overly risk-averse.”

Another factor to consider in your assessment of the job search should be the length of time you can afford to look for a job (i.e. the strength of your company or the amount of your personal savings) and the length of time the job search will take. A rule of thumb: Your job search will take one to one-and-a-half months for every $10,000 in salary you require.

A review of market conditions and advice from colleagues can help narrow down an average for your industry, region and position.

“It depends how competitive your target is,” Cohen said. “Anything desirable takes a longer time horizon.”

Andrew Klappholz is a general assignment reporter for TheLadders.

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