Thinking about joining a startup — what to consider

January 5, 2010 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

The lure of the start-up organization with its freshly minted positions can be powerful. It’s a chance to start over, an opportunity to be in on the ground floor of something exciting, and often a chance to have much greater responsibility and flexibility than you would if you were stepping onto the crowded ladder at an established organization with all its bureaucracy and traditions.

And let’s not forget, start-ups are often where the openings are now — especially in journalism, where new Internet publications and initiatives are replacing “dead-tree” jobs that are being lost in droves. So considering a start-up position just makes sense for most journalists on the hunt.

Yet recruiters and those who have joined journalism start-ups in the past say candidates for positions with new organizations must do even more research and cast an even wider net when asking questions than they would when considering a job with an established organization. With risk often comes reward, though sometimes the reward is not enough to make up for the risk, and that’s what you’ll want to try to determine when evaluating a start-up.

Some things to consider:

*Obviously, the answers to some of your questions about working at a start-up organization will be more vague than with a job with a long track record. Duties may not be as hard-and-fast, a typical workday may be yet unknown and the publication itself may just be a prototype. But ask questions and do research in an attempt to determine if your potential employer has a detailed plan and business model for their enterprise. What is their niche and how do they expect to fill it? How crowded is this niche already? What are their plans for competing? What experience do the leaders of the organization have in this type of enterprise? How organized do things appear — how long have they been working to put this together? Do things seem haphazard? Does one person tell you one thing and another something different about how things will operate? Even though a start-up is new, if they are hiring for it they should have a definite business plan and a vision for beating the competition.

*Finances. This is obviously a key consideration with a start-up organization. Job candidates should always carefully research the finances of a potential employer but with a start-up there is obviously more risk because it lacks a track record. We all have heard the tales about grand plans that turned into closed doors and layoffs — and often with much thinner severance packages than offered by established organizations. Seriously research the money behind the organization, the commitment of those financing it to the enterprise (how long are they willing to lose money before giving up? is a perfectly legitimate question to ask of those running the new organization) and their pay scales. Be wary of promises of raises or bonuses in the future “if things go well” and evaluate pay and benefits as you would for any potential job. This is not volunteer work, it’s a job.

*Because start-ups often involve relatively small staffs and long hours — especially in the launch period of a new publication or Web site — it’s important to try to get to know some about those who you would be working with so closely. Ask to meet prospective colleagues and ask them a series of questions. If the hiring process for most jobs is still ongoing — as it might be with a start-up — ask questions about the type of people and other positions for which they are hiring. Again, in a small office with few staff members, one bad apple can really make your life miserable, so try to do as much research on staffing as possible. And if they are in temporary offices, ask lots of questions about the new space — they may have architectural drawings or may be able to take you on a tour of the developing space — as you may be spending a great deal of time there.

*And finally, research what organizations or individuals may be behind this organization. With advocacy groups, this is usually pretty clear and you can evaluate whether this is a group whose positions you can comfortably support, even indirectly. Yet with journalistic Web sites and online publications, the so-called power behind the throne isn’t always apparent. Sometimes the funders may have agendas — even indirect — that you should know about. Most organizations will have an advisory board or board of overseers — ask to see that list and do research on its members. Why are they supporting this enterprise? How might it advance their interests? Even if you’re told there is a “firewall” between the advisers’ interests and the journalism you’ll be engaged in, be skeptical and ask questions about how they attempt to enforce that firewall. You don’t want to be surprised later on to find that you are doing advocacy work when you didn’t intend that. If you will be acting as an advocate — even on occasion — that should be clearly spelled out.

*I’ve sometimes been tempted to warn against job-hunting offers that sound too good to be true; they are likely scams or may be harmless but worthless spam. Yet a recent one brought to my attention by an outraged email correspondent whose job-hunting brother received this bears a warning. It’s an especially cruel Internet hoax aimed at those who need employment. It’s well-done, but when you read the fine print at the very end you’ll find that you are actually buying a “subscription” to a service that costs about $150 a month. Check it out below — and you may be surprised where Kelly Richards lives. And the larger lesson is that anyone who wants you to shell out for information or application “fees” for a job very likely is a scam artist.

Subject: Holy Macaroni… Check This Out… Job at Home on the Internet Pays $5,000 – $7,000 per Month

*And now, some real job leads for this still new year!

*Congress Daily, part of the National Journal Group, has an opening in D.C. for a reporter to cover lobbying:


For the full job description, please visit our website at


Reporter — CongressDaily
National Journal’s CongressDaily — a leading source of print and online news and information for congressional insiders – seeks a reporter to cover lobbying. The beat involves reporting on the grassroots and coalition activities of major D.C.-based membership organizations and key lobbying shops, as well as tracking lobbying efforts keyed to major legislative issues. Regulation and oversight of lobbying by the executive and legislative branches is a major element of the beat, with an opportunity for investigative and enterprise reporting. Some coverage of key policy areas might also be involved as the congressional agenda changes. Applicants must have an eye for detail and be able to write clearly and cleanly on tight deadlines; experience covering Capitol Hill highly preferred. Applicants should e-mail or mail a copy of their resume along with at least three clips to Senior Editor Rick Sia, No phone calls.
Atlantic Media Company is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

*The next several leads come from Widmeyer Communications in D.C. is looking for an assistant vice president for its public affairs practice:

Widmeyer Communications
Industry Public Relations
Salary Competitive
Benefits 401K/403B, Bonuses, Dental, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements Widmeyer Communications seeks to hire an Assistant Vice President for its Public Affairs Practice in Washington, D.C.

Ideal candidates will have substantive experience as a manager or coordinator on a national public education campaign or as part of a project team at a communications firm or government agency. Comparable experience at a major trade association or company is also highly relevant. It is expected that successful candidates will have 7-10 years of relevant experience with national public relations or public affairs campaigns, media relations, federal or state legislative work and/or communications agency experience.

Prerequisites for the position include experience leading complex public outreach communications projects, absolute attention to detail and team management focus, ability to multi-task and juggle competing demands for time and attention, demonstrated media relations/placement success, an understanding of partnership development and exemplary writing skills.

Responsibilities include project management, client account management and senior-level client service assignments including crisis communications. The successful candidate will report to the head of the Public Affairs practice and serve as deputy account manager for a national public safety education campaign.

About Our Company For more than 20 years, Widmeyer Communications has been the nations leading public affairs firm with a specialized practice serving education clients in the public and private sectors. Our research-based strategy and planning, public relations, advertising, creative and digital expertise are behind some of the best-known and highest profile education news stories of the past two decades, from paradigm-shifting policy reports to the emergence of new education technologies to an unprecedented focus on health and safety of our nations students.
As more attention than ever is now being paid to education reform at the Federal, state, and local levels, Widmeyers staff expertise and professional experience is in demand like never before. As a result, we are expanding our senior ranks in our PreK-12 education practice and a and are looking for the right education communications/public affairs veteran to come join our team.

*The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition is looking for a communications associate:

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
Industry Non-profit
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) is seeking an experienced Communications Associate. This position will be responsible for the USGLCs Website, Social Media Campaigns, Electronic Communications, and Written Communications. The position will report to the Communications Director and reside in Washington, D.C.

Responsibilities will include:

 Website Management Maintain the USGLCs website using creative, multi-media elements and provide direction to web development vendor. Responsible for maintaining fresh content.

 Electronic Communications Assist in developing effective e-communications and managing new media campaigns. Knowledge of Convio or other bulk email/database management software a plus.

 Produce Written Materials Assist in the design and formatting of USGLC products, both online and print, and contribute at times to writing projects such as opinion editorial and blog postings. Proficiency with Adobe design products, including InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as some photography/video editing skills is a plus.

 Assist Communications Director Provide support to the Communications Director in media outreach, news monitoring, press events and other assignments as necessary.

Position Requirements:
The position requires at least 3-4 years of communications and website experience in a non-profit, campaign, trade association, Congressional office or similar environment. Excellent writing and organization skills and strong understanding of new media and other on-line technologies for advocacy communications required. Proficiency with web-based content management systems, website and blog maintenance strongly preferred. Knowledge of international development and foreign affairs a plus. Experience with photography, video production and web design also desirable. Salary will be commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Candidates for the position should send their resume to Please indicate Communications Associate in the subject line. Short listed candidates will be contacted. No calls please.

About Our Company About the USGLC:
The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) is a broad-based influential network of 400 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders in all 50 states who support the smart power approach of elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world.

*And last but not least, the advertising and PR agency GMMB in D.C.  has an opening for a senior vice president and account director:

Industry Advertising Agency, Marketing, Non-profit, Public Relations
Benefits 401K/403B, Dental, Health, Stock/Options
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements Ready to leave behind the commercial advertising world to focus on ideas, causes, and issues that lead to positive change? GMMB, the leading agency in progressive causes, politics, CSR and reputation building is looking for a seasoned communications professional to lead national and international advertising accounts with our Washington, DC team. In this position, the ideal candidate would counsel a variety of high-profile clients, including corporations, foundations and national non-profit organizations on integrated communications campaigns.
Candidates must be able to:

Provide expert strategic counsel to CEO and CMO-level clients.

Lead agency team to develop national and international multi-dimensional advertising and communications campaigns.

Collaborate with dynamic clients, account teams, (and periodically partner agencies), to plan and execute communications strategies, including advertising, digital, and engagement.

Successfully lead teams with multiple discipline representation at the most senior levels account, creative, digital, design, media planning to achieve client results
Apply insight and understanding of new and emerging media landscape across all strategies.

Develop top-notch written materials, including strategic plans, high-level presentations, communications and advertising plans.

The individual must have a proven track record of leading successful advertising campaigns for global brands preferably brands with a tech focus. Excellent oral and written skills are essential. Candidates must have strong organizational skills, attention to detail, budget management experience, an ability to work under tight deadlines, and success in managing and leading.

The candidate must be an innovative leader and thinker, who plays well with others and is capable of working closely with the client and the account team to deliver high-quality results. Qualified applicants will possess a BS/BA degree in a related field and have 15-plus years of relevant experience. Salary is commensurate with job requirements and experience.

GMMB offers an excellent benefits package and competitive salaries. Please send cover letter and resume to or fax to 202-338-2334. Please indicate “HR DC – SVP ADVERTISING ACCOUNT DIRECTOR” in the subject line.

GMMB is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Please visit our website at

About Our Company While political communications was our original specialty, our desire to effect real change quickly grew beyond politics, evolving our organization into a premier political, issue and cause communications firm. We help foundations, non-profits, associations, government and socially conscious corporations achieve their missions of making this world a better place for all of us.

We are, at heart, activists. We believe in our clients and are dedicated to the causes they champion.

Happy hunting!Jodi

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Should you worry about job jumping? How to wrap up a job hunt

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