4 min read

Buy Low, Sell High

This is the universal mantra for buying stocks, but it also needs to be your mantra when looking at potential employers. You’ll be investing your time and energy into a company, so you need to choose wisely.
Buy Low, Sell High
Photo by Yiorgos Ntrahas / Unsplash

This is the universal mantra for buying stocks, but it also needs to be your mantra when looking at potential employers.  You’ll be investing your time and energy into a company, so you need to choose wisely.

In theory, people pick stocks because they’re undervalued and there’s a lot of room for growth.  And, in theory, people should pick companies to work with for the same reasons.  But during a recession, people flip out and forget the value of having a long term strategy.  They sell their stocks at a loss, and they latch onto any company that’s willing to offer them the illusion of job security.  The latter, in particular, is an enormous problem for young people, because your career path can be unknowingly cemented in the formative years after you’ve graduated.

I don’t think there’s much to be gained by working for a company that’s fundamentally done growing.  And I’m not talking about margins or even the number of employees — I’m talking about the company’s goals.  If their goals consist of ‘Protect our assets’ and ‘Business as usual,’ then PASS.  You need to look at this as an investment for yourself, and these are the best years of your life to expose yourself to some risk.  You’re not investing in bonds and CD’s right now, are you?  You shouldn’t be, because they’re for old people who want to play it safe.  Similarly, corporate jobs are not for young people because they’re “safe” bets that won’t help you grow.  Don’t invest yourself into companies with zero-growth potential.

“But times are tough.  You need to take what you can get.”  I’ve heard this phrase ad nauseum for a year, and I don’t buy it.  Yes, times are tough, but you can still get a job you want if you learn valued skills, get some interesting experiences under your belt, and have a sound understanding of the psychology of hiring.

Once you get those areas taken care of, you need to actively seek out companies that align with your passions and ideals.  This is important, because it will lead to work that is both emotionally and spiritually sustainable.  And of course, you must also factor in how well this company will help you achieve your financial goals.

Big corporate jobs can be extremely tempting (think of the paycheck!), but it’s the equivalent of buying stock in Coca-Cola.  Yea, it’s a safe investment, but don’t expect a significant return (even over the course of 10 to 20 years).  Their growth phase is largely over.

In my experience, most of these corporations are just too boring to work for in the first place.  Companies that have an insane amount of money tend to move painfully slow, and they usually have a fleeting interest in any of your ideas to speed them up.  Their strategy will be ‘Steady as she goes’ until they coast to a stop many, many years later.  The reality is that their business model, no matter how antiquated it might seem today, made them into what they are.  In other words, they’re rightfully convinced that they know what they’re talking about.  So why should they listen to all of your strange, half-baked ideas when they have such a great track record?  Answer: They shouldn’t, and they won’t.

Now, you might think it’d be more fulfilling to work with entrepreneurs, and you’d be right… to an extent.  You have to know what you’re getting into first.  If you want to help a brand new start up and none of the people have any experience in running a business, that’s like investing in a $0.20 stock with “HUGE POTENTIAL” that you read about on Yahoo Stocks.  Statistically speaking, they’re probably going to fail, so invest sparingly.

These poor entrepreneurs who have debt up to their eyes can be just as frustrating to work with as the corporations, because they truly cannot pay you.  They have more important things to allocate their money towards, like actually selling their product and getting their business on its feet.  You might love the work, but you better have another job on the side.

That being said, I consistently find myself getting excited whenever I’m working with any start up.  While most of them aren’t big winners (in terms of me getting paid), they are still a lot of fun.  Anything you contribute has the potential to make a substantial impact on the company.  You’re not a pawn, like you would be in the corporate world; you’re a major player.

But the sweet spot is when you find an entrepreneur who has built up just enough traction, and now they’re looking to take things to the next level.  They have a successful track record, but in their minds, the successes they’ve had are relatively minor to what they really want to accomplish.  These people are not only fun to work with, but they actually listen and care about your well-being.  They were in your position not so long ago, so they understand where you’re coming from and are willing to help you grow and learn in exchange for helping them.  And most importantly, these people are more likely to succeed quickly.  If they did it once, then they can almost certainly do it again… but even faster this time around.  It’s called momentum.

Those are the types of people you need to seek out.  They are the best of all of your career investment options, because no matter what they’ve achieved thus far, they’re still on the upswing.