So I've slept on it, now what?
March 31, 2009 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Hustler CEOs and volatile startups aside, how do you know when an opportunity is practically slapping you in the face to make you pay attention?

This is a tangential follow-up to my last question. Sorry but this is going to be quite long.

The CEO of the consulting company for the startup they're hiring for called me up a couple of days ago saying that they were ready to offer me a package. I said something about wanting to learn more about the responsibilities I will be taking up, while clarifying that I was still interested in the position. The CEO said that his secretary will be making an appointment with me, but I recently saw on the papers that the company started putting up want ads again for a marketing team. It's making me worry that they brushed me off, and given what I've heard in the past, it's not a far-fetched idea.

Marketing jobs in this sleepy town are few and far between, and I am a fresh graduate. Still, this new product they're going to launch is going to carve a niche (hopefully) and given the target market's propensity towards conspicuous consumption, I do see the potential (I think I see potential in everything, which is sometimes a flaw). It's just weird that they'll be entrusting a fresh grad with a lot of the work, and everybody keeps saying it's better to start small in a corporation than go to a startup when you're a fresh grad(even though you'll immediately be doing more and will possibly be given a higher position). Then again, this is the age of college dropouts striking gold.

Also, most of what I've already heard about my responsibilities as a part of the marketing team will be to give presentations to sales agents about the product. The company with their contacts have already lined up a lot of these agents (nothing on any specialty store shelf yet) and I am to train them supposedly for direct selling. Isn't this bordering on the sales department already? People de-glamorize the idea by saying that in the end, I'm just trying to sell a drink (well, isn't that what marketing's about anyway)... but I also see product launches (events, which is my main interest), press releases, and basically forging a new market. Exciting.

So, my questions:
1. Should I follow up on that appointment? How do I go about it?
2. Is it still worth taking a closer look at this job?
3. Generally speaking, is sticking with a corporation first (as a fresh grad), instead of a startup, sound advice -- especially in the context of a global financial meltdown?
4. Taking into account that CEO who wasn't very professional (but with whom I won't be working anyway), does this still look like a shady deal all around?

Many thanks.
posted by drea to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I don't know. Do you have time for this with your busy work schedule and the dozens of other interviews you obviously have going at the moment?
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:31 PM on March 31, 2009

You're overthinking.

(I think I see potential in everything, which is sometimes a flaw)

I was coming in here to say that no one knows an opportunity slapping them in the face in anything but retrospect. Some people are better at leaping in and taking the gamble. When those gambles are successful, they're the ones saying "I saw a great opportunity and went for it." When they're unsuccessful, those people either revise their strategy or get depressed and think nothing ever works out for them.

If you're the type of person who thinks everything has potential, that's good - you're likelier to grab opportunities while others are still hemming and hawing. This might be that kind of situation.

No job is permanent. If you take it, and after two months it looks like it's going nowhere, you can leave. And if you then find yourself applying for a corporate job, you can honestly say "I tried a startup opportunity, but it wasn't for me. I'm interested in something more stable," and that will be a plus at that time.

Give this job a shot. It could be totally fishy but, as a new graduate, it's not like you're throwing a long career away by taking a little risk. You're right to ask questions and it is suspect that they advertised the position again, but you don't have all the information. If you're worth waiting for, they'll hold it for you. If it's a cash mill, they'll move on fast. Go find out. Do your homework on it. Ask older relatives or friends to look at the material. But if they're offering you work that's not on commission, as a new grad in this economy, in a region with few prospects? Give it a shot. See what they've got to offer you.
posted by Miko at 8:57 PM on March 31, 2009

It's somewhat unusual to interview with a CEO if you are an undergraduate candidate. I understand that this is a start up, but is he the sole employee? It sounds like you need to research the company, its products and its methods of distribution:

-Are the products sold in stores or only through representatives?
-Do the products make any claims that sound too good to be true (weight loss, memory enhancement, antioxidants, latest miracle berry from the rain forest)?
-Are you required to buy the products and then resell them?
-Do they manufacture or contract to have the beverages produced or are they solely marketers for this beverage?

Ask yourself and the CEO some of these questions to get a better sense of your expected role.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 9:07 PM on March 31, 2009

You have not described things very well, but from what I can tell from this post and your previous post, this sounds like some kind of scam multi-level marketing scheme or something, and the CEO is looking for inexpensive smart but naive labor that he can overwork and otherwise take advantage of.

All that said, you could still follow up and talk to him. If you do that, I'd just keep two things in mind:

1) don't get overwhelmed by thinking of this as "the opportunity of a lifetime." It's not. It's just a job. There will be other jobs. If this CEO is spending his time recruiting undergraduates, it is very unlikely that he has some incredible diet pill breakthrough that will change the world.

2) make a commitment that you will not, I repeat not accept any job offer on-the-spot. Leave your pens at home. Leave your ID at home. Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself not to get carried away by the CEO's enthusiasm or pressured by him into accepting a job on the spot. Write on the back of your hand that you won't say "yes" until the next day. And if he tries to pressure you to say "yes" on the spot, walk away. He's bad news.
posted by alms at 5:30 AM on April 1, 2009

The CEO of the consulting company for the startup they're hiring for

Can you unpack this for us? Is he the CEO of the startup, or the CEO of a consulting firm?

Is it the same guy from your last question? Or are you being interviewed by multiple CEOs?

(Which is downright weird, by the way. New grads don't get interviewed by the chief, except in extremely small startups -- and in those cases the non-skeezy ones don't tend to describe themselves as the CEO, because it sounds stupid.)
posted by ook at 8:02 AM on April 1, 2009

I am concerned.... I think alms might be right on this one. Are you absolutely sure this is not a multi-level marketing scam? If so, you will NOT be making any money on this.

* MLM participants sometimes call themselves "CEO," and the notion that they are independant business owners is heavily pushed by the parent company. You mention that the CEO was "not very professional."

* Some of them also refer to their downstream MLM participants as a team. The more independant business owners they recruit, and the further recruits they bring in, the more money they make. This sounds a lot like "most of what I've already heard about my responsibilities as a part of the marketing team will be to give presentations to sales agents about the product. The company with their contacts have already lined up a lot of these agents (nothing on any specialty store shelf yet) and I am to train them supposedly for direct selling."

* They are aggressively recruiting a "marketing team" and continue to advertise even after you have been interviewed and offered a "package" -- again, more downstream providers for an MLM

* Do you know the name of the company? Of the product? MLMs have been known to push energy and, uh, health drinks.
posted by Gable Oak at 10:03 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Without going into specifics, the health/energy drink is endorsed by a high-profile American cyclist.

In the US, it's not (only) sold through MLM. Over here it's not so clear whether we'll be doing direct-selling forever or whether we're just testing the waters.

I've been interviewed by two people: the CEO of the consulting firm, and the vice president of the company that's going to be selling these drinks. The guy from my last question was the guy from the consulting firm.
posted by drea at 4:05 PM on April 1, 2009

I understand it's hard to tell exactly what this firm's business model is going to be. The central question in my mind right now is whether they are offering you a salary. If they are offering you regular wages for your work, it might be worth trying out.

If you are being asked to work on some sort of commission, whether it's presented as a percentage of sales or a bonus for every new account you set up or some other scheme where you don't get paid until you complete an action or meet a mark - it's shady. The main indicator of an MLM is that you don't get paid unless you're paying your boss somehow. If they're telling you how much you *could* make if you "hustle" and you're "motivated," watch out.
posted by Miko at 6:23 PM on April 1, 2009

Is it this?
posted by Miko at 6:28 PM on April 1, 2009

Response by poster: Miko: yup it's that. I'm pretty sure they're offering me a salary. If I'm doing this based on commission, I'm dropping out for sure.
posted by drea at 8:16 PM on April 1, 2009

OK. I'd be wary of what they're going to ask you to do. Read this, this, , and this. It sounds like it's legal, because they spell it out in the fine print, but it's not a consumer-friendly marketing practice.

I'd go to the meeting and see what's in their "package," but just keep your wits about you. Don't sign anything, as recommended above.
posted by Miko at 8:51 PM on April 1, 2009

Response by poster: Alright, thanks for all the advice and pertinent information. I will just try to forget about the job given the negative feedback on the product and the customer service.
posted by drea at 7:03 AM on April 13, 2009

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