Probably need to GTFO [another how do I spin leaving question]
October 12, 2016 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Short Version: I'm at a start up that I suspect will not be getting its series B in time for us to not run out of money. I'm kind of expensive and also I like having a pay check. I need to figure out what to say when I'm interviewing.

So basically I like this place okay, although there are problems and I'm kind of over it (not totally, but enough). The bigger issue is that I know I am one of the more expensive people in this shop and I also know that we'll be out of runway something like April - and I don't see how we can from now to then get the money we need to stay alive.

I don't think I can say that to potential new employers. What do I say? I've been here about 9 months, and I'd stay, really, but I'm starting to feel like I need to look to self-preservation in the near future.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Forgive me if this seems ignorant, but why can't you tell prospective employers that the high risks and lack of stability of the start-up world no longer appeal to you?

I guess that wouldn't go over well at another start-up, but it would be fine I think for any well-established company. It's widely known that start-ups are risky for employees as well as investors. And if you're afraid of the whole thing collapsing, maybe another start-up is not a good fit for you either.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:54 PM on October 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

My sense is that interviewers don't care about these details as much as it might feel to you right now. You can offer vague platitudes about it being time to move on, that you feel like you're ready for new challenges and so on.

April is relatively far away, you have plenty of time to interview and hone your pitch.
posted by rhizome at 1:55 PM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah, speaking as someone in management at a (emphatically non-startup) tech company - "I'm at a cool startup, I like it, but we're running out of runway and I don't intend to be caught when that happens" - I would not blink at that from a candidate. And, of course, I'm a lot more interested in why you like us rather than why you're looking to leave.

Another startup might not love hearing that but "They're about to stop paying me" should be a fine thing to hear at any startup with half-decent funding; if they think it's bad that you don't like working for free, they're probably not a good employer anyway for someone who doesn't like working for free.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:15 PM on October 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

Hold on a minute.

First, you say you suspect that your employer will run out of money. Then you say you know they'll run out of money. Which is it? And how do you know?

Have you had this conversation with management? Is it possible they know something that you don't?

The advice above is all good. And maybe you should be focused on interviewing for a new position. It might be worth checking your crystal ball, though.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:24 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It strikes me that the core problem here is that your current company's runway is privileged information: your current employer doesn't need rumors about their financial health to start spreading. I think your instinct to avoid straight out saying that to other companies is very reasonable.

An honest alternative may to be say something like "I'm not convinced that my current company is on a successful path forward, and I'd rather work for a company like yours which I believe has a better chance at explosive success". You're not sharing privileged information, but you're also not being misleading about your motivations. Plus you get to compliment your potential new employer at the same time.
posted by simonw at 3:04 PM on October 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

I've been in a similar situation. I ended up staying with the ship until it went under, but I did some looking around first and no one I talked to was surprised or put off by the idea that I would leave. Wanting to make sure your job is secure and that you get paid what you want is something that is universally understandable from what I've seen. I don't see why another potential employer would be upset that you don't want to deal with that risk if you can avoid it (and I guess if there are any employers out there who would put that kind of irrational value on your "loyalty", you probably don't want to get hired by them anyway). You can, of course, be vague about it (just say that you want more 'certainty', or the like) but I don't think there are that many people who begrudge an employee not wanting to deal with that uncertainty, so I don't think you need to worry overmuch about how to finesse it.
posted by mister pointy at 5:29 PM on October 12, 2016

Just tell them you're concerned about stability, don't share details of the financial situation if you're not comfortable doing so. (FWIW I've been at startups that kept their financial situation hidden, and ones that were up front with the employees about the situation.) Unless your interview is at another early-stage startup, they'll assume your actions in bailing our are sane & rational, and won't ask for details. And if it is an early-stage startup, they'll be so cocky & optimistic about their uniqueness that they won't assume that bailing out on a loser is anything but smart.
posted by mr vino at 5:26 AM on October 13, 2016

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