If you're accustomed to 40-hour workweeks, generous benefit packages, stable and attractive working environments, or clear and consistent business objectives that last longer than the latest dance craze, you're probably in for some culture shock.
So how can you successfully meet the challenge of entering this new setting? Stop thinking like an Employee and start thinking like a Professional. Here are some ways to position yourself to win in the world of new media:
1. Strictly business
You are looking to sell your time, skills, and experience for the highest possible amount. This amount may include non-cash compensation like health benefits, stock options, and the like. Conversely, the company seeks to increase its profitability by finding someone to fill a pre-valued role at the lowest cost possible. This cost includes both cash and non-cash compensation, as well as taxes. Be prepared to do your due diligence. Is the company going to provide a suitable environment for you to grow and learn? Does it have a sound business plan? Is the leadership team capable (not just pleasant)? Is the company and its goals worthy of your time?
2. It's a marathon
Long term thinking is still important when planning your career strategy. At the same time, you should not expect to stay with any particular company longer than two years. Look for career opportunities where you can develop your skills and experience, rather than jobs that don't challenge you to learn more. Positioning yourself for the next growth opportunity should be a key objective.
~3. To move forward, step back
You may currently be the biggest fish in your pond, and still be a guppy in the new media ocean. Swallow your ego, talk to your financial advisor, and be prepared to sacrifice your generous compensation package and title for the best career opportunities. I know, I know. It took you years of corporate blood drives, stupid holiday parties and 4 percent annual increases to get where you are now. How could I ask you to give up that six-word title that barely fits on your business card? Because in new media, success isn't about title and salary. It's about role and positioning. If you concentrate on the right things, the money will follow. A small step back could position you for a huge leap forward later.
4. Don't hesitate
Gone are the days of "Thanks for the job offer. I'll give you my answer in 10 days." You should know enough about the company before your first interview to decide whether you would want to work there. After the interview, you should know how much you'd accept to take the job. By the time you get an offer, if the terms are agreeable, you should be prepared to accept or decline on the merits. Don't fall into the habit of using one offer as leverage for other offers or possible counteroffers. As a professional, develop a reputation of integrity and quick and solid decision-making. If you are comparing offers, do it quickly. While you're weighing your options, the company may decide that you lack decision-making skills and withdraw the offer. No one likes to be strung along. It doesn't work in dating situations, and it doesn't work here either.
A career in new media isn't for the lazy or meek. You've got to be determined, disciplined, and focused to make it in this brave new industry. The successful journey is hazardous and fraught with danger, but the rewards are potentially great.
They're lying to you. Or maybe they just don't know but won't admit it. Either way, the vast majority of pundits are wrong - a career as an Internet professional is no easier than any other career path. In the short term, it is potentially more stressful and less profitable. In the long term (at least in relative terms, given the short history of the industry), it definitely can be more exciting and rewarding.