Employees We Can Believe In

November 10, 2008   

WANTED: Young people; willing to work 15 hour days for next to nothing; must believe in cause; big payoff, only in event enterprise is successful; proven ability to improvise in tough situations a must. For nearly all non-technical positions in startups, these are the prerequisites for a new hire. It is a short list, but nothing other than these qualities have been the stuff of the innovation industry's best product managers, marketers, business developers, community managers, and sales staff.

If you're in the market to hire someone with these qualities, boy are you in luck. Last week, thousands of people who fit this description just showed up on the market.

It was one of the many epiphanies I had while working on the Obama campaign over the last month:

The campaign, largely run by folks even younger than me, was chock full of people tailor-made for the startup world. From the campaign's Field Organizers on up, willingness to work long hours, being driven by a passion for the cause, and ingenuity oozed out of everyone involved in the campaign. Campaign staff knew what they were working towards -- the Big Payoff made everything worth it -- and they'd contribute anything the team needed to win.

In a startup, you need the same. Willingness to work all hours and the ability to be motivated by a big payday -- the stock options of electing a President and "going public" being one and the same -- is the root of most startups' accomplishments. And, just as a campaign worker had to scrounge up every last volunteer and figure out how to effectively canvass the most "unwalkable" of rural America, so does a startup worker require a special ability to work with limited resources and solve big problems.

So, while there may not be a whole lot of startups looking to hire right now, those who do should pay special attention to recent campaign workers: they're some of the hardest working, most passionate people I've ever had the pleasure of working with.

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