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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

no one will hire me as their visionary

A reader writes:

I am very talented in my creativity and thinking ability. I have a lot of ideas I would like to pass around a marketing firm or ideally to direct companies. I have no idea where to start. I also have started a small business and it's profitable within the first year, but it is not what I want to do. I rather be somewhat of a consultant or an ideas man. I truly believe I have great potential in this area, but I am in my final year of college and I do not know where to start or even where to look. I have applied to many positions on craigslist, monster, and various other job sites, but I feel as if no one is understanding what I am capable of. 

I know if a company or a few people were to see my vision they will agree that they are multi million dollar ideas. So again, how do I go about finding a position and how do I tell them my ideas without having them run off with them?

Oh.

Hmmmm.

I'm pausing because I'm contemplating how to say this.

It is very, very unlikely that someone is going to hire you right out school to be their ideas man. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. And it's definitely not going to happen from Craigslist or Monster. There are very few entry-level jobs for "ideas guy." Hell, there are very few senior level jobs for "ideas guy."

Generally getting that kind of work requires getting more experience first -- experience in how to implement and execute and make things happen.

It also requires highly unusual talent. And while it's entirely possible that your ideas are great, there's also a very good chance that your ideas are kind of terrible. Or that they're mediocre, or that there's some reason they wouldn't work, or that they've been thought of and rejected in favor of something else. It is very, very hard to judge this accurately yourself.

I can tell you this though, even though it's making me wince to have to say it:  In my experience, people who really have this kind of exceptional talent are talented enough that they're finding a pathway to make it happen. It's fairly rare that they're looking to Craigslist and Monster to make it happen for them. And because of that, I'd put money on you needing more seasoning time, and on the likelihood that you're coming across as naive to these companies.

Related: boss won't let me come up with new ideas

43 comments:

Cassie said...

Maybe consider an internship (since you're still in college) so you have a chance to network and also get some feedback on your ideas?

Anonymous said...

Also it'll help your cause if you take the time to make sure that your communication is free of grammatical errors. These mistakes just add to the naive, entitled feeling in the question.

Richard said...

The problem with having big ideas when you haven't worked in the industry yet is usually one of the following:
1. The ideas are usually pipe dreams; they sound like they should be fantastic, but they're missing a key ingredient or consideration that would make them fall flat on their face in a real world scenario. These are usually considerations that you wouldn't even think about until you've had some real industry experience.
2. You are presenting your idea badly. You might have all the enthusiasm in the world, but you lack the industry experience to actually portray your concepts in a manner that appeals to your target audience. Such common mistakes are:
- Being too technical in your explanation - Not all managers are technical!
- Explaining your idea in a manner that describes the organisation's current system/ideas in a manner that the person you're explaining it to may deem offensive. i.e. they take it as 'the way you do things right now is crap and I know better than you.'
- Explaining your idea without explaining the benefits over an existing system properly.
- Not taking staff costs and training into consideration with your budgeting.
- Not taking implementation and downtime costs into consideration.
- Not realising that forgetting the above may make your project financially infeasible.
- ...and so on.
3. You have a great sounding idea, but it's an idea without a proper purpose; it doesn't solve an existing problem, make anything more efficient (or at least, not enough to warrant the cost of development, implementation and employee training), or generate any additional income for the company.
4. You aren't reputable: You're in college, and there are thousands of students who come out of college every year who loudly proclaim that they're the best thing since sliced bread, that they have all of these awesome ideas for , and then don't understand why no-one is listening, especially when they're approaching people and leading with their ideas. Experienced people in the industry (the people you are trying to appeal to) tend to roll their eyes at this, usually because of one/some/all of the above reasons.

Everything boils down to one things though; you need experience before you can go throwing your big weighty ideas around. You need to prove to an employer that you can do a fantastic job in your field with the tasks that they assign you by joining at the lower rung and proving your worth there; learn the ins and outs of the design and implementation processes, and learn how to properly justify and pitch an idea within their organisation, then perhaps they will be more willing to consider your ideas and suggestions seriously.

As someone who is also in his final year of university/college, best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

I think everyone who is in their final year of college thinks they'd be a great "ideas man". :)

I'm reminded of a time when I was interviewing a woman who had just finished grad school. (She and I were the same age, but I started working after undergrad while she continued her education.) I thought a person with her advanced degree would be a great addition to the team, until she started saying things like "it sounds like you guys are looking for someone to take you to the next level". Riiiiight.

The thing is, ideas don't mean much without the context of a business. This young woman thought she could take our department "to the next level", but she knew nothing about our industry, the inner workings of the company, the history of the work product, the current state of the work product, the complications with changing the work product, the repercussions of changing the work product, and on and on.

I mean, the notion that the people who are "in the trenches" every day have never had the ideas that you, the super-creative and super-energetic young grad, have... well, surely you can see that that's not only naive, it's a bit insulting.

Anonymous said...

I would have considered myself as an 'ideas' person too in college, but it has taken me,ooooh, seven, eight years to get to a place where I can think of new angles, processes, untapped markets etc and get the credit and rep for it in my organisation. Love it. :-)

Why are you giving up on your own business so soon anyway? It is your company, *you* decide where and how you want to direct it.
You could work with your target companies as a vendor and not as an employee? Have you not considered that then?

Anonymous said...

I wish you luck with getting your ideas to go somewhere.

I would check with your college career center. When I was in college they had a list of alumni who were willing to talk to current students. Find an alumni who is in the field you are trying to get into and set up a time to discuss your ideas with him/her. If you can sell your idea to them they can help you get into their company, it might not be the exact position you are looking for but it could lead to something.

As far as not having someone run away with your idea. You can look into a patent. This is just a thought I only have a very broad idea of how patents work.

Good Luck, and keep the ambition up

Joey said...

I hate to generalize,but this type of ridiculousness is becoming more and more frequent with the recent graduates I see. Whatever happened to working your way up? This dude is completely clueless. How about coming up with some good ideas on how to get yourself a job first?

David O'Neal said...

If the youngster is talented enough to have a profitable small business while still in college, perhaps he/she could launch an idea/vision incubator of some sort as a side venture. Let other visionaries come to him/her with their proposals and see where their dreams take them. (This is truly a mostly serious reply, despite the snarky tone I detect on reviewing it...)

Doug said...

As Anon 2:31 said, it seems highly unlikely, if not rather rude and naive, that a recent grad has "multi million dollar ideas" that people who work in whatever industry currently, tens of thousands of them, many of them for decades, have not thought of. And as AAM said, if this really were the case, the type of people that have these ideas - who really, really are the exception - will find a way to make it happen.

Some people suggested internships and other entry level work. This is largely inevitable, but it's important to keep in mind that if you go into these with the wrong attitude - thinking the tasks are beneath you, refusing to follow instructions, not going through proper channels - they are just as likely to be destructive as helpful.

fposte said...

First off, as noted, there really isn't an "idea man" position. The people who provide such ideas are usually spending a whole lot of their day doing something else as well.

Second, and more importantly, jobs judge your capability by what you've done, not what you think you're going to be good at. It's great that you have a small business, but it's also not uncommon, and it doesn't testify to your ideas being better than a big company's current approach. You're asking for a variant of the "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" response--"If your ideas are so great, why is your business so small?" If you're not sold enough on your ideas to risk committing to them, why should anybody else be? Get in the trenches with some implementation, use your brilliant ideas to create a few businesses that really take off and gain profile for their originality and success, and your likelihood of being sought after as a consultant, speaker, author, etc. is much greater.

Anonymous said...

Since the OP has a business turning a profit, (my definition of profit = salary), why not expand the business and look for investors rather than go the everyday, look for a job route?

"Idea" jobs don't exist. But entrepreneur's make it happen on their own. Seems to me the OP has already chosen a path, now they have to put the time in & make it work. I mean that literally.

Anonymous said...

Just whatever you do, do NOT email companies telling them you have fabulous ideas for their company if they'll just hire you/give you money. As an employee of a Top 5 website, we get tons of these types of emails every day. We laugh (if we read them at all, which we generally don't), and throw them in the trash. And if you happen to interview there and someone remembers your name from an email like that... yeah. Most likely, not happening.

Pay your dues, if you want someone else to employ you. i come up with ideas at work often; i take them to my supervisor. If he likes them, we run. If he doesn't, it's because he knows the company and industry better and i learn from it. Sure a press release doesn't go out with my name on it, but my boss remembers which is better for me and my future. It's called punching your card.

Kay said...

It is possible to be somewhat of a consultant in your twenties - if you spend a little time becoming a bit of an "expert". I worked through my teens and through my early twenties in one facet of one industry and now, having moved on to a new industry, lend my knowledge out to people I networked with in my old workplaces.

This takes work though. And time. When I was a manager, we did hire one guy with zero specific industry experience who came in with his visionary ideas. He was a smart guy, but his ideas did not relate and were completely not feasible for how things ran... and he left shortly thereafter. Take the time to get to know how things work rather than just jumping in and claiming you know what can make millions of dollars.

Clearly you are a savvy person; you have a successful start-up. Use those smarts to pick a direction, work hard and try to craft your persona. Networking is key, as is becoming an expert through education AND work experience.

Anonymous said...

I'm just really sad with how many of the new grads are coming out of school and don't know how their education relates to career options.

Is it entitlement, or is it optimism combined with an educational system that doesn't come out and tell students, by the way, you may like this major in theory, but do you know what kind of work you'll be doing when you graduate?

Ask a Manager said...

"an educational system that doesn't come out and tell students, by the way, you may like this major in theory, but do you know what kind of work you'll be doing when you graduate?"

This is a HUGE problem.

jadoescher said...

Depends on your ideas. Don't let naysayers crush your dreams. Take what they say in stride, and keep plugging away. Don't give up. I think the fact that this person has the ambition and drive to come up with good ideas for running a business and actually start a business while still in college is amazing. If I could hire you, I would.

Anonymous said...

I think this person may be looking up to Don Draper a little too much...

That was a joke, I'm not really trying to dog on him.

However as a student myself (a returning student who has already had a career)I often see this sort of bright eyed enthusiasm in the traditional students and I think it's awesome. I wish that more employers would realize the value of people who are so confident and unafraid to voice unconventional opinions/ideas.

Unfortunately they really don't and in the depressing reality of the working world unconventional ideas are expensive and often failures even if they have a greater shot of being truly innovative.

I don't know what to say to the OP other than, keep your business going, get experience, start a new business. Don't be afraid to fail.

Anonymous said...

Let's take an example of these great ideas. From an employer's point of view, you could have pulled it off the internet, for all they know. So why not start building a 'case study' section in your CV where you can outline the concept, the execution of said idea and results. If you can get a client to vouch for it, even better.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:49, I think you are so right that employers need to see the advantages of bright, enthusiastic, inventive young people. But those bright young people also need to know how to approach their employers (potential and actual). I'm one of these young folk myself, and too often I see/hear people in my age group who have ideas, but go about it completely wrong. You can't just walk into a company and tell them to throw out policies you don't like and follow schemes you have (which is what I hear many people I know saying). Sometimes your lack of experience means you don't understand the actual logistics or the implications of your idea, however brilliant it may sound.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Creative, but doesn't know where to start or look. Multimillion dollar ideas if someone will only give him a chance. Very talented at thinking. Thinking! Wants a job where all he does is think up new ideas. I think I know the perfect job, but it involves some knocking on doors. Lots of them.

Lise F said...

Oh please. Thinking up ideas isn't the hard part. I'm bombarded with ideas every damn day - like opinions, they bear a certain resemblance to a**holes.

The part they pay people for is doing something with those ideas.

Anonymous said...

I suppose my take on this letter is overly cynical. I immediately thought, "troll." Am I the only one? If so, I had better work on my attitude!

Ari Herzog said...

Considering I can name off on more than one hand teenagers who are earning thousands of dollars a month from being entrepreneurs, I question the sincerity and assumptions of the response.

Give the kid the benefit of the doubt and presume the student is a visionary. Moreover, presume other people are reading your blog -- such as me, who hasn't commented here yet.

Sydney said...

The OP write: "I know if a company or a few people were to see my vision they will agree that they are multi million dollar ideas."

Most people with the ability to fund or support ideas (either venture capitalists or employers) generally don't care about *just* ideas. In fact, they probably won't let you finish if you're just talking about your ideas.

You can't expect them to see that your ideas are worth millions. You have to be able to prove it to them. What market are you selling to? What is the market size? What's your revenue forecast? How does your idea differentiate you from competitors? Also, how will you realize your ideas? And what are the cost and risk involved in that?

If you're able to present a case that covers these questions, logically and intelligently to interviewers or venture capitalists, you will probably have a better shot.

You may want to watch shows like the "Shark Tank" or "Dragon's Den" - You will see that in order to gain support for business ideas, you not only need to have good, feasible ideas, you will also need to defend your business model from all angles and do so in a earnest and intelligent way. :)

Also - keep in mind that even when you manage to get a job because the employer likes your creativity and ideas, it's unlikely that it will be your full-time job. More likely you will still have to start by doing a lot of ground-level, execution work.

I only know one idea guy in my work experience - and he only got there after decades of hard work and proving himself leading billion-dollar projects in a highly competitive industry.

Ask a Manager said...

Ari, I don't doubt that plenty of teenagers succeed as entrepreneurs. That's different that looking for a job as an idea man through job boards. I'm not sure why you question my sincerity over that.

And of course I know other people are reading; I'm not sure what you're getting at there.

Anonymous said...

Put your idea proposal together on your own time. Your documentation in a professional format shows the company that you understand their needs and their objectives.

Conduct a cost analysis that shows how they will save money, make money,or not lose additional money. And, I am not talking about a one-page piece of paper.

Then the idea becomes a document that can be analyzed and scrutinized for validity.

Lane Sutton said...

I am a 13 year old entrepreneur myself. I think branding is the trick here, and the person simply calling themself, "The Idea Man", may be good in their eyes - but you need to sell who you are and what experience you have. I work as a Social Media Consultant strategizing for small companies on how to get an online presence and promote their brand using social media. It is key to always sell your services and provide to the companies what you can do for them (not what they can do for you, or even to come asking them for business.) If they need the help, they will ask or seek someone to do the job.

As for the case with the Idea Man, then he should have a meeting with them and lock in some kind of deal. But, I have never heard of an Ideas Man in the first place either, so I wouldn't know!

Anonymous said...

I sense a negative tone is some of the advices given, which can really be counter productive. Give the guy a break!
I work for an major oil & gas company and a big item on many managers wish list is someone with solutions and ideas. I've heard of VPs hearing out interns ideas and making sure those specific interns stay in the company. Who cares if their ideas are 'terrible' or not well thought out? What harm is it?
These 'ideas people' can learn how to filter their ideas, build a business case, etc later on as they grow in a company. All this discouragement about how 'silly' college kids are with these 'silly' ideas can make people grow into complainers who don't want to do anything about a problem.

With that, I think if the OP has great ideas, why not actually think of a practical idea a company can implement, mention how it would be beneficial to them cost wise etc, and write it in a cover letter?

You won't be getting an 'idea' job, but you may get a regular job that will allow you to channel your ideas, give you the experience/education you need to build more optimal solutions..

Nick said...

So when you graduate you will probably need to find a 9-5 job, if your company isn't doing well enough for you financially. Hopefully it is something in your field or a field where you believe you have ideas that the company can benefit from. It is hard to realize when still in college but with the way the economy is this is really all you can hope for, an entry level position in an industry that you want to work in (any entry level position).

When interviewing for the job ask them what their system is for taking employee suggestions. The first job I had out of college had a program in place that gave a financial incentive to employees to submit suggestions. If your suggestion got used at the local level you got a certain amount of money and the farther your suggestion went the more money you got. If you end up working for a company and get a few suggestions accepted it might give you an advantage when applying for a promotion.

Keep up your ambition, and keep coming up with your ideas. Try to sell them as much as you can without being too pushy, and don't be afraid to fail.

Anonymous said...

Nick, jmho, the problem is many visionaries lack tact in presenting their ideas, regardless of how good.

ime The latest round of visionaries tend to run in a counterproductive manner, almost intentionally disruptive with the look at me mentality. If I were to hold anyone accountable for this phenom, it would be the parents who never leveled with them or taught them manners.

I'm not one to generation anyone, really, but just impe, I've seen the 'work around my boss' coupled with 'I know more than them', 'I'm better than them' attitude more in the last 7 years than in my 25 year career. Somehow I doubt it's just me living through this personal recruiting and show them the door hell.

People of all ages have great ideas, wonderful visions. The biggest issue is getting them on the same playing field and back to work in a manner that works.

Business Intelligence and Development GURU said...

I would suggest that "no one will hire me as their visionary" consider becoming an entrepreneur. As someone who has worked in corporate america; I would say it's best to keep your best ideas to yourself and use them for your own business.

I'm not saying don't work or give your best to your new employer (when you find a job); but keep thinking about being an entrepreneur. It's definitely the best thing you will ever do with your future.

Don't just be an employee; think about being an employer.

Class factotum said...

an educational system that doesn't come out and tell students, by the way, you may like this major in theory, but do you know what kind of work you'll be doing when you graduate?

Did somebody say, "Women's Studies?"

Anonymous said...

Ideas men don't get hired; ideas men go get VC and start their own business. Maybe the VC comes from working the 9-5 grind to raise funding for their true passion.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the OP can see from most of the comments that corporate America is where dreams go to die.

Many companies say they want fresh ideas, innovative people, thought leaders...etc.

But it's simply not true. They want someone who will fit into their culture and do as they are told. Or perhaps just do what the company wants them to, sometimes with micromanagement, and sometimes with no guidance at all. You are hired to make them money. You should benefit from you ideas. Just go for it on your own.

Don't listen to the negatrons. Just implement your ideas on your own. One poster was on the money about investment bankers, but be careful of any agreements you sign: they do not invest out of the kindness of their hearts...they want a ROI, and these are some very savvy people.

This is a good place to get advice if you want to get a job and be an employee. But you sound like an entrepreneur, and you will not be happy in corporate America.

If you ain't the lead dog, the view is the same. And if you happen to be that person with a great idea, as you can see, it will not be welcomed with open arms. Just keep that in mind when others try to shoot you down.

Overcoming the resistance from those whose dreams died long ago is part of the game.

I wish you luck and I know you will be successful...as long as you don't let the crabs pull you back down into the trap.

Kara said...

Come on, now. One of the reasons I like this blog is that the advice is nuanced to the specifics of the person writing in, not generic. The response was right for the OP based on how he came across in the letter. It's not about entrepreneurs in general and you're reading something in to it that is not there.
In my experience more than half of people who dub themselves brilliant and creative are not and some people need a wake up call if they want to move on and up.

Anonymous said...

...and then there is the other half...

Ask a Manager said...

Right, but I think Kara's point was that all signs in this particular letter pointed to the first half, not the second.

This isn't about slamming down anyone with new ideas. It's about responding to this particular letter.

Bohdan said...

The ability to implement an idea is worth more than the idea. Ideas, by themselves, aren't really worth anything.

One of the problems companies face is that they do want bright, creative ideas people but they don't know that they also need bright, creative implementation people.

On top of that, as is clear from the comments, people often feel threatened when new ideas are presented. After all, they've been doing it the old way. Now they feel stupid. I've been guilty of that myself.

On another note, entry level jobs are not a great way to gain experience in anything but entry level jobs. If you work ridiculously hard you can squeeze in additional learning. But those jobs aren't there to teach you, they are there to get mundane, easy tasks done for cheap.

Richard said...

I think that the idea that commenters here are threatened by 'ideas people' is a fairly ridiculous concept: The problem is that for every 'ideas guy' who has a brilliant idea that could make even a slight positive effect on an industry, there are 30 others who are, to be frank, bullshitters; overconfident know-it-alls who think that people aren't willing to accept their ideas for any reason except for the possibility that their idea needs a little more thinking through.

So the majority messes it up for the minority that do have brilliant ideas, making it pretty much impossible for companies to hire conceptual thinkers straight from college/university, as there is too much risk involved. The only routes left are to work their way up the ladder and look for promotion further down the line, or set up their own businesses.

Bummer, I know.

Anonymous said...

This is not an employment issue - this is a mental health issue. Before this guy needs a job he needs help with his narcissistic personality disorder.

Kathy said...

Richard @ 7:42, you sum it up prettty well. I think that's a fair and realistic assessment.

Jamie said...

I'm trying to determine which would annoy me more...and "idea guy" just out of college and no practical experience who will change the world if only someone would hire him, or the middle aged "idea people" I've known in middle management who would change the world if only the C suite would listen to them.

Either kind gives me the beginning of a migraine just behind my right eye.

I might be jaded, but the idea people I've known tend to shy away from rolling up their sleeves and working on their master plans. They delegate and blame others for not implementing their vision properly.

Now people who know how to work and also happen to have great ideas? That's a whole 'nother animal. If you're lucky enough to work for/with one take advantage of it - you'll never get a better learning opportunity.

Anonymous said...

This kid should pursue his passions. I have found there are two types of people in a work environment. Those that say it can happen and those that say it cannot. Unfortunately, the vast majority of employees say it cannot. Out of the 60 employees at the company I work for, there are 3 that stand out for ideas. Just be prepared to walk when your neck gets chopped. I'd rather take risks and live than have my hat shit in everyday.