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Understanding what job risk really means

As someone who left the corporate world a year ago to pursue a new path in Internet marketing, I am often approached by people who ask me about “risk.” What I have found is that the word risk often means different things to different people, but what it mainly means is, “What’s the risk that I will not be able to buy food if I take this path?” And when I explore the fears behind this concept of job risk, I am often struck by how often people underestimate the risks that they are really choosing and overestimate the risks they are avoiding.

Risk album cover

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Often, people associate large companies with the idea of safety. So, an Internet marketer will approach me, asking if I know any openings at “good” companies. “Good” always means “large companies that I have heard of.” And sometimes I have. And if that is what the person wants, good for them.
But often, what that person really means is, “Do you know of any openings at a company that is doing well and won’t go out of business?” And often that large company fits that criteria, but bankruptcy is not the only risk you run when you sign up with a company.
I’ve seen many more layoffs at large companies than at small companies in the past year. And I’ve seen even fewer Internet marketers in trouble when they work for themselves as consultants–they seem to be in great demand right now. (Perhaps because companies are laying off so many full-time people–part-time consultants are cheap in comparison.)
But a lot of these folks shudder at the thought of opening their own business because of “the risk.” And yes, it is risky to have to market yourself and get enough client work to pay the bills. It’s not for everyone. But many people who are perfectly capable of succeeding shy away and take on what I think is an even bigger risk–getting fired.
Consulting might be risky, but at least no one client can take away your whole income (including health insurance and other benefits) at once. You can far more easily get work, because it is a small decision for the company compared to a full-time hiring commitment.
I’m not saying that Internet marketing consulting has no risks or that working full-time for a company has all the risks. What I am saying is that the knee-jerk reaction that starting your own business is risky and working for a (usually big) company is not risky is totally false, in my experience. Internet marketing offers many chocies, not the least of which is how you get paid and how you live your life. Don’t write off the possibilities without even considering them.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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