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Finding a new company: the intangibles

October 26, 2021

When the number of companies I was talking to crept above five, I decided it was time to make a spreadsheet. The initial columns of that spreadsheet were Name, Sector, Fondness, Company Details, Role Details, Status, Last Touchpoint, and Thoughts.

Fondness was new for me; all of the previous times I’ve interviewed I thought I had an intrinsic understanding of how fond I was of companies. However, I’ve realized that “fondness” was very driven by expectations around pay, what popular companies exist in the Valley, and other extrinsic properties. How fond I was of companies was based on what I thought others would think of me, not what I thought. So I flipped that around, focused purely on myself, and made it a Likert scale of 1-5.

While incorporating objective fondness was revolutionary for me, I realized there was another correlation I hadn’t anticipated: about 25% of hiring managers I spoke to were pumped that I worked for Kiva. I spent a long time considering where that enthusiasm came from, and the conclusion I’ve come to thus far is this: “If I work for a startup and see that this person has forgone high pay and any equity in support of a mission, then they have a special kind of drive that I value.”

So I made a new column: Values Nonprofit. All three companies that score a 5 on my Fondness scale also have a “yes” in this new column, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Fondness is based on mission, personal alignment, and my interactions with the employees of those companies. My hypothesis is that mission-focus is both pervasive in startups and especially meaningful for the class of social impact startups. I’ve been gravitating toward climate tech, financial inclusion, and other stability-increasing companies, so I think this alignment is natural.

My motivation to work for Kiva is an intangible—something I can’t assign value to and can only adequately explain with raw emotion—and while most people don’t get it, a surprising number of people do. I believe there are other kinds of intangibles out there besides working for a nonprofit, but that is my strongest intangible thus far.

I encourage you to think about what your intangibles are: what is valuable about what you do that’s hard to put a number on? What is valuable about who you are, or how you act, or interact? Each of these things is a value-add when moving to a new role, so don’t discount them.


© 2022 Duncan McIsaac