How to stay on track with your career goals, remain competitive, and stand out from the crowd.
Working at a start-up can be one of the most challenging, exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking, but ultimately rewarding adventures of your life. However, it’s one thing to strive towards a career in the field, and quite another to actually land a job. Luck just won’t help you here. You need to have certain skills and abilities that will make you an outstanding candidate.
Recently graduated from university? Finished a series of tech courses? Some of the candidates will lead the race with 10 years of experience, while others will be making the switch from another field. The details don’t matter that much. A start-up means that you will achieve your dream regardless of your background. Of course, there’s no sure-fire way to get a job in Tech, but we’ve put together six proven tips to help you get in the right mindset, understand the competition, and prepare well.
- People are the key to any job
One of the many surprises in the start-up scene is how much the people who work there support each other. Modern start-ups hold regular meetings with opinion leaders, organise educational workshops, team icebreakers, and more. You will find no shortage of bright personalities and potential mentors for the journey ahead.
If you are just taking your first steps in the world of start-ups, then you know that sometimes it can be difficult to find your circle straight away. And that’s okay. So, what can you do to expand your network? Go to events, meet people, learn to listen. Exchange opinions and ask others about their work. Don’t be pushy, but, if possible, invite a few people for coffee. Intuitively, you will feel who you would like to stay in touch with. Being curious about others is the quality that characterizes the ideal start-up employee.
And when it comes to actual job interviews and getting hired, a warm welcome from someone within the team you already know through connections will be a strong confirmation for your employer that you were the right choice. Sometimes employers themselves use networking to expand their team, because it is a good way to successfully develop a company.
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers often make is having too high expectations. You have to be ready to fail. Remember that 90% of the people you meet will say they will help you adapt and get comfortable. And only 10% of them really do so. It’s not you, it’s just the human factor. However, if you approach each acquaintance with the same zeal and diligence, it will quickly turn to a habit when the mail begins to burst with letters of support and suggestions.
- Learn to present yourself clearly.
We live in an age of self-driving cars, private space shuttles, artificial intelligence, augmented reality – and start-ups are right at the centre of all this. It is perfectly understandable that you also want to be in the maelstrom of events. But if you are looking for a job through networking, help others help you. Learn to be focused and express your thoughts clearly. When you start telling people what you’re looking for, you need to make them think, “I know who you need to talk to.” The easiest way to figure out how to do this is to rehearse these three points:
- Company size
- Preferred field of activity
- Your expected role in the company
For example, if at a coffee break at your learning you tell a new acquaintance “I want to work as a product manager for a Series A start-up in the fashion industry”, there is a good chance that you will be remembered. Then the next time they need a PM, you will be called for an interview.
- Have experience? Bank on it. No experience? Get some.
If you are looking for work at a tech start-up and you’re making the switch from another position or even another industry, make sure that you have relevant work experience. And if you feel that your current role does not match the one you are applying for, evaluate your strengths from the point of view of your potential employers.
For example, if you are a lawyer, then you probably pay a lot of attention to details, you have good analytical skills, you are a trouble shooter, you can explain complex structures in an easy-to-understand manner. You most likely have a commitment to strict ethics and a whole selection of achievements. And all these components will be useful to you when working as a product manager.
Of course, you cannot rely entirely on your previous experience. The best applicants go the other way. The rules have changed, and now you can develop your skills in areas that you have never considered possible before, even remotely.
Let’s say you’re interested in a digital marketing role for a design tech company. For less than $50, you can learn how to promote Facebook ads and try your hand at running social media campaigns. If you want to do UX design for an eCommerce start-up, you can try publishing a few articles on your personal blog about popular eCommerce sites. In the Tech industry, they rarely rely on resumes alone. Your every activity will be noticed. Similarly, programmers – if you write code, they will ask you to put it on GitHub.
- Do your homework and then do more.
With work experience, clear presentation skills and reliable contacts in the industry, you will receive your first interview invitations very soon. Many HR managers ask applicants to be positive and spend at least half a day preparing for the interview. But this is overkill. After all, you are not applying for the position of CEO (or are you?). All you need to do is just be the most well-prepared candidate out of the bunch.
First, find the start-up founders on social media or look up their personal blogs. Gather everything you can find on them. These insights will be invaluable because they will allow you to better understand how these people think and see the world. Do you have a couple of mutual friends on Facebook or Instagram? See if they can link you up. And if you think this is too much, don’t worry. Working in a start-up in itself implies the ability to find ways to communicate in different, sometimes unconventional ways. In addition, you will pleasantly surprise most people if you show you’re interested in similar topics to them.
- Ask about statistics.
When applying for a job at a tech start-up, you should have three goals:
- Communicate clearly about what you can do for the company
- Be the most energetic you can be
- Ask better questions than everyone else
Yes, asking standard questions like “What are the first 90 days going to be like” is necessary and important, but much more important is to understand whether the founders worry about statistics, and how they measure their results.
Yes, most likely, you will be told about how exactly this start-up will change the world. But, we assure you, every night before they go to bed, and every morning, right after they wake up, the creators track the metrics of their company’s performance. And after you leave the interview, they will check the indicators again. Your task is to assess how interested they are in this process.
Statistics determine the performance of a company, and in the conditions of uncertainty in which most start-ups exist at first, an understanding of the success of a business is crucial.
Don’t be afraid to ask:
- What statistics do you track each day?
- Every month?
- How can these figures be improved?
- What sets you back?
- How can I help achieve your goals?
The answers to these questions will give you everything you need to know about the position you’re being interviewed for and the start-up itself.
- Pay attention to the stages of financing the company.
Fundraising affects everything a start-up does. So, understanding the financial cycles through which such companies go can also be a huge advantage for you in your job search. If you find out that a start-up has just raised $15 million, you understand that it will not put this money into a bank account. The company uses almost every cent to improve marketing, improve the product, and, most importantly, build the team that is needed to take the business to the next level. This is the best time for an interview. So, keep abreast of the latest news on your target companies.
TechCrunch is a great resource for keeping up to date with fundraising progress. The site will report every dollar raised in the start-up scene. If you’re interested in a particular company, set up Google Alerts so you can be the first to know about a new funding round. If you want to be one step ahead, AngelList has a directory of all start-ups currently making waves around the world.
These are fairly simple yet insightful tips that, if followed, will get you where you want to be – in your dream job at a vibrant new tech start-up surrounded by a vibrant and productive team. Good luck!