Getting a startup job for the startup newbie
I’ve had the opportunity recently to chat with current undergrads on a couple of occasions and I’ve found myself repeating some of the same things. That usually begs for a blog post.
Getting a startup job requires focus. Pick a couple companies you would love to work for and figure out how you could be useful. The “spray and pray” method will not get you a job. Go deep on those companies you love. Make sure you can speak intelligently about why you love them and what you would do if you had the opportunity to help.
Reaching out to startups and telling them how much you love their product is never a bad idea. Reaching out doesn’t guarantee you get the job, but not reaching out guarantees you don’t get the job.
In my experience, people want to help smart people. Just show them you’re worth their time. Be prepared. Before meeting the person or jumping on the call, have a clear notion of what you want to get out of it. Even better, send the questions ahead of time. The person that does that, will get quality intros and more time in the future.
Startups don’t have a recruiting season. There are needs that exist currently and everything else is a maybe. This clearly varies depending on where on the spectrum the startup you’re interested in lies but don’t be surprised if 3 months out is too far for them to promise.
Early on there isn’t much of a recruitment process. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back immediately. Cultivate “politely persistent.”
What startups most need, is people who can get things done. When you reach out, show them that that’s what you’re about. Talk about the web app that you built that uses their api. Talk about (respectfully) the revised interface you put together, why it’s an improvement and how you’d go about testing it. Even talk about the survey you did of users of their product and what conclusions you’d draw. That’s very different from the person who sends a boilerplate email asking if there are any openings.
Make it as easy as possible for them to say “yes”. Asking them if there is any way you can help requires a lot of work on their part. I know it sounds crazy but you can get so busy that it’s hard to find the time to figure out if and how someone can help. Identify a problem or opportunity and explain how you can address it. Make it a proposal that makes it easy for them to just respond with, “Sounds great. When can you start?”