Are you interested in working for a startup? Good news: here are some tips on how you can go about landing your dream startup job.
“Startup jobs” has 9,900 monthly searches, low competition, but it’s not easy to work it into a title.
Want a job at a startup? You’re a brave soul.
Think about it. Established companies have momentum: a well-known brand, existing customers, third- or fourth-generation products and resources. All of those benefit you. Applying for a job at an established company is like asking for a bag of cookies. (Click here to tweet this quote.)
You may need to prove you’re worth the bag of cookies, but you can be reasonably certain that if you do, you’ll at least get it.
Not so with startups. Nothing is certain. Momentum is rarer. Benefits and compensation are usually leaner. And chances are, future employers will look at your resume, point to the startup where you spent years toiling and scratch their heads.
Still interested? Good on you. With that in mind, here are some tips for getting a job at startups:
1. Find your passion
If it’s something like “revolutionize the way people share memories,” then, as arrogant as that might seem, you’re on to something (arrogance being an occupational hazard at startups). You can’t cheat on this exercise, though, because startups are full of passionate people who can smell non-passionate ones blocks away.
Look for what you do with your free time, when nobody’s looking, and find a startup that’s congruent with that. If nothing comes to mind, a startup might not be your best call. It’s just too bumpy a ride for anything other than the deeply committed.
2. Find a startup that isn’t already hot
A startup being plastered all over the media is, you can bet, besieged by job seekers. But if you find a startup that isn’t hot yet, you have a chance of being the only person that week, or month, who asks for a job. And so out of the gate, you’ve communicated to the harried founder reading your email that you’re a trailblazer. That’s a fine start.
3. Look in the right place
Instead of using the press to find companies, look in places where companies aggregate before they’re written about. Online, a great place is on Angel List. Another is simply to look in the portfolio sections of the websites of venture capital firms. Even companies that have gotten Series A rounds — usually a sign that a company is getting somewhere — may still not be that well-known.
Remember, if this were easy, there would already be a line out the door.
4. Find the decision maker socially
It’s always best to wangle a look-see from somebody at the company because they’re doing a favor for a friend who knows you. Use LinkedIn, of course, but keep in mind that most LinkedIn connections are weak.
It’s more powerful to email all your friends with a list of companies you need to reach and see where they can get you. If that doesn’t work, drop an email to the company’s general email box. In the early days, that inbox gets read — a lot.
5. Get in touch
Once you’ve found the company and maybe the decision-maker, write a brief email. To a founder reading your email, nothing marks you as a clueless wretch more than a long-winded introductory email in the kind of language you can lift from a book. Shoot for three impactful, sincere sentences instead.
6. Lead with your most compelling information
Nothing that’s critical should be only in an attachment. As a tough trade-off with number five, don’t hide your light under the eighth bullet point of a pdf resume. It’s nobody’s job at a startup to read resumes, so make sure the critical stuff is up front and obvious, and doesn’t require an extra click to read.
7. Check your work-life balance at the door
Startups aren’t about balance; they’re about somewhat crazy people doing something the world already considers somewhat crazy. For more sanity, look for a startup where the founders have kids, are somewhat older or where the company has been through a few rounds of funding. But it’s no guarantee.
8. Follow up
Founders are distracted. If you want to stand out, persevere — but gently. Instead of nagging, use follow-up emails to flesh out other aspects of your candidacy.
Good luck! There’s nothing like a startup job that fits.
Wade Lagrone is CEO & Co-Founder of RABBL, the world’s first social booking platform, and has worked at Yahoo!, E*TRADE, and startups ScanCafe, Zopa and Tribe.net.