5 Smart Tactics to Land Your First Startup Job

Don’t know where to start your job hunt? Try these tips. By Avery Walker (Content Development, Eleven | Eleven PR) The term "startup" has become a major buzzword in the post-collegiate world as of late. Conferences like SXSW and WWDC have turned into destination-vacations for the curious and more college graduates than ever are seeking jobs with startup companies. Navigating how to join the startup community or find job opportunities at an emerging company is totally different than your normal job application process. It can also be intimidating when people throw out abbreviated and seemingly cryptic terms such as UI and UX (no, they're not the same thing...thank goodness for Google!) After three years of internships and jobs with startups, I've come up with a list of five fool-proof ways to jump right in and become a tech-savvy entrepreneur — free t-shirts included. So if you're one of those college graduates (or you're just itching to quit your 9-to-5 cubicle gig for something more exciting) then this post is for you.

1. Define Your Skill Set

Figure out what you bring to the table. While startups require that employees have the ability to wear many hats, when looking to hire the next member of their team, they want to see that you can own a specific group of skills. Each hire a startup makes is crucially important to the team and their company culture and should bring something unique to the table. Recognize your strengths (i.e. writing, communication skills, creativity) and channel those into a specific role such as marketing or sales. If you're great at connecting people, build up your resume with business development experience. Learn all about your area of expertise and be confident in your knowledge of the role when you go into your first interview.

2. Meet Your Job Application "Angel"

Get to know AngelList. If you haven't heard of this website, it's a place for startups to find angel investors (hence the name). It also functions as a matchmaking site for employers and potential employees. I found my first startup internship through this site and went straight from the job-seeking phase to running a group of 40 brand ambassadors and events for a company’s launch at SXSW. Talk about magic!

3. Become a Social Butterfly

Both online, and at IRL meetups. I'm naturally more of a reserved person when it comes to social events, so the idea of networking at a huge conference seemed quite intimidating at first. Become a social butterfly online. When it comes to an online presence in the startup world, Twitter is King. Make sure to follow industry influencers (i.e. Richard Branson, Jessica Alba, Sheryl Sandberg), share relevant articles, and connect with other people in your field of interest. Looking for events to attend to start meeting people in startups? Tweeting around events is huge too! Just Google the hashtag for the event and you have an instant way to expand your followers and make new connections. When you're at an event, confidence is everything. So even if you’re feeling awkward, try not to show it. Take the pressure off by acting like you’re there simply to meet new people, not to land a job. Shifting your perspective from being on a "job hunt" to being at a social event will help make it feel less overwhelming. Startup people are friendly and the events are typically much less formal than those in the corporate world. There is always that one person at the event who introduces themselves first. Just walk right in, grab a drink and smile.

4. Educate Yourself

Read up and sign up. Just when you thought you knew everything, there's always more! Technology is constantly evolving and to stay up to date with these changes you have to stay in the know. One of the best things I could have ever experienced in my first year at a startup was the opportunity to take a Digital Marketing Class at General Assembly. I not only gained invaluable information through the course, but also made connections with other marketing gurus who are pushing barriers in their corporate jobs by implementing digital advancements. I even got to know non-profit workers who used what they learned to grow their donations by over 200 percent in the course of six months. Talk about a great built-in community! General Assembly offers online courses too. Check out their free trial classes here.

5. Ask Questions

It's the best way to grow!

I learned very quickly that by positioning myself as a sponge for new information, I was able to excel much more quickly than pretending I knew about every aspect of the company already.

Our company’s best intern this year asked all the right questions and became a shining star in our office overnight. Questions only lead to answers and a greater understanding of the work you are accomplishing! If the idea of working for a startup company intrigues you, I can guarantee you this - that you will learn more about yourself, expand your knowledge of your field, gain the virtues of patience and perseverance and at the end of the day you’ll be able to see tangible results from your work!


About the guest blogger: Avery Walker handles content development and media relations at Eleven Eleven PR, a (non traditional) public relations, branding and marketing firm specializing in consumer facing startup companies. A former Austinite at heart, Avery Walker now lives and works in Washington D.C. Follow her on Twitter @_averycamille.