How to get a job working for a startup

The benefits of working at a startup company were detailed in our previous blog post, do you have the risk appetite to work at a high risk start up?

However, getting a job at a high growth startup is not necessarily any easier than bagging an entry-level role at a blue chip company or on a top grad scheme. Ambitious job seekers and graduates are now increasingly hankering after positions at startups due to the potential for unparalleled experience and autonomy. Escape The City, a website that lists opportunities at startups, currently has close to a quarter of a million members.

Gaining a job at a startup is often not as simple as writing a covering letter and sending in your CV to an internal recruiter. It is all about thinking creatively and being an opportunist.

Hung Lee, co founder of Workshape.io – a matchmaking platform for job seekers and technology companies, says that “initiative, self starters, and the ability to handle situations where information and expertise are in short supply” are skills valued by startups.

Not all roles will be advertised so it is important to make efforts to be well networked within the startup community as well as having a strong presence on social media. Additionally, companies who have recently raised, or are seeking funding are also likely to be hiring too so it is worthwhile tracking their progress.

Networking

There is a lot of goodwill within the startup community, and it is not uncommon for people to help one another other out by swapping information or making introductions. Building a strong network of like-minded individuals is likely to help make you aware of opportunities, and also raises the possibility of being introduced directly to a hiring manager or business owner. There are a number of regular startup and entrepreneurship events held in London such as Silicon Drinkabout, and London Business Schools’ Tell Series. Events are often free, and sometimes include a talk from a speaker or a free bar subsidised by a sponsor. Outside London a good place to find out about events is at co-working spaces and incubators, which tend to hold regular events for non-members as well as the businesses based out of them. Additionally, events tend to be ticketed through Eventbrite so it is worthwhile regularly searching through their database.

Startup job sites

Whilst startup jobs are advertised on some of the more well-known job sites, a more efficient way of searching jobs boards is by using specialist sites like Work In Startups, and Escape The City, which exclusively advertise startup jobs. Escape The City is more geared towards professionals who have already had experience at blue chip companies and who are seeking more fulfilling work. An email is sent out to the community once a week, which highlights 10 choice opportunities. Candidates are also able to search the Escape The City website to profile companies according to preferences around risk factor and culture.

Keep tabs on who is raising money

Startups, especially those that are tech focussed, tend to spend equity and venture capital funds on labour in order to grow their businesses. One way of keeping ahead of the competition is to monitor who is raising money, and to speculatively submit your CV along with a cover letter asking about open positions relevant to your experience. Monitor the content of tech news websites such as TechCrunch, Tech.EU and Startups.co.uk, which detail up to date information on companies that have recently raised money. Alternatively, Crunchbase and AngelList are searchable databases which list information on privately owned companies that have recently raised venture funds. AngelList also allows companies to list job vacancies.

Co-working spaces

Most co-working spaces have message boards where businesses list job opportunities. A number of these are freelance and part time work. Committing to a handful of these will help build up your CV with startup experience, and could help get around any concerns companies may have about startup culture fit. It is worth checking these frequently, as adverts tend to only be displayed for a few days. It is also possible to reverse engineer your job search by placing an advert listing your skillset and the type of opportunities you are looking for.

Create and maintain an online presence

Commenting on startup and tech industry news related to your key areas of interest on social media and through blogging will help you come across as being savvy and informed. This will make you look more credible if someone looks you up online. Additionally, once you have built up sufficient related content you may even consider approaching and getting into conversations directly with startup business owners. Startup business owners tend to prefer this direct approach as it is proactive and avoids hiring fees. James Eder, founder and CEO of Causr, a location based app connecting professionals on the go says; “It is often the founders priority to find, recruit and retain the best talent so don’t be afraid of reaching out directly.”

Do not limit your efforts to the suggestions above. Finding your dream startup job is about having a bit of chutzpah and being creative.

Nick Levine is a chartered accountant and freelance journalist, with a background in fin-tech who has written for Accounting Technician magazine.

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