Here is the thing:
Most people think getting a job at a startup is all about having an entrepreneurial spirit.
Sure, being eager for success and proactive is helpful in order to work at a startup in general.
But people that succeed with landing a dream startup job that best suit themselves know these things:
First, they can identify different stages of the startup.
Second, they can assess their risk tolerance before looking for a job.
The secret to getting a job at a startup is this:
Know yourself fully.
This may sound intuitive. But I see lots of people looking for a startup job that they THINK will be cool.
A cool working environment is simply not enough to justify why you want to work at a startup.
So how can you know yourself better?
Know yourself better by assessing your risk tolerance
Everyone’s risk tolerance is drastically different. Joining a seed stage startup is a different experience than joining a Series B startup. On top of that, companies like Uber and Airbnb are not startups…anymore.
So if you want the risk of joining a company of 500+ people in mind, then you are not really tolerant to risk. Seed stage to Series A, B, and C companies change dramatically.
How dramatically are we talking?
Here is a quick snippet of what you might expect at a different stages of startups:
Seed Stage Startups
Needless to say, seed stage startups face insanely high levels of risk. You need to keep in mind that these startups have, more or less, 15 months of cash to execute and get to the next level of funding.
Seed stage startups likely don’t have product-market fit yet; and if you get a startup job as a non-tech role, chances are your job will change LITERALLY every day.
- Risk Level: Extremely High
- Salary: Low or below market-rate
Series A Startups
Ok. Series A startups have a specific business model and are growing. They are likely to be facing issues such as customer retention, acquisition and finding out the sales funnel.
If you are interested in series A startups, it is still a highly risky stage to join and they are likely to have about 18 months of cash from funding. At this stage, you want to join a startup that has strong support from investors.
- Risk Level: High
- Salary: Ok
Series B Startups
These startups have sorted out a solid sales funnel. However, they are still trying to scale up and become big players. The Series B is special and very hard to acquire. The Series B is an indicator for whether the startup has the potential to be, say, the next Airbnb.
At this stage, startups start hiring executives to institute real processes. You may not find the ideal role for you to take at this stage, but you can start expecting a decent salary.
- Risk Level: Medium
- Salary: Medium
Series C and Beyond
These startups are practically turning into big companies at this point. Series C Startups know their products and markets, and it’s all about expansion. The size of these companies may be above 100 employees or so. At this stage, you will likely find a specialized role that is well defined.
- Risk Level: Low
- Salary: Above market-rate salary
Which startup stage do you think you will be a better fit?
If you are looking for a defined role for your expertise, you should aim for Series C and beyond startups. If you don’t have a specialized skill-set but still want to work at a startup, then I’d suggest picking an early-stage startup to have a flexible job; where you won’t have your typical work day.
Now that you know what you can expect from different stages of startups, It’s time to make a strategy to get your dream startup job.
Build an ultimate list of startups only for you
1. Build a list of startups you want to work based on your risk tolerance.
Open your Google spreadsheet and start building a list of startups concerning your risk tolerance. So if you want high-risk then you want to look for startups that have already been funded a Seed Round or going for Series A.
But how do you do that?
You know Angel list and Crunchbase, right?
Good, so go searching. Then filter the results with the stage tab. Afterwards, you will find every startup funding stage there. Finally, just make a list with the startup’s name, industry and the CEO’s contact information.
This will help you learn about the startup movement in your area and also help you make a better decision on which startup to join in the long run.
Stop. You’re not finished yet.
2. List down what you can offer these startups
Once you’ve listed down around 100 startups, you need to figure what you can do to contribute to them. Again, in the early-stage and Series A you will do everything; so you don’t have to worry about it that much.
But…If you’re a tech person, it’s different. It is more obvious what you’ll be working on for the startup. You will most likely be directly working towards building a core product or service.
What if you’re non tech person, like me?
Then it’s less obvious on what you’ll be working on. You will be a handy-man. You will most likely have to work on:
- Marketing (writing, social media, research, data-analysis, lead generation),
- Business development,
- Customer service
and so on…
Because it is vague on what you are going to do, knowing this will help you organize the potential assets that quality startups can expect from you.
3. It’s time for you to start reaching out
The hiring at early-stage startups are often referral based. If you want a job at a seed round or Series A, then you can find a way through one of the following:
- Find a connection to one of the teams on LinkedIn.
- Follow and engage with one of the team members to catch their attention. (Twitter is also a great platform for this.)
- Reach out to them from their contact page.
If they are not hiring, try to meet directly with founder at a meet-up; or explain the homework you did, which is listed above. Explain what you’d contribute if you had the opportunity to join the team.
But you are probably wondering:
“How do I reach out to later-stage startups?”
Glad you asked.
At later-stage startups, you’ll need to apply for specific jobs. Series B and beyond become specialization based jobs.
You already have a list that fits your skills. Founders like when you take the time to learn about their company. It means you did your homework. At this stage, many candidates are waiting and watching their email box.
Of course, there’s much more to discuss about this topic. I’m not an HR manager. I just hope you can get some insight about the work you have to put in to land a dream startup job.
Now it’s time for you to share your story
Have you ever worked for a startup?
Or are you currently working at a startup?
If yes, I want you to leave a comment and tell me how you got your startup job.
Looking forward to hearing from you.