Tons of fresh grads want to live the startup life, but what should you know before you jump into your first post-grad startup? 16 entrepreneurs offer their best tips.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give recent grads hoping to work for a startup?
At a startup, you will be required to wear many hats and to make order out of chaos. Startups typically don’t have a concrete infrastructure already in place. Working for a startup is not for people who need a distinctive job description. It is for people who are nimble, ready to roll with the punches and ready to work their hearts out. Every day will be different, and that is part of the thrill.
- Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Brands
If I were a recent grad, I’d think about the organization I’d kill to be a part of. I’d then make it my life’s mission to get a meeting with an executive at that company to let them know that I’m the perfect person to work for them — even if a position doesn’t exist — and I’d work for free until a position opened up. This shows a passion that most employers never see. I’d hire you on the spot.
- Travis Steffen, Cyber Superpowers
You’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats. Make an impact and learn as much as you can — embrace it! Earn a reputation for being a tireless worker and exceed their expectations.
- Jeff Epstein, Ambassador
Be prepared to do anything and everything! The more you do, the more valuable you’ll become. Ease the life of everyone around you, seize every opportunity and always do more than you are asked.
- Ashley Mady, Brandberry
Startups want to hire someone who loves the product and is a great fit for their team and culture. Do your homework on the startup and the founders before your interview, and discuss why you would be great fit and why you believe in their product. Most importantly, you’ll likely be working longer hours for a smaller salary, so be honest with yourself about whether that belief is genuine.
- Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC
It’s quite easy these days to expose yourself to entrepreneurship as a student. With resources like Startup Weekend, Hackathons and online courses, you can fully immerse yourself in startup culture, thinking and product development before working at one. As a hiring manager, I look for recent grads who’ve demonstrated interest and understanding by immersing themselves in entrepreneurship.
- Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social
Even if you plan to work in marketing or business development, you’ll be taken more seriously and will have more opportunities if you understand basic coding. There are lots of opportunities to learn, either for free or for a small investment. If you aren’t willing/able to commit to learning hard skills, the startup life might not be for you.
- John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation
Startup cultures can range from corporate to frat house, so don’t be afraid to look into another startup if the culture isn’t a fit. Teams at startups tend to spend a lot of time together so it’s important that the organization structure is a fit.
- Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding
Make sure you have a strong cover letter. Resumes are great, but a strong cover letter does so much more to communicate who you are, what your level of interest is in the startup and why you’d be a great fit for the team. Be sure to have someone you trust proofread for you.
- Tracy Foster, ONA
Startups are all over social; it’s one of their biggest marketing tools. Follow and connect with them on every social platform they have. This gets your name, face and personality in front of them before you apply.
- Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media
In a startup, you do not have the luxury of specializing in one specific task. For example, if you are doing sales you may end up doing sales, marketing, outreach and social media. Embrace this diversification as it provides a wealth of opportunities for experience that would not be possible in a well-established company.
- Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics
Working for a startup takes a tremendous amount of drive and endurance — you’ll need passion to survive! Working alongside a team of people dedicated to a shared passion is extremely rewarding, so do your research and apply for jobs at companies that really excite you. Excitement is crucial to your success!
- Erica Bell, Hukkster
13. Give First
You may not find their job postings listed on the typical career sites, so you’ll need to get creative and contribute to the community first. Do your research. Discover the startups that interest you and what you can do to help them.
- Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook
One piece of advice I would give to college grads is be ready to take a pay cut compared to your friends headed off into the corporate grind. Startups are usually tight on cash and offer other incentives like flexible hours, profit-sharing, or remote working abilities. Be ready to get thrifty during your first year out of college. You can still “live the dream,” just on a startup budget!
- Kim Kaupe, ZinePak
Startups are often lean on people, funds and resources, so if you’re working for a startup, chances are you’ll wear many hats. In order for the startup to thrive, everyone needs to be dedicated. If you’re as strong an advocate for the company as the CEO is, if you’re selling as hard as the CEO and if you know the business just as well as the CEO, you’ll see a reward when the startup takes off.
- Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
I understand you don’t want to move into your parents’ basement, but having a free or low cost place to rest, a home-cooked meal and the support of family can be a godsend. Working at a startup is wonderful, but the salaries will be less than your friends will make. You won’t be able to afford to work at a startup if you also live in an expensive apartment. Save the money, live with mom.
- Gerard Murphy, Mosaic Storage Systems, Inc.