Lee Lubner, Tim Atkins (COO, CancerAid), Kanav Bhama (Business Operations, Dovetail), Ellen Dinsmoor (Head of Operations, Vow), Will Dennis (APAC Commercial Finance Director, Afterpay), Chris Quirk (Investment Manager, rampersand), Jess Rogers (Strategy and Operations Manager, Snap Send Solve), Amelia Crawford (Legal Counsel, TikTok), Darryn Rabec (Venture GM at BCG Digital Ventures), Matt Thurin (Growth, AirWallex)
How to find a job at a start-up:
1) Job Ads
2) Using your network
Lots of jobs go to friends-of-friends. Start-ups often don’t have the resources to run comprehensive recruiting processes, so they value recommendations from people they trust. If you start building relationships early, it will come off in spades.
Some networking tips from the crowd:
3) Cold reach-outs
This is how I got my first start-up job, so I know it can work. If you cold-email a start-ups general inbox with your CV, a compelling cover letter and something to make you stand-out, you’re in with a chance.
Say the founders happen to be thinking about their Ops issues, but haven't started the process for hiring an Ops person - if the right person (you) landed in their lap at the right time, you may get the job without the role ever going to market. Or, they might just keep you in mind for when they are ready.
One thing - try not to feel disheartened if most don’t reply.
Getting into the flow of start-up opportunities is a positive first step, which could be done through networking or joining an incubator program.
Once you have found a company that you want to work at, find a contact to reach out at the company and make a connection! People want to hear from other like-minded people who support their mission and purpose.
LinkedIn. Set filters for job alerts and start searching for positions that you might want one day. Look at the career history of the people who hold those roles: where did they start, what’s their experience, what roles have they had?
Network. Explore programs like Startmate or look at your existing Network. Who do you know, or who do you know that might themselves know someone that could give you insight into an industry, company or role. It’s all about paying it forward and you’ll be surprised how many people are happy to chat! I’m not saying these people will necessarily give you a job but it’s always good to build your network for when that opportunity does arise and you’ll also be gathering valuable information from people who have travelled the path that you want!
Apply, Apply, Apply! Power in numbers. It can be exhausting but don’t be hesitant to apply for multiple jobs if they fit the bill for you. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity just because you are progressing another.
If you can, try and meet people from the start-up you want to explore. A warm introduction through someone you know is ideal.
But if you can’t, don’t be afraid of a cold reachout. It can be scary but you’d be surprised how far a sincere message (whether by email or LinkedIn) introducing yourself and outlining well thought out, specific reasons about why you’re interested in the start-up can go. Start-ups are looking for hungry and hard-working people so being proactive and seeking out the companies you're interested in reflects really well. Also, people in the start-up world can be a lot more collaborative and helpful than in corporate. Everyone knows the feeling of being a beginner (because that’s what start-ups are) and is usually happy to help where they can.
Michael Batko (who's the CEO of Startmate) sees luck as a system. It’s readily applicable to looking for a job in a new area and I really like his thinking.
Keep in mind that hiring and roles at start-ups can be more flexible than you expect. Don’t be afraid to pitch a role to a start-up if you identify a gap that you think you can fill. Start-ups move fast and the needs of the business change all the time. Clearly explaining what you bring to the table can prompt founders to think about how you can add value to the business (rather than needing to reverse engineer your skills into a predefined role).
Also, venture capital firms generally have talent boards that aggregate all the job openings at their portfolio companies. You can usually create a profile and be alerted when a relevant opportunity comes up.
I won’t say networking because that can be easily interpreted as a social structure of humans gathering for shallow interactions - that’s not meaningful. What I’ve found valuable is instead taking a “how can I help?” mindset with interactions with people in the start-up community. That mindset can sometimes help unlock unique opportunities to work with or in startups as a side hustle, often organically leading to longer-term opportunities. Some of the best early stage startup jobs are rarely ever advertised.
I’d also recommend specific programs and communities to get involved with that can expand your radius of community with which you can have meaningful interactions. Programs like the Startmate Fellowship are awesome in that light.
What have we missed? Please hit 'Contribute to the Guide' to give your perspective and help others into their first role.