How to Get a Job at a Promising Startup Even if You Have No Experience

Navigating the job market as a recent college grad is tough. You might not know what it is you want to do with the rest of your life, but you do know that it’s time to put that high-priced degree to practical use.

So to beef up your resume, you probably spent your college years hustling through various internships, attending networking events and shaking hands at career fairs, all in the hopes of landing a dream job.

Now it’s time to apply, but every entry-level position you find requires X years of “prior experience” that you don’t have.

How are you supposed to gain this experience when employers won’t give you an opportunity? Where are the companies willing to take a chance on a rookie who’s new to the game? The answer: Startups. Startups know a thing or two about being the new guys on the block.

Like many recent grads, they spend their days working tirelessly to break into the market, build their brands and reputation, all in the hopes of making it big.

It’s no surprise then that startups are prime stomping grounds for young professionals looking to launch their careers.

Employees at early-stage startups typically wear many hats in the company, meaning you’ll be exposed to multiple aspects of the business operations. This exposure can help diversify your professional experience and give you an idea of what roles are the best fit for you in the long term. Startups also offer unique long-term opportunities and equity options that you probably won’t find at more established firms.

For example, imagine being one of the early members of the Facebook, Yahoo, or Google team. Many of these founding team members have gone on to launch successful careers in a variety of industries. Some even still own equity in the startup they helped grow. No matter what their official job title was, these individuals have undoubtedly been rewarded for their work in the early stages of these companies.

Similarly, joining a growing startup as a recent grad will provide countless benefits, including:

  • Solid business contacts
  • Lasting friendships
  • Well-rounded professional skills
  • The opportunity to build something revolutionary

So how do you get a job at a promising startup firm? Here are a few proven tips to help you get your foot in the door:

Get Creative

Startups are more interested in your personality, working style, goals, and ambition as opposed to what’s on your resume. According to Russell Brunson, CEO of ClickFunnels, qualities such as passion and the ability to finish projects are more important than what’s on paper.

You can get creative by sending a video resume to showcase what you bring to the table, which will provide insights that the employer wouldn’t gain from reading a traditional resume. Many innovative tech startups, like ClickFunnels, already require applicants to submit a video resume instead of a traditional application.

Think Like an Entrepreneur

Startups are generally looking for candidates with an entrepreneurial drive, meaning the company’s founders will want a team that shares their passion, personal investment, and long-term commitment to the company’s success. 

Jessica Mah, CEO of InDinero.com, says “it’s less about having x number of years in a particular role and more about demonstrating the ability to act like a business owner. When I hear stories related to coming up with new solutions, that goes a very long way with me, regardless of how, when, or where they did these things.”

Target Your Job Search

Aimlessly applying to hundreds of job postings hoping that one magically pans out – is a surefire way to get burned out with no real results. Instead, put together a detailed list of startups that you’d like to work with. Research each of these companies, including their history, vision, values, organizational mission, founders and CEOs. Place the companies that align most with your personal values at the top of the list.

Know the Product

Seth Waite, Chief Marketing Officer of RevUnit, says “the key to getting a job at a budding young company is connecting with the purpose of the company and its people.” Get well-versed on the problems that the startup is looking to solve with its product or service. Research their competitors and see what sets the startup apart from the competition.

Get Referrals

Companies are becoming more and more selective in their hiring processes. This is especially true of startups where a bad hiring decision can deal a major blow to the company’s growth, finances, and long-term success. That’s why many startups rely on referrals from individuals they trust to find quality employees to join their team. 

Referrals are goldmines to startups because they add assurance that the candidate might be a good fit for the company. Use social networking sites and professional meetups to get acquainted with individuals who have a connection to the company. Be sure to create a high-quality LinkedIn profile to connect with existing employees and founders. Nothing beats having a referral from a current employee or team member.

Know the Company’s Culture

Cultural fit is an important factor of hiring in an early-stage startup. Since most startup teams start in small numbers, their employees can spend long days and many nights working together in close quarters. As a result, startups have to ensure they are hiring individuals who share their values, passion, and drive.

Most importantly, they want to know they are hiring someone that the current team will get along with. Visit the company’s website to get a solid understanding of their vision and determine how that vision aligns with your values. You’ll add much more value to an organization with a mission that you can identify with or support.

Parting Advice

It’s important to note that not all startups make it in the long run. Many will try, a few will succeed, but the majority often fail. That shouldn’t stop you, however, from seizing an opportunity to work at one of these firms. Startups are fast-paced, challenging, entrepreneurial, and oftentimes fun environments that will push you to achieve your highest potential while creating real-world solutions. 

Startups are also places to build things, change things, and fix things. The experience, growth, and skills you can obtain from working at one are invaluable and will last you throughout the rest of your career.

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