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🚀 3 steps to land a startup job

No one can compete with you on being you

Very few people actually think about what they want, because they don’t believe it’s achievable.

The result is that everyone ends up applying for the same roles in the market.

In this post, I’ll show you how to leverage this insight to escape the competition and land your dream role in the startup ecosystem.

This week’s article is a guest post by Jack Rode. Check out the original article here: https://jackrode.substack.com/p/landing-your-first-startup-job

Step 1: Find your ‘best answer’

I want to be a management consultant because I love solving problems and want to make an impact on society.

How many times have you heard this one before?

Unless you have a standout resume, this approach won’t get you through the door.

The way to stand out is by telling a compelling story—one that links your authentic curiosities and interests to the role you are applying for. I call this the ‘best answer’.

Here’s the ‘best answer’ I used to land my role at Mr Yum:

I want to work for a company that is a) small enough where I can work closely with the founders, b) is building a consumer facing product that my friends and I would use, and c) is full of smart and talented people that I can learn from.

I would like to work as close to the customer as possible, understand their needs and map out how to deliver on these needs.

Here are 5 questions that helped me find my best answer:

  • What do you spend most of your free time thinking about?

  • What comes easy to you, but is hard for others?

  • If you had unlimited money, what would you spend your time doing?

  • If you could guarantee effortless success at one thing, what would you pick?

  • Write down every task or activity that you would enjoy doing. Write tasks (sell a product) rather than roles (sales person). Pick the top 3 from your list.

One session answering these questions will likely not get you to an answer like this, but it will act as a starting point for the next step.

Step 2: Tell everyone

Cold outreach is daunting in the beginning.

Pushing through the fear of rejection and gaining momentum is the most difficult part.

To tackle this back in the day, I decided to commit to messaging one new person per day until I landed a role.

I found that once I got 5 days in, the fear completely fell away and I was averaging 2 or 3 new messages daily. Small steps frequently almost always beats big steps infrequently.

Here’s an example from 2020:

Ask for a job, get advice. Ask for advice, get a job.

What’s the point of all of this?

The purpose of these conversations is to stress test your best answer in the wild. You want to test all your assumptions about certain roles, companies and career pathways.

This allows you to understand what roles and companies are out there, and where you fit in the industry.

On top of this, after a few weeks of outreach you’ll likely have a group of network in the community that you can tap into when you need.

Want more tips for cold outreach? Read Jack’s full article here: https://jackrode.substack.com/p/landing-your-first-startup-job 

Step 3: Going all in

Keep exploring the industry and building your network. Eventually you will find one role or company that truly excites you more than the rest. Once you find that opportunity, it’s time to go all in.

Apply for everything and take what you can get.

This was the worst career advice I’ve ever received.

How about flipping this on its head?

Instead of applying for 50 jobs that everyone else is going for, put 50x the effort into applying for a niche job that only you know about.

Try and speak to as many people at the company as possible. Evangelise the value that you will bring and hook them in with your compelling story.

Here’s an actual email I sent a startup in 2018 to land an internship.

There’s a lot I would do to improve this email if I were sending it today, but the core principles remain the same:

  1. Pitch your best answer (e.g. meditation has changed my life, I wanted to support the industry)

  2. Be clear with what you want (e.g. internship in product/strategy team)

  3. Back it up with experience (e.g. I have experience in Venture Capital)

Once you get your foot in the door for your #1 role, it’s probably a good idea to then go after #2 and #3.

Being in contest for more than one role will give you more confidence and negotiation power at the later stages.

Even if you don’t land that #1 role, the conversation might be so energising that it could open the door to other opportunities.

This is what happened when I tried to join Mr Yum as a product manager and ended up as an analyst (eventually moving on to Chief of Staff).

Winning the role

This method not only helps you find a better career path, it cuts down the majority of the work that you would usually need to do in the hiring process.

Your interview preparation becomes learning about the company and rehashing your best answer.

Your efforts in building your network will also put you ahead of other applicants who may be applying for another 10 roles at once.

Let’s recap

Escape the competition and land your dream role by following these steps:

  1. Find your best answer: figure out what you really want, not what makes you look cool.

  2. Tell everyone: stress test your best answer and build your network through cold outreach.

  3. Go all in: pick one opportunity that truly excites you, and leverage all your research and network to go after it. If that doesn’t work out, move onto the next one, until something lands.

No one can compete with you on being you, so all you need to do is figure out who you are and where you fit.

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