Feb 15 2013

How To Break Into The Startup World

Guest Post By Aaron O’Hearn – Boston Startup School – (CEO & Founder)

Boston Startup School LogoStartups are very unique work environments with very bright, yet very blurry futures. Their appeal is clear: working at a startup is like building a house, you can see the change you make on a daily basis. One wall today, a roof tomorrow,and eventually, a home. While their appeal may be clear, the rest of it maybe isn’t so certain. In fact, the only thing that is certain is change. Your boss could say, “We just switched business models” and you need to be able to adapt,and adapt quickly. It’s no surprise that startups look for very unique traits within people they are looking to hire. Only a certain kind of individual can thrive in a
culture of change. So, how can you not only enter the startup community, but succeed in it?

Meet the Team
No, not virtually. Go to networking events, ask your friends for intros, join a weekly meet-up, get out there and stop hiding behind the computer.The best way to find out if a startup is hiring, is to meet the team and make a connection. Resumés get lost, so make them understand why they need your specific skill-set on their team. Then, find something you can do for them- create a sales pipeline, write a one-page marketing plan, build an app that will help them capture leads- and send it over. The proof is in the pudding.

Have a Passion
Sounds cliché. It is. But startups are built on passion. And it doesn’t mean you have to be passionate about building Twitter for Iguanas, or whatever the startup you’re interested in joining actually does, but rather how do your passions align with their business. It could mean being passionate about enterprise sales, or designing amazing user experiences, or engaging with customers. Where do you see yourself fitting in?

Failure is OK
Once you land the interview, don’t be afraid to share your stories of failure. Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of failure, they stare it in the face everyday and defy the odds. So if you have failed, then it means that you have learned. Perpetual learning is crucial in a constantly changing environment and a key tenant of startup philosophy.

Find the Bar
If, after having nailed the interview, you find yourself working at a startup, then you quickly need to identify the bar and then you need to understand actions must be taken in order to surpass it. Productivity beginning day one is a must on a small team. Successful startup employees are growth-minded. They are able to identify problems that haven’t even occurred yet,understand the next steps that need to be taken, and push forward to drive action. Pushing yourself to learn everyday, to do something better, and to understand a problem completely will not only allow you to find the bar, but forget that it even existed.

Do you feel overwhelmed yet? Good, you should. The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to align all of these different components and merge them into one meaningful career road map and path forward. The skills, network, passion, drive; all of them combined are difficult to attain, especially when pursuing the startup path alone. A program like Boston StartupSchool is one way to find a path into the startup world that focuses on connecting you with the surrounding community. Even if you have all of the other pieces in the puzzle, it is often the team and the community behind you that lifts you to the next level. So, above all else, when on the startup path, find a community of people that inspires you. A community filled with people as crazy as you are. A community of startup nerds.

– Aaron O’Hearn


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