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7 Tips to Land That Start-up Job You’ve Always Wanted

Thinking of moving to a start-up this year? Pros give advice on how to snag that job and transition as smoothly as possible

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 16 Jan 2018

7 Tips to Land That Start-up Job You’ve Always Wanted

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The idea of moving to a start-up can be exciting but daunting. This is especially true for first-timers keen on trying it out — fresh graduates, or those coming from the more familiar world of corporate who want to spend the rest of their careers in these newly established enterprises.

“If you like learning many things at a fast pace,” says Jan Garrovillo, head of marketing and sales at A.I.-powered job platform Kalibrr, “then the start-up world could be for you. [But if] you prefer deep [learning] and specializing, perhaps corporate is a better track.”

It’s also important to discern whether or not you can thrive in an unconventional work environment, where the traditional eight-to-five work day doesn’t hold. Start-ups tend to work long hours, depending on the need, so it’s best to manage your expectations.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Here are tips from start-up founders and employees on how to get the job — and sustain it:

1. Network, network, network

Events are key to start-up job hunting, relates Danielle Ayag, market development manager at Kalibrr. Be in the know about specific start-up events in your area and introduce yourself during the networking session. It’s not easy for introverts, but this is one time getting out of your comfort zone will pay off.

“There are many events, both locally and regionally, that can help jobseekers gain exposure and make connections with people in the field,” says Ayag.

2. Do something out-of-the-box when you turn in your application

Start-ups are full of innovators so it would help if you job-hunt like one.

“If you want to stand out in a sea of applications, do something that’s completely different,” say Nix Eniego, career coach and marketer at Sprout Solutions, a start-up specializing in HR software in Manila.

“Don’t rely on job boards and their company website. Add the start-up’s CEO on LinkedIn [or other social media] and apply for the job directly,” says Eniego, dishing out another tip: one shouldn’t do a direct sell of one’s self, but one can message the founder and ask how they can add value to their start-up, or even work for free. “If you’re into marketing, do a social media audit and send it to the CEO — doing that extra work before you formally apply for the job gives you an advantage,” he says.

3. Focus on job-hunting sites that cater specifically to start-ups

It may sound obvious, but don’t underestimate the power of sites that specialize on start-up postings. “Like Kalibrr, many job portals already display specific roles in the start-up world that you can apply in,” says Ayag. “Browsing these and applying directly can make your transition into the field much more concrete.”

4. Be strong, physically and mentally

Eniego asserts one must be at their best — physically and mentally — if keen on joining a start-up.

“Being in a start-up isn’t like your usual corporate company where you can stretch a three-hour task to a whole week,” explains Eniego. “In a start-up, you hustle 24/7. You have to work hard and work smart all the time — sometimes even after hours or the weekend, because in a start-up, there’s always something to do.”

5. Expect to have a dynamic role

Paul Rivera, co-founder and CEO of Kalibrr, says that one should expect to pivot as it almost always is the case for a lot of start-ups. “Don’t expect that your role is going to be static once you join a start-up,” he says. “Understanding and accepting this early on can help you thrive in that type of environment.”

“When you come from corporate, you essentially only do what your job requires, and are actually able to do so due to the existing systems in place,” explains Garrovillo. “But in start-ups — from processes, to existing tools — you’ll have to learn working around those not being set in stone. Since everything in a start-up usually has to be created from the ground up, you have to be willing to wear multiple hats and build those things for yourself if you want to get the job done,” she adds.

Coming from a structured environment like the corporate world is a great foundation for someone transitioning to start-ups. Says Garrovillo, “[This is] because your previous best practices will give you an idea of what you want to build, so use this to your advantage.”

6. Be open to learning

Be prepared for the technical side of the start-up job, according to Rivera. “Giving yourself a holistic approach — learning some of the technical side, the product side, the design side, etc. — helps give you an edge,” he says. “Most start-ups are building technology or software, and whether or not you’re an engineer, it would be good to understand what it takes from all angles to turn an idea and build software around it,” adds Rivera.

7. Ask yourself if you’re aligned with the start-up’s mission

As cheesy as it sounds, one should reflect on whether the start-up’s mission is aligned with yours and that it is something you’re passionate about.

“[Ideally] working for a start-up should not be a job,” says Julian Makabayan, founder of QistoRia, an edutech historical project in the Philippines. “It should be a mission to contribute something. It requires a paradigm shift. If you’re after the money, look somewhere else,” he says. 

“In short, it helps to show your passion, not just your certificates,” says Josef Bocklage, an IT system manager at Nordwest Connection.

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