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Career change? 10 tips for landing a hot tech startup job Written by Chris Johnson on 18. September 2013

Mozilla Europe

Mozilla Europe

From Mitte clear over to San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, it’s no secret that tech startups represent one of the few bright spots in the European and American job markets. For those already on the inside, finding your next stop is more or less straightforward.

But if you’ve been working at a bank or for a boutique hotel, it’s far more complicated to break in. Tech startups speak a different language (What’s a GitHub? Who’s Ruby?), the culture’s distinct, and it’s even hard to find the jobs. There’s also a perception that you have to know programming to work for a startup (of course the reality is that startups hire marketers, accountants, and all sorts of others).

We run the largest tech startup hiring events in the US called Uncubed (we’re entering Germany for the first time this Friday), and it draws both insiders and those looking to get their first startup job. Here are ten tips from our community for those on the move:

Hello My Name Is

1) Start within arm’s reach

Products and services that you already use and know are great places to begin your search. Take the companies behind the apps in your phone. Some are one or two people, others have teams of hundreds with many open jobs. If you come from banking, start with the payments and finance startups. The ability to have a knowledgeable conversation about a company’s offerings is a sure-fire attention-grabber.

2) Skip the blind dates

Really, really do your homework on each company before meeting or applying for a job with them. Scour their websites, blogs, social media presences, and articles written about them (or by their team members). This is much more important at startups than at large companies.

3) Don’t forget to tip

Now that you’re well-versed on both the company and its offerings, come up with one great suggestion for how they can improve, or one new feature you would add. Even if it’s not a world-changing idea, startups love this. 

4) Link outside the box

Building your digital presence through Twitter, blogging, Instagram, Quora, and skill-specific centers like GitHub (in addition to LinkedIn and Facebook) are mandatory at this point. Blogging offers an outlet for your interests, thoughts, and writing; Quora exhibits your knowledge by allowing you to answer others’ questions (or ask your own); and GitHub connects developers for open source projects. Start now – even a little will make you far more desirable than someone who isn’t active at all.

5) Talk to strangers

Involve yourself in local, professional communities through Meetups for entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, coders, designers, and others in your field of interest. Reach out to companies and professionals directly for coffee meetings and informational interviews. In no time, you’ll have a budding network in the startup space.

6) Take one a day

Make it a goal and personal challenge to reach out to at least one new person or company each day. Through friends, professional connections, and referrals, your network will grow exponentially, opening doors to new professional opportunities.


7) Stack the deck

You don’t need a job to have business cards. Here are some thoughts on how to stand out amid all the card swapping.

8) Do it yourself

Bulk up your résumé, skills, network, and confidence in the off hours. Freelance work, passion projects, volunteering, competitions, and classes are all great ways.

9) Bookmark these pages!

The search continues for the holy grail of an updated and highly curated startup job board for all fields. In the meantime, you can bet that every city of scale has a great local resource (like the listings here on Venture Village) and then most skillsets have their own board, such as Careers 2.0 for programmers and for designers.

10) Ditch the tie and perfect your ping pong serve

The clichés of startup life are clichés for a reason. Scrap the corporate culture and dress code, and understand that even though they can seem frivolous, startup trappings like the ping pong table serve a purpose

You can get your search started with Berlin’s first Uncubed event this Friday, 20 September.

Image credits:
kicker: Flickr user Mozilla in Europe
Hello My Name Is: Flickr user Alan O’Rourke
rolodex: Flickr user Ged Carroll


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