How to Find a Job at a Startup After College

Nowadays, everyone wants to work at a startup. So what are some steps you need to take before graduation? Here are some tips for college seniors who may be wanting to work at a startup.

Count the Cost Before Moving Forward

Startups are extremely hard environments. You are constantly expected to be working at fast-paced speeds, be flexible, take on more than you ever thought possible, and be a game-changer. These things are amazing for someone with an entrepreneurial bent, but startups are not for the faint of heart. Count the cost before you truly decide whether a startup is a good fit for you.

Ask yourself questions like: Do you like constantly shifting environments, long hours, days that are never the same? Do you love seeking innovation, cultivating creativity, starting something new, changing industries? Is your life your job, and do you want it to be?

If the answers are no, seek elsewhere. If yes, the startup lifestyle may be for you. So read on for more tips to on how enter the startup world.

Find Your Why & Communicate Your Passion

Know why you want to be in the startup world. Have passions you can communicate effectively. It’s not just about making a bunch of money (although the potential is there, for sure). Still, the startup life is a true lifestyle, not just an end to a means. Everyone wants to make money, and there’s nothing new to that life goal.

Stand out from the crowd by honing in on why you want to do what you want to do. Are you passionate about healthy nutrition or women’s rights or technological improvements? Why is a certain focus important to you? Find out what makes you tick and communicate those things effectively. Startups and people will be drawn to someone who knows who they are, what they’re passionate about, and why it matters in the grand scheme of the world.

But it’s not all about passion. You can be passionate about a topic and not have any real experience to back it up. That’s why cultivating a true skillset and experience is key.

Look for Internships & Real Ways to Gain Experience

Before you get out of school, consider finding an internship at a local startup. Google startups in your area and internships, and an array of materials will pop up. Ask around your college’s career development department. Online sites like YouTern are great places to find entrepreneurial-driven companies. Start contacting your local startups directly and ask them for internship possibilities or ways you can help out to gain experience.

Bottom line is: Look for real ways to gain experience. Don’t just rely on class projects or cool things you did for a teacher or things you think you’re good at. Be honest with yourself and look to improve in the areas that matter. Look for settings outside of a classroom or your college in order to build up your resume. If you can’t find something in a startup right away, find a company or work environment that can help you cultivate the skillsets you desire. You need to be developing skillsets that make sense in a real startup setting.

Everything you do to cultivate skillsets and gain experience now will help you get a job later. But it’s also all about what you know and the people you know.

Researching and Networking

Research, research, research. Don’t waste time and know your stuff about the specifics of your industry. Whatever focus you want in the startup world, research that. Know what you need to know to get hired. Know what you don’t know and how to help yourself improve in those areas. Know the issues, the concerns, and successes of the industry you want to break into. Take classes, do extra work. Know the history of the startups you’re contacting. Research businesses and entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the startup world and learn from their mistakes and successes.

Network, network, network. Many cities have startup and entrepreneurial groups that meet monthly or even weekly (1 Million Cups is a good example). Find out what is happening in your area and start going to networking events and meetings. In fact, networking is one of the most important things that can lead to a potential job or internship after college. It truly is all about who you know, because a familiar face (with the skillset to back it up) is much better to employ than a complete stranger. Ask to set up coffee with startup people you know. Ask for advice. Ask questions. Really, genuinely get to know the people in your community that are already in this world, and then network like a pro.

Other Resources

1 Million Cups

Young Entrepreneur Council

Startup Weekend


Small Business Association

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