To land a startup gig, you’ve got to network.
You’ve heard it before — networking is essential for almost any kind of job hunt — but it’s especially true for startups. Here’s why: when building a team, startup founders rely on their network to separate the signal from the noise:
Every time a promising startup posts a job, tens if not hundreds of applications flow in. Founders don’t have time to go through all of them, so they use their network as a filtering mechanism by starting with people that have come recommended. Candidates who’ve been endorsed by someone the founder knows get the first crack at the opportunity. — Scott Britton
If you’re ready to get hired at a startup, here are six networking tactics that’ll help you get the gig:
1. Make it personal
Networking events can be a great first step to getting inside an industry. But they can also be a huge waste of time, especially in Startup Land, where it’s difficult to tell who’s doing awesome work and who’s a wannabe entrepreneur.
Rather than spending two hours at an event speaking with a parade of random people, focus on connecting with a handful of contacts you know you can learn from. Do some research, pinpoint a few top candidates and reach out for a short informational interview.
Avoid the dine-and-dash syndrome. You’ve worked hard to make great contacts, so don’t drop off the face of the earth after one meeting. Keep up with your network so you aren’t the person who only reaches out when they need something. Every month, grab coffee with a few of your contacts to keep the connection strong.
2. Apply before the job gets posted
If a company you like doesn’t have a job posting, that doesn’t mean you should wait until they do. Shoot ’em an email. Tell them why you’re a fan of their work and explain how you could fit into their company.
Being confident in knowing you are a great fit for a company and having the ability to pinpoint areas of opportunity you can fill before the company even posted a job is… well, ballsy. But it’s incredibly effective. Reach out to companies you like early, build relationships with the employees and create a connection that will allow you to have a leg up on the competition. — Breena Fain
3. Think local
While some recruiters won’t admit it, it’s easier to be hired at a startup if you live in the area. That doesn’t mean you have to be in a startup hub like Silicon Valley, New York or Seattle. Places like Boulder, Cambridge and Washington, D.C. are among Entrepreneur’s top 10 cities for tech startups. You can find high-tech startups in every single state.
Plus, the more remote your location, the less competition you’ll face. So start local. And if you want to move to a new city, try to visit often and at least appear like you’re a local.
4. Throw your own party
Highly-targeted events can be beneficial for everyone involved. When Alison Johnston Rue, CEO and cofounder of InstaEDU, realised there weren’t any events specifically for education tech founders, she decided to make her own:
When we were first getting started, I wanted to get to know other edtech entrepreneurs better. I made a list of founders I knew and founders I would be interested in meeting and invited them all to a happy hour at our office. The entire event took about two hours to organise, and it helped me meet and get to know the exact people I wanted to connect with.
5. Be generous
In his book Linchpin, entrepreneur guru Seth Godin wrote an important networking truth: “It’s difficult to be generous when you’re hungry. Yet being generous keeps you from going hungry. Hence the conflict.”
If you’re only focused on what you can get from other people — a job lead, an interview, a connection — rather than what you can give them, you’ll find yourself in hot water. Networking is a two-way street. The more you can improve someone else’s life, the more likely they are to help you.
Stuck on how to be generous and provide value? Here are some ideas:
- Send over an article or video the person would genuinely find interesting.
- Offer to give feedback about a product or website.
- Promote their organisation to your personal network.
- Make a relevant introduction.
6. Take action
Founders need people who can take action, make decisions and figure things out on the fly. You’ve got to have initiative, creativity and hustle.
To demonstrate your action bias, tackle independent projects. Whether it’s a blog, an event, a side hustle, an incredible social channel or an artistic venture, get out there and do something.
Interesting projects often generate interesting opportunities and connections. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) Plus, you’ll have something cool to work on while you hunt for your next gig.
What tactic would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments!
Annie Rose Favreau is a Seattle-based content strategist, digital marketer and startup problem solver. You can find her Twittering away at @A_Favreau.
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