Could you get a job at a startup? Should you? How?

If you’re in a professional role and are wondering whether you have the skills to get a job at a startup the answer is probably yes. Our previous article (hyperlink) showed without a shadow of doubt that most professionals have the foundation skills that startup’s need to help them start and grow their business – At the time of writing this article there were the following number of startup jobs listed in Australia:

  • Seek : 7559
  • Angel List : 321
  • LinkedIn Jobs : 849

Assuming that it’s true what they say about only 20-30% of jobs are in the visible market (formally advertised) there are clearly plenty of jobs available to the right people. So, assuming that you’ve read this and trusted us (or better still looked at Seek and Angel List for yourself the big question is: so, how do I find and then get the startup job that fits me?

If you’re asking that particular question you’re smart enough to realise that finding the right job isn’t just about whether or not you have the skills or the qualifications it’s about you knowing enough about you and your target organisations to make sure that all the intangibles line up.

Unfortunately, not a lot of people do this well. Almost everyone I know has landed a job based on a pretty superficial scan of the organisation and the job and then discovered that it’s either a poor fit or maybe an amazing fit.

Either way, they went in relatively blind and then in hindsight noticed things like:

  • They use the same words as you (i.e. collaboration, leadership, communication, inclusion, integrity) but they mean very different things in your new job.
  • They have the same policies as your old company did (on paper) but they slavishly (or very loosely) follow the letter of the law.

I’m sure you get the point. If you’re going to invest in moving to a startup you’ll want to make sure that you know you and you know them well enough to line up the things that really matter to you with what really matters to them. Don’t be most people, be the person that makes the right decision.

There are also some critical differences in startup jobs that are important to think through

  • Company culture varies widely across startups. Some are easy-going and laissez-faire, others have a navy-seals-like level of structure and execution.
  • Salaries vary – from market rates (like what you are probably paid) to the absolute minimum wage, and this doesn’t just depend on your experience. Other factors include the culture of the company, the philosophy of its investors, and its funding stage.
  • To reward many employees for accepting a lower-than-market salary, startups often offer a share of the company to employees, that is vested over a period of time. Understanding this dynamic, as well as the value you can offer to a startup can help you negotiate a better deal.
  • There are differing levels of risk (and thus, job security) depending on the traction and funding stage of the startup. Understanding the risks can help you put strategies in place to manage them if the startup doesn’t work out.

What’s the alternative to throwing yourself at any startup job hoping that it’s right for you?

You need to follow a pretty straight forward process and likely get some help. These are the first and last three steps in our process:

First 3 stages

  1. Assessment: assessing you, your skills, strengths and interests
  2. Mapping: Charting potential transition pathways based on your profile and the profile of target roles
  3. Exploring: Is this career path for you? Try it out for yourself. Watch videos from people in that space. Understand salary, equity, risk, demand in the industry etc.

Last 3 stages

  1. Applying: Putting your application strategy into motion by finding & applying for opportunities via startup channels.
  2. Interviewing: Preparing for startup interviews
  3. Negotiating and closing: Considering options, negotiating offers, selecting your company and leaving your old position.

Well hey there captain obvious

We’re hoping that you’re reading this and thinking ‘well duh, of course you should do all of those things (and whatever is in the middle) if you’re serious about making sure that you are transitioning into the right role. Great, we’re on the same page.

The hardest part of all of this is finding the time and energy to take those steps amidst your busy job and life. We’ve heard it’s not uncommon for people to spend 6+ months breaking into startups – and a large part of that is because people don’t know where to look, what to look for, and how to present themselves to their target company.

Masterly reduces this time to transition while maximising the chances you find a great role for you, by plugging you into a team who’s dedicated to making you successful. We REALLY understands the world of startups, and we know how to make sure you transition in the best way possible.

Our CEO Jacob has founded 2 x startups, been an early employee at 2, and coached over 100 startup founders over his career. Our head coach Morgan has been a career strategy coach since 2002 and knows what it takes to make sure you land in a new role well. Between us we have a solid process and a deep understanding of startup context…all the intangibles that make the difference between someone landing really well… or not.

Find out more

If you want to speak to us about our transition to technology program please click here.

Morgan Williams
Morgan Williams

Morgan is the Head of Design at Masterly