"I went to work for a startup where the job I took was never posted," John Gannon writes at the Daily Muse. "I interviewed with the CEO of one of the most successful open source software startups--for a job that didn't technically exist yet."
How does such surreptitious serendipity happen?
Because there's a "hidden startup job market," Gannon says. From what we can surmise, this is the result of two conflating factors: friends hiring friends is the norm and the roles within startups are constantly emerging. The hustling jobseeker, then, finds ways to get close to those rapidly growing companies.
To do that, we'll need to follow Gannon's advice on how to get the scoop get in good with the folks that are getting big.
Hiring people costs money. Startups don't have much--unless they're flush from a fresh round of financing. As Gannon says, if you spot a startup that's raised money you can safely assume that they're going to be bringing people aboard.
But knowing who's getting money doesn't require you to be tethered to every tech blog (though you should be to Fast Company, natch) looking to find who landed a Series A. Like many endeavors, you can automate that labor away: Gannon's set up a Twitter bot and an RSS feed to round up the news in funding. Which you can subsequently jump on.
How, then, do we form bonds with some of the most insanely busy people in the world--venture capitalists and the entrepreneurs that love them? A few ideas:
- When you first email them, make sure there's a "reciprocal exchange": Silicon Valley vet Steve Blank says you have to provide some sort of insight in exchange for the wisdom you seek.
- When you get to the coffee meeting, take notes.
- Ask for an informational interview: you don't need to get the gig at first contact. But you do need to build contacts.
- Write a stellar follow-up letter: it can land you the job.
People in startups tend to wear many hats, for there will be naturally more needs than fit inside the confines of a job description. So you need to show expertise as well as flexibility. As Gannon says:
Maybe you're a salesperson who recently ran some successful marketing programs. Or you're a developer who has lots of experience evangelizing platforms. Show that off, and share how you could chip in across all different areas of the business.
This broad-and-deep tension isn't only in the startup world. Valve, the epically successful game company, looks to hire "T-shaped" people. As they say in their employee handbook, they want you to be a generalist ("highly skilled in a broad set of valuable things") and an expert ("among the best in their field in a narrow discipline").
If you fit them to a T, as it were, it will be because they see that you can contribute to lots of different projects in a few different ways. At least that's how hyper-successful, happiness-optimized companies like GitHub do it.
Add that to the list of reasons to keep feeding your brain new experiences.
Hat tip: the Daily Muse