How to Get Hired at a Startup

As Miami’s career fair slowly approaches in roughly 19 days and 20 hours (not that I’m counting) the senior class is diligently working on their resumes and practicing their interview skills in hopes of landing that perfect job in that perfect city. Although, not all companies hire through traditional methods. Today, a lot of organizations are ditching the formal job descriptions and strict hiring requirements to be able to focus more on passion and culture fit with employees. One area of business that takes on this new method is startups.

So, you have decided you want to throw yourself into a life of agile scrapiness and new creations? Good for you! But, how do you get hired by these companies? Here are three key things vital to the startup hiring process:

1. Know yourself. If you want to work in the startup world, there is no such thing as just “taking a job”. You have to know what you are interested in working on, what kind of worker you are and what type of environment fits you best. If you aren’t passionate about the job at this level of a company’s journey, it will NEVER work out…there is a reason why they call it “startup LIFE”.  Knowing your dream job will help you go into the company search with more confidence and certainty.

2. Network. Hate to break it to you, but if you see a job posting for a position in a startup, the company is probably just doing due diligence. Most small companies are hitting up who they (or their network) know because they want to see proven skill level and hire someone they trust. It’s important that you spend time getting to know people in the startup circles by going to events, talking about your interests and well as showing interests in the companies. Once you have built up your repertoire of contacts, you can get the word out about what you are looking for. The good news is…startup people are awesome and LOVE to help hardworking people achieve!

3. Show them they need you. Startups are all over the place and that’s what makes them great. Even though they might have a strong growth plan and already have good team members, that doesn’t mean they aren’t missing anything that is vital to their success. If you can show a company what they are missing and how you can help, you’re golden. For example, I would say:

“Hi Blah Blah, I have really been enjoying following the journey of Blah Blah & Co. and I think your team is headed for success. Although, I noticed that in comparison to your competition, you are getting two times less organic search traffic, which has caused you to fall behind in social media followers. Since the largest demographic of Blah Blah & Co. is 20-24 year olds, we can expect that they are heavily relying on social media to help them in their purchasing decisions. With my strong writing skills and experience helping companies grow their social media, I can help Blah Blah & Co. gain more organic search through relevant blogging and raise social media by X amount this month. Hire me.”

Most of all, it takes confidence to work in a startup. In the words of one of my great professors, OWN IT. Know yourself, know your skills, know where you want to work and jump in. Scary? Yes. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The Summer of Kasey

As I sit here writing this, I cannot believe that this summer is coming to a close. Next week at this time, I will be in classes. What is over is the summer of my amazing internship, networking, hanging with friends and gallivanting around the city I hope to call home upon graduation: Cincinnati. This summer has been so completely wonderful, life changing and inspiring! Want to know the best part? It has only just begun.

Back in April, when I was starting to discover my passion for entrepreneurship and startups, I decided this summer would have a title: The Summer of Kasey. Why? I was living on my own with very little adult responsibilities, I was starting Miami’s Altman Summer Scholar Program…why not take full advantage? This was the last summer I would ever be able to really explore everything Miami has to offer. I knew this was my chance to rise and show the world who Kasey really was.

I wanted to show the world that I was passionate about learning from others and that I was passionate about finding opportunities in unknown spaces. Creating Cincy Mentors did just that. Through my blog, I was able to learn from a lot of people…over 20 people in 8 weeks, to be more specific. I made some great contacts and learned a lot of growth hacks that I could have NEVER learned out of a book or online. Hearing people’s experiences was so invaluable, and I enjoyed making genuine relationships along the way.

I also loved getting to showcase Cincinnati! People, there is sooooo much going on here! The tech space is growing, the talent is growing, the funding is growing. The pride for this area is strong (just look at the 1-day demise of Chilicon Valley) and #startupcincy is a movement. Joining the Cincy tribe was the best thing I could have done, and I am excited to jump in to upcoming startup opportunities this Fall. Thank you, Cincinnati, for being so welcoming to a girl straight outta Cleveland.

This summer had so much success, but it didn’t come without its challenges. There were days when I thought no one would read my blog but my mom, times when people questioned my voice, even more times when people were very critical of what I was trying to accomplish. I appreciate every challenge because it made the journey more exciting. Every wrong turn downtown, aggressive amounts of money spent on parking, every single bothersome email I sent…it was all worth it. It was all worth it to be able to show readers what insights the wonderful creators of Cincinnati’s economy had to offer.

Now, having had such an amazing journey with The Summer of Kasey and Cincy Mentors, I am ready for the life of Kasey. I am ready to take on my opportunities and just about anything life throws at me. I am ready to live out my dream of being a growth hacking guru for a startup company. I am ready to continue writing, making connections and doing what it takes to be the best Kasey I can be. Look out, world! The Kasey sunshine is moving in.

Meet Jeffrey Shepard

Entrepreneurs find passion for their business in a lot of different ways. Maybe it’s a venture they have always wanted to try or maybe they are trying to discover a brand new space. Or maybe, you could be passionate about the startup journey itself. Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck, finds his passion in knowing that when he starts his idea, it will grow into a great brand and great culture.

Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck. Photo via LinkedIn
Jeffrey Shepard, CEO of MedaCheck.
Photo via LinkedIn

This is not Jeffrey’s first startup rodeo. Having started 13 companies already, he is excited to see MedaCheck, a medication reminder system in the form of an app, becoming a sustainable model that can now grow. Which is awesome. But, the idea of breathing MedaCheck 24/7 is not what keeps Jeffrey excited about entrepreneurship. In fact, the MedaCheck business model is built to be one that can scale and then be acquired easily. What keeps him going is this: creating businesses through being a good listener and having good people by your side.

Jeffrey is awesome because he believes in the same mission I do…learning from and listening to as many people as you can because, that’s the best way to get good at something. Jeffrey admits that he was not truly successful until he opened up to what was surrounding him and truly listened to other entrepreneurs. What you learn from others and their experiences (good or bad) is invaluable. You can have 3 doctorate degrees and still have so much to absorb from those who have succeeded, failed or gone through whatever you are trying to do.

Jeffrey said that one of the biggest things he learned from others and his own experiences is that the type of people you bring into your business is THE #1 priority. People will make or break a business and if you chose to start your own, you have to define your culture. Along with listening to others, the people who are supporting your dream are invaluable and true success cannot happen unless those employees feel like they can succeed with you. Create an environment that helps to excel employees in their personal and professional growth so that they know they are able to open up with you and your company. On the flip side, if someone is obviously not a great culture fit, don’t keep them around. As harsh as that may sound, too many companies suffer because their team is toxic, and in the end, you are hurting the person that doesn’t fit.

While passion for startups may come in different stages and ways, every entrepreneur wants to see their business scale and succeed so others can be impacted. There is never a shortage of opportunities in the startup world, and according to Jeffrey, it’s up to you to make sure the future is a successful one.

New Company? Salivate over the New Grads!

I made my pitch as to why new grads should head to new companies, but it’s only fair that I address a major question on the minds of startup companies: what’s in it for them? Why would they hire someone who has never done a startup before? Why should the CEO of a new company continue to take major pay cuts to afford a kid who does not have the same level of experience as others?

These are real, valid thoughts. As someone who has spent…more time than I would like to admit…scrolling through the Cintrifuse/Brandery company job openings, it was hard to see phrases like “must have three years of experience in marketing and branding”. MUST? I get why it says that, buuuuttttt good thing I am bad at taking no for an answer! So, what I have to say is this: what new grads lack in experience, we make up for in passion and hard work. From startup restaurants to architecture firms, that statement stands true for all business areas. NewCos, this is why you should hire me and other new grads hitting the pavement in 9 months:

1. Determination. When it comes to the thought my first full time job, I’m a kid in a candy store. The excitement is unreal. As much as we will miss hanging with friends on campus and drinking a little too much beer on Saturday afternoons, new grads are truly excited to become contributing members of society. When you hire a new grad, you hire someone who is beyond ready to jump into whatever you are working on and add fresh perspective. We are excited to put in the brain power, long hours and new ideas.

2. Mold us. New grads are, well, new. We don’t have any prior experiences to base off of. You won’t hear us saying “well, at my last job, we did it this way…” because, other than internships, we haven’t had an experiences to set our ways. If you have the itch to mold the minds of the next generation, hiring a new grad can be a great way to talk about your past successes, mistakes and lessons. What we learn from you, we can apply in our future experiences!

3. What is money? Yes, our experience levels are lower, but if your company is running real lean, hiring a new grad can be a great way to have someone achieve great things while not having to pay them the same way you would pay a web developer with 10 years of experience. There are  times and situations where companies need to hire someone who has certain levels of experiences, but…new grads are fast learners and hard workers. We can take it upon ourselves to get to the level of experience your company is looking for, without breaking your bank.

4. For the sake of the ecosystem. New grads go where the jobs are, and if growing companies won’t hire us, we won’t be sticking around. It is imperative for emerging startup ecosystems (CINCINNATI, OHIO!!!) to see the value in keeping talent in their area. New grads and millennials ARE the new movement. We will make amazing impacts. Keep us around so that we can help the community flourish.

New grads are not to be underestimated! We have big plans for our futures and we want to work for companies that see the value in helping us rise and achieve. You never know! You could be hiring the next Mark Zuckerberg! But, new grads cant get there without having the chance to make an impact.

New Grad? Head to the NewCos!

Summer is coming to a close and as I was sitting around the other day, color-coding my semester schedule and planning out shortest walking routes to campus buildings, I realized that dorky as it is, it is my second-to-last time getting to do it. In fact, in 9 months, I will be a full-fledged adult! It’s so exciting! Do I know how to cook or or fix sinks? Hello no! But being the expert compartmentalizer that I am, I know I will figure that out when the time comes. What’s on my mind right now? EMPLOYMENT.

Like the other 3.2 million college seniors projected to graduate in 2016, I. Need. A. Job. If I sound aggressive, that’s because I am. Being a classic millennial, I have big dreams and some requirements to get there. I would like a job that I enjoy while also getting to work hard, learn a lot, make instant impact, and have some cool work benefits that don’t necessarily have to be monetary.

One job area that I have noticed a culmination of all these millennial requirements is in startup companies. Small, new businesses have not yet been bogged down by bureaucracy and are able to offer a totally new culture that is very attractive to new graduates. Here’s why:

Small team, quick impact. Unless 100 people are on the same page and jointly decide to start a company, chances are the startup you work for will be small…like, 5 people chillin’ in a room, small. Meaning, it’s your time to shine! Anything you do will be making a direct impact on the bottom line and moving the needle of the business. There is no  such thing as doing a small project that will eventually reach your boss’s boss’s boss in 6 months. In a startup, you are most likely playing accidental footsie with the CEO under the work table and doing projects with he or she, not FOR he or she. What a cool way to get things done so early in your career!

Less resources, more learning. A long with less people, startups just have less things in general. When you are working for an agile, lean business, that means you are doing a lot of learning on your own. There is not enough time or people to sit with you and make sure you properly know all the tools to do your job. If you like to self-start things, this is the space for you! The “figure it out” attitude will be your new best friend. Also, startups need a lot of different people with different passions. No one will ever ever hire you based on your major, only on your skills.

Less money, more creativity. I guess less money counts as less resources, but it was worth making it’s own bullet point because, when you work for a startup, you can’t expect to be making what you might make at a big company. It’s just not going to happen. But, that doesn’t mean the job is any less difficult, prestigious or rewarding…you just get thanked differently. A lot of millennials today are craving perks like fun office cultures, time off, gym memberships, dogs in the office, etc. Startups offer a lot of flexibility to their employees and make sure their employees feel valued with fun little things like, I don’t know…equity?

Are big companies awesome? Yes. Do you learn a lot working for them? Of course. Is there a little more security? Obviously. But, another unique thing about new millennials in the workforce is that we crave things beyond benefits and stability…we crave passion. We crave following our hearts, doing what we could do 24/7 and living life with utmost fulfillment. When you work for a startup, you surround yourself with people who are working endlessly to make their dreams happen and change the world. To me, surrounding myself with that kind of environment sounds just as rewarding as climbing the corporate ladder.

This sounds good, right? So, entrepreneurs…why should you hire new grads? Stay tuned.

Meet Wendy Lea

When you think of #startupcincy, a few key things come to mind. Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse is one of them (let me save you all some trouble and let you know it’s pronounced “Lee”). She has started companies, sold them, angel invested into others and has now brought her talents to Cincinnati to help our ever-growing startup scene bring in new talent and continuously foster innovation. With Wendy on the startup team, big things have been brewing in Cincinnati…and it’s just getting started.

Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse
Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse

Let’s start with the obvious…Wendy is a a hardworking, intelligent and fast-moving boss lady (#careergoals). I only spent a half an hour with her, so how would I know this? Well we can look at her successes during her time out west and at her previous companies, we can also look at the recent success of Cincinnati’s NewCo. But…there is something else about Wendy, something that can be hard to do. Wendy is always forward thinking. She knows how to celebrate the successes while keeping in mind how Cincinnati can get stronger. She sees the power our region has with our 9 startup accelerators, 4 major universities, many established big companies and new emerging tech companies. At the same time, she sees how in fully developed ecosystems (cough, cough, San Fran) they have a lot more access to entrepreneurs, money, peer-to-peer connections and an unmatched fearless attitude into the unknown. It’s a little discouraging, but it’s the truth…Cincinnati is no San Fransisco when it comes to startups.

The good news is that Cincinnati is on it’s way to being as successful as Silicon Valley. Our resources are growing and our region has the drive to accomplish what it takes to move the needle forward with more business. But, most importantly, Cincinnati needs to keep bringing in top talent. This region has potential, and now it is up to the millennial generation to get in there and figure out how to keep Cincinnati startups competitive with other regions. Here are Wendy’s 4 tips to millennials on how to dive head first into being a successful startup guru:

1. Be a groupie.  Get plugged into the entrepreneurial community around you. Network and get to know others…learn from them and immerse yourself.

2. Experiment. Work for a range of startups that line up with your passions. Get as many experiences as you can to learn more about your talents and the kinds of projects you want to be working on.

3. Study. There are a lot of things to lean about startups and how they operate. Do you know how venture capital works? Do you know how to get capital? No? That’s fine, that’s what Google was made for.

4. Line up your passions. According to Wendy, there are two main types of passions: functional and life. Functional passions are the ones you have for your career and job types. Life passions are the things you love that you pursue outside of work, like hobbies and values. In startups, the company you work for becomes so much more than a job. It’s important that the company aligns with both parts of your passions.

Most importantly, working in the entrepreneurial space means that you are obviously someone that is smart, resourceful and ready to get plugged in. You will have many jobs in your life, but it is important that with each one, you learn and grow. Learning and growing…Cincinnati sounds like a millennial because our region is going through the same stuff.  With each new company that comes in, graduating accelerator class or each big company backer, Cincinnati becomes a bigger startup ecosystem. Lucky for us, we have someone like Wendy to keep pushing us forward.