Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #115
Let's talk about startup hiring
If you’ve been reading my entrepreneurship advice for a while, you may have noticed a somewhat glaring hole around the topic of hiring. That’s because, honestly, I don’t think it was something I ever got particularly good at. On top of that, now that I’m more focused on teaching entrepreneurship rather than building companies myself, it’s not a skill I’ve gotten much chance to practice. I haven’t had to hire someone in a long time, and, considering the stage of the companies I work most often with, they’re not doing lots of hiring, either.
Still, I do have some thoughts about hiring. Maybe even a useful piece or two of advice. I try to share one of them in this issue. But, again, consider who it’s coming from and maybe be a little more skeptical of what you read than usual. I won’t be offended.
I will, however, be offended if you don’t like hearing from my guest on this week’s episode of Web Masters because he’s incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I also had him as my guest last week!
It’s Scott Heiferman, again. In last week’s episode. we talked about how he built Meetup, but he also built something else that was so cool, I thought it deserved an episode of its own. I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did.
One of the reasons I struggled with hiring was because, in retrospect, I think I was trying to hire the wrong kinds of people. Read this article to find out if you’re making the same mistake.
The Serial Entrepreneur Who Created Instagram Before Instagram
I've never had an entrepreneur appear twice on Web Masters, but my conversation last week with Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup, was so great, I wanted to do one more episode with him to hear about building Fotolog.
Considering Scott also built Meetup, Fotolog kind of flies under the radar. But, for a lot of people, Fotolog might have even been more impactful. It was basically Instagram a decade before Instagram.
Hear the full story on:
…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
This article never got as much attention as I thought it should have, especially considering the admittedly click-baity title. Despite that, it’s one of my most important articles… click-baity title and all. Read it to understand why.
Office Hours Q&A
I think I’d like to work for a startup. Not be a startup founder. At least, not yet. But I’d like to work for a small (10 person or less) company that’s trying to grow into something much bigger. The problem is I don’t know how to find a job like that. It seems like those kinds of companies aren’t really advertising in the same places as big companies.
How would you suggest I go about getting a job at a startup? And are there any things I should watch out for or be worried about when selecting a startup to work for?
In my experience, the best way to get a job at a very early startup is to network with early startup founders.
Wherever you live, chances are some sort of startup community exists. (If not, and you’re determined to work for a startup, you may have to relocate.) I guarantee your local startup community isn’t secretive. It’s trying to be as large and inclusive as possible, which should make it relatively easy to find.
Once you’ve found your local startup community, join the relevant mailing list or follow whatever Twitter accounts are associated with it. They’ll use those services to promote whenever and wherever they’re holding networking/social events. Find out when they’re happening, and be sure to attend.
Once you’re at those events, talk with anyone and everyone. Be open about the fact that you’re looking for opportunities to join a startup, and be prepared to articulate the value you’d bring. Any, by the way, if that current value is, “I don’t know anything, but I’m willing to learn whatever I need to learn,” that’s a perfectly acceptable value in the startup world. Just be transparent, honest, and, most importantly, persistent. Persistence isn’t just important because it might take you a while to find an opportunity. It’s also important because, in the startup world, people tend to value persistence. After, most of us can remember plenty of times when we didn’t know what we were doing, but our persistence is what helped us figure it out and ultimately be successful. As a result, entrepreneurs tend to value persistence when hiring other people.
Ultimately, if you keep attending startup networking events and keep pitching yourself, you’ll eventually find an opportunity. It’s also going to be a much better way of finding opportunities than submitting resumes because I guarantee most early startups aren’t looking for resumes.
As for what you should be worried about when selecting a startup to work for, the first thing, obviously, is to be interested in and/or passionate about the startup’s mission. If you’re going to work for a startup, that startup’s goal is going to be your goal, so you should want to fight for it.
The second thing to focus on are the founders. In a very early startup, you’ll be working closely with the founders. Do you A) think those founders are capable of succeeding; and B) can you build a good relationship with them? I don’t mean you need to become best friends, but you’re going to have to work very closely with those founders for long hours. Is that something you’ll be able to do? If not, it’s probably not a startup you should want to work for.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!