8 Major Keys to Success: Getting Hired in the 21st Century

feat. startups and tech, advice from DJ Khaled, and beyond. By Joe Laresca.

A lot of people ask me how to get into tech or how to land a job at a cool startup. And, I’ve noticed that many brilliant, creative people either a) count themselves out or b) have the misconception that you need to be a coder (this_is_not = true).

Like DJ Khaled said, “don’t play yourself.” Many just don’t know how to approach the process, and therefore, aren’t putting their best foot forward. After working in startups/tech for 5+ years and going through the process myself, I’ve devised a formula that works.

Disclaimer: Although this is geared toward tech and startups, all types of companies value this process (banks, consulting companies, non-profits, gov agencies, etc.) so don’t discount these 8 critical pieces.


1. Make A Website

  • It’s mandatory nowadays. Just about every job application has a field for “links” or “website.” So, make one. It should say who you are, what you like to do, and what you’re all about.
  • Are you a marketer? Developer? Social media guru? Finance wizard? Who just so happens to be a foodie, triathlon obsessionist, part-time photographer, etc.?
  • Besides putting your own creative spin on it, link some projects you’ve worked on, education, and any relevant experience you may have.
You don’t code = You can’t build a website. FALSE!!!
Here are some great resources for making a snazzy website without coding at all: Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, etc. My personal favorite is Squarespace, by the way.

2. Be Visible Online (or BVO)

  • This one is definitely easier for some, but if you want to work for a tech company or any kind of startup, you need to be active online.
  • At the very least, you need to be on LinkedIn. Make sure you have a fun/professional photo and engaging summary.
  • Other than having your website and LinkedIn, be active somewhere else — whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Medium, or Tumblr.
  • You don’t need to be tweeting, gramming, and snapping every second; however, you should be building your “online street cred,” as Kim Pham puts it in her article.
  • Show what you’re interested in, what you blog about, what spaces you’re passionate about, etc.
All of the above create backlinks and help you rank higher on Google. Nine times out of ten, the first thing a company/recruiter will do to learn more about you is Google you. So, make sure that when someone Googles your name, you come up first — your website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blog, and any other fun stuff you’ve worked on.
All of this makes you more reachable. One should be able to Google you and find you in seconds. Eric Friedman (EIR at Expa) coins this as “Always Be Reachable,” in an interview called “How to Get a Job At a Startup.”

3. Create A Resume

  • The most obvious requirement — it should be action-oriented and filled with quantifiable metrics.
  • Keep it on 1 page, 2 to 3 bullet points per job, and only include the most relevant experience.
  • Remember, whoever reads your resume, will probably only glance at it — meaning he or she will skim it for about 7 to 10 seconds. So, keep it short and simple, and focus on the important stuff.
Your resume should follow this formula: Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z] (Laszlo Bock).
Here’s the full article written by Laszlo Bock (SVP, People Operations at Google and author of WORK RULES!) on how to write the perfect resume: My Personal Formula for A Winning Resume.

4. Learn A Hard Skill

  • Tech companies, especially startups, want to know what tangible skills you possess. For example:
  • Web/Mobile Development, Front-end, Back-end or full-stack, iOS, Android, or both, Design, UI, UX, or both;
  • Digital Marketing, Social Media, Data Analytics, Data Science, Sales, Excel, etc.
General Assembly is great, and if you can afford it, you should absolutely take a class there. However, there are plenty of free resources to learn new things, from digital marketing to iOS development to data analytics. Codecademy,Treehouse, Khan Academy, and Coursera are some of my favorites.
Here’s my favorite article on learning anything, “The 37 Best Websites to Learn Something New,” by Kristyna Z.

5. Work On Projects

  • You have a website, you’re networking on LinkedIn, you’re blogging on Medium, tweeting interesting stuff, and you’ve acquired some in-demand skills. But, the number 1 thing people want to see are tangible projects you’ve worked on.
  • Apply those sweet skills to a project, startup idea, organization you’re in, or blog you run.
  • If you want to be a social media manager, you should be managing social media accounts. If you want to be a developer, you should be attending hackathons and filling your Github with the websites, apps, and tools you’ve made. If you want to be a designer, you should be loading your dribbble with the flyers you’ve designed, icons you’ve created, and apps you’ve mocked up.
In other words, you need to apply those skills you have to a tangible project. Companies want to see more than what school you went to, what classes you took, and that certificate you have in mobile development.

6. Reach Out

  • I honestly cannot stress this one enough. You could be the candidate of someone’s dreams, but if you don’t do this, then the likelihood of them getting back to you is slim.
  • Submitting your resume and cover letter through a job posting is not enough — especially if you’re applying to a tech company or hot new startup. Understand that some of these companies get 100s of applications per week, so give yourself the best shot by reaching out.
  • If you know someone who’s connected to someone at the company you’re interested in, ask them if they’d be willing to make an intro!
  • If you’re gunning for an iOS dev role, reach out to both the recruiter at said company and someone on the engineering team. Applying to a social media internship? Then reach out to someone on the marketing team or the social media manager.
All of this information can be found through LinkedIn and on a company’s website. Here’s an example of how to reach out:
Hi Sarah,
I absolutely love the work you’ve done both solo and over on the Growth team at Slack. I’m very interested in the Growth Manager Associate role available, and I’d love to learn more about your experience there before applying.
I’ve attached my resume; you can also learn more about me on my website, creative agency’s site, blog, and LinkedIn. I understand that you must have a busy schedule, but I’d love to chat. I’m free Monday-Thursday between 8am and 3pm EST — do any of those times work for you?
Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you!
Cheers,
Joe

7. Be In The Know

  • If you’re interested in a company, you should know everything about them. Who’s their CEO, when were they founded, latest news article on them, where are they located, etc.?
  • You can find this information through their website, LinkedIn, Angellist,Crunchbase, Twitter, Facebook, and through good ol’ Google searching.
  • Same thing goes for industries. If you’re interested in tech and startups, then you should skim TechCrunch and Product Hunt daily. Interested in social entrepreneurship, adtech, fintech, SaaS, on-demand, consumer-tech, etc.? Then, know about that industry! Know the major players and up and commers.
  • The information is out there, so there is no excuse for not knowing it.
All of this reflects your motivation and your genuine interest. It shows that you’re not applying just because you think Snapchat is “cool” or because Slack just locked in another major funding round.

8. Hustle Hard

  • Ok, let’s face it, this word gets thrown around a ton in the tech/startup realm — probably a bit too much. But, all in all, it’s really what it all boils down to.
  • Keep pushing the bar — continue learning new things, building out your network, working on new projects, and continue to create opportunities for yourself.
  • Here’s a great story on the first employee for Uber, Ryan Graves: From Dead-End Job to Uber Billionaire: Meet Ryan Graves. He embodies what it means to be a hustler. He didn’t play by the rules and he was always trying new things to create opportunities for himself.
I’m not saying that this is a magic formula that will guarantee you a sweet job, but I can guarantee you that it will put you in a much better position than before.
Make sure you’re following these 8 Major Keys and don’t get discouraged when someone doesn’t get back to you or if you get denied for a role that you applied for. It’s happened to me, it’s happened everyone.
Moral of the story? Be like Ryan.

By Joe Laresca. If you have any questions or need some help getting started feel free to reach out to Joseph directly at josephlaresca@gmail.com. You can also find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his website.

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Requests for Startups is a newsletter of entrepreneurial ideas & perspectives by investors, operators, and influencers. This issue was curated by Isaac Madan, investor at Venrock (email).