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6 Startup CEOs Offer Their Best Job Hunting Advice For Upcoming Graduates

Posted on the 17 October 2014 by Nrjperera @nrjperera

Fortunately, the job market isn’t looking as bleak as it was a few years ago, and there are plenty of job opportunities in the startup scene that provide an enticing alternative to the dreaded 9-5.

Applying to one of these jobs however is in itself a highly competitive process, and more often than not, the transition into startup life is marked by long work hours and an incredible amount of responsibilities. Nonetheless, with a lot of hard work and a useful product, you might just find yourself as part of a quickly growing company where the rewards are well worth the effort.

We spoke to a number of startup CEOs and asked them what their best piece of advice was for soon-to-be graduates. Here’s what they had to say.

Know Where You Want to Go

The most important thing to consider before looking for a job in the startup field is to analyze what is your ultimate goal. If the goal is to create a company of your own in future, than go with a startup that is around 10-15 employees with post Seed and/or Round A where you can get the first hand experience about different aspects of the startup. If the goal is to excel at one skill and specialize in it than go for a startup with over 50-60 employees and post Round B as you would be working in that specific position only.

~ Muneeb Mushtaq,

Do Your Research

Recent graduates typically lack experience in three ways:

  1. No domain knowledge because they have not worked in the industry of the company they are applying to.
  2. Not enough knowledge of the tools used in the industry (e.g. programming languages, because the cutting-edge tools are often not taught in universities)
  3. No experience building and shipping real products. Large, established companies can afford the time to train recent graduates (we did that at Dolby Laboratories), but startups hesitate to take the risk, unless the cost is really low.

To address the above, a recent graduate should:

  1. Focus on one industry or problem, do tons of research on the players and business models, and be able to confidently express their knowledge
  2. Do small projects using the tools used in the industry (for example contribute open-source software to GitHub
  3. Do internships or otherwise offer to work for cheap

Persistence helps too: at the beginning of college I visited a company four times to see their product: I still did not get a demo but I got a job offer…

~ Nicolas Saint-Arnaud, Turfly

Preparation is Key

Be prepared to study, research, and create like you have a final due every week. Discover as much as you can about the startups you would like to work for, particularly when it comes to problems that they are trying to solve…then use your skills and creativity to convince the team of your passion for their mission.

~ Douglas Finley, SocialChomp

Figure Out How To Add Value

Find companies you are excited about and then figure out a way to add value. Every startup needs help, you just need to figure out what is that thing that they really need help on.

~ Preet Anand, Bluelight

Build Your Skills

Working at a startup is different than working at a company because you learn more and you improve your skills more. So see this opportunity as a chance to improve your skills in the area that you really enjoy working. Once you learn the things that you enjoy doing, your career is guaranteed to have a very bright future anyway.

~ John Kagit, Socialeyes


Get your hands dirty. Experiment, be proactive, be an avid reader while remaining humble and available. Young people have much more time to spare than older ones (family, children…) and this constitutes a large competitive advantage against more experienced but socially “bound” colleagues. You can “try” and learn a lot more because the stakes are not that high. So go for it, and try to identify what you love to do and what are good at.

~ Franco Puppo, Tabletize

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