How to get a job at a startup: 5 tips from Uncubed founder

uncubed beer pong
Play beer pong while you look for your dream job.
Credit: Uncubed

Everybody wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, and young job seekers are skipping big box corporations in lieu of hip, successful startups. Uncubed, produced by Wakefield Media, aims to streamline that process and make it fun. The company just launched a job search function on its site and holds fun events to connect job seekers with the startup world’s hottest companies, like Mashable, BuzzFeed and Seamless. Don’t call it a career fair, though: These casual events feature puppies, dunk tanks and cold beers.

We talked to Wakefield co-founder Tarek Pertew and asked him for his top five tips on landing your dream job at a startup.

1. Do your homework: Want to make a good first impression? Then do your research so you know how to talk shop. “Make sure you know what they’re hiring for and what they’re working on so when you approach them, you’re fully equipped with that information,” says Pertew.

Pertew says there’s one question that turns him off pretty quickly as an employer: “’What does Wakefield do?’ That’s a red flag,” he says. “You should do your homework if you’re serious about working at a company.”

2. Think outside the box: It’s hard to stand out on a day when employers are meeting masses of job seekers, but turning something into a conversation piece can make all the difference. “It can even be a business card – yours might have something a little different that extends the conversation or engages,” says Pertew. “It’s the same with a resume. If you have something different, it’s a superficial way of separating yourself from the crowd.”

Of course, you’ll have to match style with substance. Pertew says the most thing is to do your research on companies and show that you can fit in with their work culture.

uncubed event
You might find a job at an Uncubed event, but don’t call it a job fair.
Credit: Uncubed

3. No openings? Try anyway: Never skip out on meeting someone from your dream company just because they haven’t posted openings. If you really impress an employer, they may just create a job for you.

“One thing we hear a lot is, ‘I really like this person and we’re going to see if we can find an opportunity for him or her,’” says Pertew. “It goes back to culture – they met a guy they really loved so they’re going to see where they can fit him.”

4. Be patient: Your dream employer may not be in a position to offer you a job now, but they may be able to fit you in somewhere down the line. “Patience is absolutely a virtue,” says Pertew. “A number of companies might say, ‘You’re cool, analytical and bright – we might have a position for you in a year.’ Keep networking and keep showing up. Develop a skill set they need.”

Pertew says it’s never a bad idea to spend a couple of years developing a specialized skill (he used user experience design as an example) in order to have a more appealing resume. “It’s that sacrifice you make early on that will make a positive impact on the remainder of your life,” he says.

5. Pitch ideas: Don’t give unsolicited criticism, but offer up some cool ideas to your favorite companies. “One of my favorite things is when someone gives us a laundry list of ideas they think we can use – it gives you something to talk about during an interview, also,” says Pertew.

Listing good ideas helps you express enthusiasm for the company and also shows potential employers your creative and critical thinking skills. Just be careful how you word things: “The best way is maybe saying, ‘You probably already thought of this, but have you ever thought of doing this?’” Pertew says even if the company has already thought of the idea, you’re validating it, and if they haven’t, you just may impress them with what you have to say.

For more information on Thursday’s Uncubed event, click here.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark


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