To young people who are still in high school, college, or just entering the job market, being employed at a growing and innovative company can seem a long way off. It certainly did for me when I was wrapping up my formal education. Here are a few things you can start doing now that will help you get a lot closer to landing that dream gig and develop professional skills and knowledge along the way.
Creating and distributing your own content is ridiculously easy today and it’s one of the simplest ways to allow yourself to stand out and make connections with people who share your interests.
If you enjoy writing start a blog on a specific industry you’re trying to break into. Worst-case scenario; you learn a lot more about that industry and find out about available positions within interesting firms you didn’t know existed before. Host a podcast and bring on friends to discuss the NFL on a weekly basis during the season. Worst-case scenario; one of your guests goes on a completely innapropriate rant and you’re forever linked to the unfortunate incident. Kidding! But maybe use a little caution…
If you really want to step up your game then set out to build something more substantial. Start a micro-business on the side as you wait tables or publish a series of short stories. Whatever makes you come alive and allows other people to see it.
It doesn’t matter what you produce as long as you’re producing and shipping it. As part of the application review team for Praxis nothing is more exciting when someone sends me a link to their personal site or a project they worked on instead of the typical one-page résumé (seriously consider burning your résumé).
Create a Digital, Value-Focused Résumé
I’m going to keep this section brief because the example speaks for itself. In case you haven’t seen this yet, Nina Mufleh created a résumé website as her application to join Airbnb that was absolutely brilliant. It wasn’t so much the beauty of the site that stuck out to me, but her thorough research and detailing of what opportunities she thought Airbnb should focus on. This is a great example of how to approach any job application. Don’t focus on your past experience. Focus on what value you’ll bring to the company.
You can view Ms. Mufleh’s site here.
Attend 1 Million Cups
1 Million Cups is a chapter-based weekly meet-up for local entrepreneurs started by the Kauffman Foundation. I attended my first meeting this morning and it was fantastic! Each meeting two entrepreneurs present to the group about what their new venture does and some of the successes and challenges they are currently experiencing.
If you’re looking for job opportunities with interesting startups this is a great way to start building relationships in that network. Not only did I meet interesting people, I also learned a lot by listening to the presentations and the feedback they received from the audience, which was filled with experienced entrepreneurs. The meeting was one of the most valuable educational experiences on entrepreneurship I have had recently.
They have over 70 chapters so you can most likely find one in your area.
Work for Free
Want to work for a Startup? Go do it. Seriously. There are many benefits to working for free. You gain experience, develop professional skills, and maybe most importantly you can add a strong recommendation to your portfolio.
So how should you approach working for free? Ideally, you already have some type of relationship with someone that you would like to do some work for (if you don’t perhaps you can meet someone at a 1 Million Cups event). Email this person with a specific pitch. If it’s a local small business who is trying to grow their online presence offer to manage their social media for the next 6 months. Whatever it is you end up working on, put in the effort as you would if you were getting paid and I promise it will pay off and it might even lead to the start of your startup career.