Comprehensive guide to getting a job at a startup

Comprehensive guide to getting a job at a startup

How to get a job at a good startup company

According to a 2016 study by Accenture, only 14% of U.S. graduates want to work at a large firm? 44% want to work in a startup or other small enterprise.

While there are a lot of pros and cons to working in a startup (spoiler alert: 3 out of 4 fail), startups can be a great experience for some because of likeness that you will get to wear lots of hats, progress quickly, they are often void of hierarchy and breed creativity.

If you have your heart set on the fast paced environment of a startup, here is your guide to getting a job.

First: Do research and identify a target list of companies

A great place to start your research is by assessing your own personal network. Consider mind mapping your network to identify people that you know who are either working in startups or who have ties to startups that are of interest to you.

Mind mapping your network can give you clarity & actionable opportunity

Leverage Connections.PNG

When you are mind mapping your network, consider the following;

  • Friends from college who may have graduated a year before you who are already working

  • College alumni/ including social or business fraternity connections

  • Family members or family friends who have experience working in a startup or who work closely with startups

Remember, conversations are gateway opportunities.

After assessing your own personal network, one of the smartest ways to look for start ups to target is by Google searching top venture capital firms. Once you get to their website, look at the list of companies that they support. This is usually listed as “our investments”, “portfolio” or “our companies”


There is a list to start your research. has a nice list of VCs. I have also had a lot of success doing Boolean searches. For example: searching “filetype:pdf San Diego Venture Capital” gave me a great (albeit older) list of VCs in the area.

Look regionally—it’s easier to set up meetings and leverage connections

For example, if you live in Houston, you could do a Google search for “Venture Capital Firms in Houston”. There are dozens including Main Street Capital, Mercury Fund and Rock Hill Capital.

I visited the Mercury Fund website and found a list of companies that they support under “our companies”.

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Working for a VC backed startup is OFTEN (definitely not always) a sign that the startup is in a more stable place.

Another fantastic resource is Andy Rachleff’s annual list. Andy is the CEO of Wealthfront and a lecturer at Stanford. Every year, he selects the private information technology companies that his company believes has enough momentum to become very large and successful businesses. They produce this list out of the belief that, “Your choice of company is more important than your job title, your pay or your responsibilities.”


AngelList is also a great resource with over 4 million startup companies listed. The platform lets you search by location, total dollars raised, stage of the company and more. One great thing about this website is that it REQUIRES the employer to list a salary range for the job.


Track your target list

It’s absolutely essential that when you make a target list that you physically write out the companies that you are targeting. When you are targeting 30-40 companies, it can be hard to track e-mails that you’ve sent or information. You can’t possibly keep all of the information in your head. You can do this in a good old’ excel spreadsheet (check out mine here) or on a platform like JibberJobber.

Next Step: Leverage your network

Once you’ve created a target list of 30-40 companies that you find interesting, take that list to your “cheer squad”. I am defining a cheer squad as a small group of people who want you to succeed and are invested in your success. This can include a parent, mentor, former boss, well-connected uncle, older sorority sister, etc. As

If you want a start-up to take you seriously, remember the three P's:

PERSONALIZE-- This means you need to do your research. You can't just send out a copy/paste e-mail to 50 different founders. Your messaging has to demonstrate that you have a strong interest in the work and mission of the organization.

PAIN POINTS-- What are their gaps? And how can YOU solve them?

PASSION-- When a company is in start-up mode, every single hire matters. Everyone wears lots of hats. You have to demonstrate your passion for the company.

What else? How do you assess strength of a start-up?

E-mail Subject Lines:  Think Like a Marketer

E-mail Subject Lines: Think Like a Marketer

Ask for the raise.