Three startup experts share their best advice on how you can land your dream job. 

Dreaming of a startup career, but have no idea how to get there? On Tuesday, January 15th, we hosted a panel at General Assembly NYC where we talked to Lisa Wang, Founder and CEO, SheWorx ; Ted Conbeer, SVP of Strategy, MakeSpace ; and Becky Nathanson, Head of Business Development and Brand Partnerships, TUSHY about their career backgrounds and advice to jobseekers. Here's our recap of key takeaways during the event.

Want to know more about our individual panelist's stories? We'll be spotlighting each of their career backgrounds and job advice on the blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Tell us more about where you work and what you do.

Lisa: I am the founder and CEO of SheWorx. SheWorx is a global platform that helps female entrepreneurs get access to the investors, mentors, and skills they need to grow and scale successful businesses. We currently have 20,000 women on our platform.

Ted: I am the SVP of Strategy at MakeSpace. MakeSpace is a new kind of storage company that comes to your door. My role there is to make sure that we deploy our capital responsibly, so I work on special projects—like high priority things for our CEO and board—and also run data and analytics. I joined the company a little over four years ago.

Becky: I work for TUSHY, a company that makes an attachable bidet. Originally TUSHY existed just to change the landscape of the American bathroom, but we’re now becoming a sustainable bathroom brand so we also carry bamboo products like towels and toilet paper in addition to educating the consumer about sustainability in the bathroom.


Which skills would you say helped launch your startup careers?

Lisa: Being a good listener. People who are good listeners tend to process information, think about things analytically, put pieces together and think through strategy, and have more patience. As a leader, you don’t need to be the person to tell everyone what they need to do without considering the team or without considering the strategy.

Ted: Something I look for when I am hiring people is leadership. You might not have structured management above you and you might not have regular check-ins with your boss, so you really need to be a bit independent. You need to be able to impact the people around you as well. I think that takes a real leader.

Related to that is teamwork. Working at a startup really requires you to define what your part is and to work with the people around you as the product changes and as the business scales and as things change around you to make sure that none of the pieces around you break. People that have experience collaborating really closely with other people just do better than folks than people who just want to put their head down and be left alone.

Becky: You have to simultaneously have that sense of cooperation but also have that sense of leadership and initiative to step up even if it isn’t in your job description at that moment. You have to rise to the occasion and that is something I have found to be helpful no matter what I’m doing. If you see it as an opportunity and as a fun challenge instead of thinking, “Am I going to be compensated for this? I am working such long hours.” Yeah, you are going to be working long hours at a startup, but if you see it as part of what makes it exciting, then I see it as a great fit.


What are some qualities you look for in startup candidates, regardless of career background?

Ted: We always look for a track record of excellence, hard work, and achievement which is applicable no matter where you come from. We look for what you may call an A-player, or people who have gotten promoted, people who have gotten success, and people who have grown their role over time.

Becky: Someone who can think critically on the fly. We always have strategy docs that we send to potentials that are tailored to the role and we want to see how people think how they think critically even if they have no relevant experience in that particular role prior to that.

Lisa: We’re looking for doers. How you execute your trial assignments speaks volumes about how you are going to execute if you were on the team.


How do you feel about gaining startup experience versus pursuing coursework, like an MBA?

Becky: You can pay $100,000 for an MBA or you can just roll up your sleeves. An MBA may be useful if you want to take your earning potential that much higher, but even then, you can build the network and skill set that you would get from an MBA program when you are doing the work at a startup.


How can startup job candidates stand out during the application process?

Ted: If your resume is four pages long, then I am not reading it. Get to the point right at the top. Really think about what is it that you’re offering and make that as crisp as possible. You got one shot at it, make it a good one.


Any last words of advice for people who are trying to transition to a startup?

Ted: A startup is a great place to get an opportunity to prove what you’re made of or forge your own path. I’ve seen so many people around me develop so amazingly in a startup environment, but it’s just a very different kind of learning. You have to be ready for that and you have to want that.

Another thing: startups can be so different from one another and so driven by the personalities of a few individuals. It’s actually something that you can suss out during the interview process and it’s something I would definitely pay attention to.

Lisa: Take some time to actually think about not just what kind of product or service or type of company you want to work for, but also what stage. The last thing is if you do decide that you want to do it, don’t stay in the grey zone for too long. That’s the zone of wanting to but being afraid to. That time will pass by really quickly and you’ve only got one life.

Becky: The greatest advice I could ever give to someone who wants to get into startups is just try it. The worst thing that could happen is that it’s not for you and you leave and the best thing that could happen is that it goes well and you leave. That’s startup world. It’s really fast-paced. So just get in there and fail.


Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

 

Thank you to everyone who attended our event! Heads up, NYC: we're hosting another event next quarter with a new panel of rockstar speakers!


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