Iulia Tudor (@julsica) is a Community Marketing Manager at Startup Institute, an 8-week program that gives individuals the skills, networks, and mindset they need to get a job and thrive at a startup. She’s been working with London-based startups for more than two years and went through the first Techstars London programme. She loves wearing multiple hats and being a dot-connector.
Changing your career path and landing in a startup is pretty tough, especially when you have a corporate background. Having moved to London two and a half years ago, I definitely could have used some tips. “What are the secrets of the London tech scene?” you may ask. I’d say that everyone has their own story. These are my top tips:
- Don’t be a follower, lead!
Do your best to innovate and disrupt the world. Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do, but take initiative! Startups need to move fast, and it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Working in a startup, your responsibilities will go beyond your job description and are likely to change each day. Don’t be afraid of making decisions, taking risks, or changing your mindset into becoming a leader, like Rishi Chowdhury who left his job at Huddle to found IncuBus Ventures, a startup incubator on a bus designed to help young entrepreneurs.
- Look for a culture fit.
People are the key to success, for both companies and the individuals working at them. One of the biggest problems that London startups are facing right now is finding the right talent to grow their teams (addressed in the Tech City Futures Report back in 2013). There are 80% more openings in the tech scene in the UK than there were back in 2013. So many jobs out there but so few skilled people to fill them.
There are many things that will influence one’s decision in joining a startup company (salary, experience, options/shares, liking the product etc.) but ultimately it goes down to one question: “Will I see myself working for that company in a couple of years?” If you are a quality candidate, you can afford to be selective in London’s current market. Do you believe in the company’s vision and what they’re aiming to achieve? Would you enjoy working in that environment and with those people? If the answer is “yes,” then you may have found your right match.
- Build communities by offering to help
One thing we’ve all learnt from investors is that no matter what your final purpose is, you should always start by listening to people’s needs and offering to help. One might also call this “the art of leveraging one’s network.” You’d be surprised to find out that even if you can’t help people directly, you might know someone who knows someone that could give them a hand. London’s startup community is booming, but small. You’ll see same faces all over again at events, and your generosity is sure to make a great impression.
We all know a couple of networking rules, but probably the most important one is to get to know the other person. After all, we’re all human beings. The 3_beards guys are pretty good at this, hosting a couple of free(ish) events for like-minded people who want to enter the startup scene in London. Make your way to their Silicon Drinkabout or Google Campus for the best networking opportunities in the tech scene.
- Tell your story.
As childish as it might seem to cite a bear, I’ll just do it: “in London nobody’s alike” (Paddington Bear, a lovely film to watch). Of course, people will still ask you what you’ve done before, where you’re coming from and such questions, but what ponders most is what you’re doing now, what are your ideas and what you can do to grow the startup you’re working for. Know your story, and be ready to stare it in a way that highlights your professional goals and the value you bring. Above all, keep it positive!
- Skill-up to make the jump.
It’s all about taking the first step to get startup-ready. Learning new skills is incredibly important, but so is developing a startup networking and understanding the cultural acumen, worlds apart from corporates. At Startup Institute, we immerse our students in London’s startup scene, helping them to skill-up while providing career coaching and warm introductions to the people and companies they need to know.
If you’re ready to dive in, just do it! Be able to tell your story, take initiative, build a network, and understanding your value as high-quality talent! For more advice on breaking into startups, download our free guide to career change.