Alison (@alisonperrie) is the community marketing manager of Startup Institute New York City, an eight-week program that gives individuals the skills, networks, and mindset they need to get a job and thrive at a startup.
Even without the HBO hit series, “Silicon Valley” or the startup Cinderella stories of twenty-something’s tinkering in someone’s garage and selling to Microsoft, the ‘startup scene’ is sexy. It is not without its barriers to entry though, and I am happy to report that after fully transitioning from mass-market fashion into a marketing role for a startup, I have a few secrets to share from my journey about how you can do it, too:
- It’s not Stalking, it’s Network Pre-Gaming
I might add that networking is necessary only if you care about your time ( if you’re a New Yorker, I know you do). If you are looking to transition into a new industry, you have to get out there and mingle. Meetup groups and industry-specific events are a great way to do this. In New York, there are so many options that the challenge becomes deciding where to go to optimize your time and effort. Here are my top picks for events and resources:
- New York Tech Meetup – The NYC tech scene’s most notable and longest running meetup. If you are scrappy, you can score tickets to their monthly Meetup which sells out quickly. Emphasis is on innovation, education, and community development.
- Gary’s Guide – NYC-based weekly newsletter with latest happenings tech and startup scene. Emphasis on events & conferences.
- The Muse – The career-changer’s best friend. Emphasis on content for professional development and tips for organization and finding bliss in a new career.
- This Week in NYC Innovation – Weekly newsletter from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures VC, Charlie O’Donnell. Emphasis on education, innovation, & apps with colorful commentary.
- Inside Startups – Weekly newsletter with emphasis on jobs and startup company profiles.
- Startup Digest – Export their Google calendar for an easy way to stay on the pulse for tech events in your city.
Make it a point to talk to at least one of the ‘headliners’ at the events you attend, and show your sincere interest by bringing up a topic they spoke on as it relates to you. Make sure to also get to know a bit about the hosts, because it is likely that they’re well-connected
- Be Up front – Literally
Park yourself in the first couple rows at a speaking event if you are able. This is easiest if you get there early, and is oftentimes that is the best way to meet the featured people and those making it happen behind the scenes. They might be milling about before the event kicks-off and it is a great time to introduce yourself and make that ‘network pre-game’ work for you. If you wait until after the speaking portion, the panelists get swarmed and there is no guarantee you will get face-time. Also, the early bird gets the best tweet photos!
- Be a Jack of All Trades & a Master of Some
Everyone at a startup is ‘Customer Service’ and the co-founder will take out the trash at some point or another. Be aware of this; but know what makes you an additive member of a team. Hone those unique skill sets to develop your career. Not feeling equipped? There are a number of educational options out there for skilling-up. If you are super-specific with your needs (you want to learn Google AdWords, for example) and want a minimal commitment, an online course might be the best way to go. If you are looking to quickly pivot your career, innovate, and build a network, our full-time program at Startup Institute may be a good fit.
- Embrace the [Learning] Curve–It Does Not Flatten
New jobs can inspire the question “Why is everyone else here so damn smart?” I hate to break it to you, but you will continue to wonder this. Let it be a motivating force. Later, you will onboard the intern, reiterating the best practice you built on updating blog HTML, and it will hit you– yes, everyone on your team (including the intern) is intelligent, but so are you, and the expectations for conquering the next mini-Everest are ever-present. Take comfort in that it is making you better every single day.
So there you have it: in the startup world, you need to immerse yourself, stand out, and be OK knowing you will not know it all. Startups are made up of passionate prodigies who often speak in emoji and tech acronyms, see through thick tortoise frames, and subsist on catering leftovers from the communal kitchen. They are some of the most interesting, intelligent people you’ll ever meet, you’d be lucky to be a part of their community even if it means taking out the trash every now and again.