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Fiona Reith, associate career coach

As our associate career coach Fiona Reith shares her five top tips to help you break into the hugely popular and indeed burgeoning world of start-ups.

Maybe you aren’t enjoying corporate life as much as you thought you would and are looking to work somewhere smaller where you’ll have more input? Perhaps, you have some great experience under your belt but feel ready for a new challenge? You might have even decided to take the plunge but unsure how to land an opportunity within a start-up?

Start-ups are edgier and more agile and are less likely to follow traditional hiring patterns. Here are some lessons that my clients and I have learned together.

  1. Do your research

Start-ups are looking for people who have up-to-date knowledge about technology trends and the investment world. Make sure you are subscribing to some financial and tech publications like the FT, Business Insider and others. Many tech events have recently gone on-line so are currently much more accessible to attend. To establish your target list, download a list of the best start-ups in your region or sector and start following and connecting with the founders and team members on LinkedIn.

  1. Consider doing a boot camp or an accelerator

Start-ups are looking for up-to-the minute tech skills. MOOCs and university courses are a great foundation but many start-ups will pick talent directly from boot-camp cohorts because they have the latest coding skills and recent, relevant project experience. Take a look at White Hat, CodeClan or Makers Tech. There are now accelerator programmes for a whole variety of sectors and many, like Entrepreneur First, will match founders and other participants to make up teams; not all the projects go forward but participants are viewed as highly recruitable and therefore receive job offers after going through the process.

  1. Have a career conversation with an entrepreneur

Someone in your network or university alumni group is likely to know a successful entrepreneur. Once you’ve done your research and clear about what you’re looking for and, importantly, what you could bring, ask for an introduction. Entrepreneurs are busy but curious and natural connectors of people and ideas so will often agree to a 20 minute call or video chat. Ask them to tell you their story, what’s the next trend to watch and who else in their network could you speak to, given your chosen future direction.

  1. Work up a solution to a known problem

If through your research, informational interviews and conversations you believe you can help a start-up target a particular market or solve a problem then work that solution into a short, impactful presentation and share it with the company. Not all roles are advertised and if you can convey the highly valued energy and problem-solving skills start-ups seek you may find that as a way in.

  1. Think about it another way

May your next move should be to a firm who provides professional or support services to start-ups; maybe you could mentor on an accelerator programme using your commercial skillset to help technical founders grow their brand; maybe you could spin out a start up from the corporate social responsibility arm of your current organisation. I’ve seen all of these done and each one brings you closer to the exciting world of start-ups and the next opportunity.

Above all, stick with it. Working in a start-up requires adaptability and an agile mindset. It requires intrinsic motivation and initiative. The hours can be long with priorities changing quickly. Finding your place in this world requires you to keep up-to-date, stay connected and be prepared to reach out and connect with people but all of these skills will help you in your new role and beyond, if you decide to take the plunge and launch your own start-up one day!