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Not a CEO…Yet? Here’s How to Land Your Dream Startup Gig

| October 27, 2011 | 10 Comments

startup jobEntrepreneurial blood flows through you – you can’t wait until you start your own company and live the dream.

You also realize you could benefit from a little more exposure to the start-up world before taking the CEO reins. So… how do you feed the entrepreneurial monster inside you and gain critical, hands-on experience?

You land your dream gig at a start-up – and leverage the knowledge gained.

Yes, the economy is tough… but joining a start-up not as hard as it may sound. Here’s how to get started…

Move Away from an “Employee” Mindset

You may be applying for a job. That doesn’t mean you have to approach the opportunity as an “employee”.

Recruiters are used to candidates who think “me” instead of “us”. In general, the recruiter knows that many employees will care more about doing exactly what is asked of them and not much more. Regardless of title or experience, they are perceived as followers whose primary motivation is compensation and financial security. That mindset doesn’t cut it at a start-up; for a future CEO, the consequences can be devastating.

As the old cliché dictates: be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Volunteer for side projects. Ask to participate in brainstorming sessions and to be involved in the decision making process… even if the decision isn’t yet yours. This balls-to-the-wall enthusiasm is respected, contagious and inspiring – and shows others you have a future as a leader.

Sell the Sizzle!

An entrepreneur is always exhibiting passion and championing her start-up. It’s why she gets up in the morning, how she manages to work late at night, and how she rationalizes that cross-country red-eye flight.

No, this start-up isn’t yours. No, you may not have an equity stake yet. However – and without being a suck-up or a “yes man” – that CEO is going to expect that same passion and commitment from her team members.

By sincerely displaying passion for the company’s mission during your interview – and, of course, showing how you will personally help move that mission forward.

Walk in With a Plan

Regardless of what the job posting says, here’s what an entrepreneur really wants to know from you: “What will you do to improve my company, team, product and/or the user experience?”

Before the interview, thoroughly read the job description – especially between the lines. Do your research – not just what the company says about itself, but how they are perceived by customers, the press and competitors. What are they not saying? What problem are they trying to fix? More important, how are you the solution?

Now walk in with a plan. Maybe it is a social media strategy, or a competitive analysis. Perhaps it’s a business development plan… or maybe a statement of “next version” issues that you can not only fix, but can take to the next level.  Be prepared to talk about how you might pitch your idea to the founders and your soon-to-be colleagues. How will your solution improve the task, and what impact will that have on operations? What is the ROI? How will it impact the experience of the current users – and attract new customers?

Then, just as important… shut up and listen. The feedback you are about to receive is priceless.

Lead with Humble Confidence

Here’s a secret in today’s  “real world”… You don’t need permission to lead – nor do you need a title or a certain number of years of experience. Well outside the silos built by the previous generation, people in today’s workforce are drawn to organic, natural leaders.

To be seen as a leader – from delivery of your resume until you leave the company – focus on consistently displaying “humble confidence” to founders, partners, colleagues, vendors and customers. You may be a hotshot. You could be the next big deal. But let someone else call you that – while you quietly, humbly go about your business.

Most important, no matter the title on your business card, choose – always – to lead from the front.

Attitude is –  Still – Everything

Set yourself apart from 99% of the competition by taking this approach when landing your dream gig:

“My first job at a start-up is my ‘practice’ time as CEO. I will be doing much more than a job. I will be learning, finding emulation points and – more often than I might like – earning a PhD in what NOT to do while I learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others.”

Once the hiring team has recognized this passion in you – and they will – take full advantage of that training ground in front of you. Build your personal network. Generate goodwill. Let your work ethic – as well as your ability to lead, mentor, innovate and inspire – speak for you.

You’ll be well on your way to a gig as CEO.

Author: Mark Babbitt founder of YouTern.com

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Category: Personal Branding, Startup Advice

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Hi Mark! Good points are suggested. I hope these more helpful in reaching our goals.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kingneece Gary Neece

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  • http://profiles.google.com/kingneece Gary Neece

    Business Collaboration

    Welcome

     

    Join the TFT Vendor Network – FREE!

     

    That Free Thing (TFT) just launched the ULTIMATE Vendor
    platform that will instantly add value to your business. No matter who you are
    or what you are selling the TFT Network will benefit you! AND it won’t cost you
    ANYTHING to join!

     

    We are taking a fresh approach to the sizzling hot Daily
    Deals market. Our goal is to create a long-term partnership with your business
    and show you how to leverage this platform to make more money.

     

    We have created a win-win scenario between you and our
    customers. Using this platform you will be able to market and promote your
    business to over 450,000+ members (and counting) who are all eager to buy what
    you are offering.

     

    Members of the TFT Network are looking for great deals to
    purchase, but even more than that, they are highly motivated to purchase
    through this platform because they will receive a nice kickback bonus on
    EVERYTHING they buy. This comes back to them in the form of an instant rebate that
    is taken out of OUR POCKET… NOT YOURS!

     

    This is BIG for your business because it creates customers
    who will continue to buy what you are offering over and over again as they have
    incentive to do so.

     

    We believe this model is THE MOST lucrative Daily Deals
    model in existence. We are building a massive customer base full of members who
    are driven by great deals, and we are giving our affiliates the opportunity to
    start their own daily deals “franchise.” NOTE… This is not an
    actual franchise but we are passing along the majority of the commissions to
    our Affiliates and to YOU as a TFT Vendor.

     

    By taking a very small commission and allowing YOU and our
    Affiliates/Customers to earn the big commissions we have created a sales force
    of highly motivated people who have massive incentive to use the TFT Network.

     

    Join Here for FREE:

     

    http://tft.bz/vendors

  • http://genyrants.com Justice Wordlaw IV

    @youternmark:twitter these were some great steps that you suggested here. Creating a plan and showcasing that plan to the company is going to really set you apart from the rest of the team. Being prepared and ready to go always is going to be a great asset to show that you’re a born leader and could take this organization to higher levels.

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  • http://twitter.com/mycolleges MyCollegesandCareers

    Over the weekend, I was listening to a program by Brian Tracy who was saying that the most successful people think of themselves as the CEO of their company, even if they are employed at a job. That way, they are taking ownership. It’s a great skill to develop. -Sarah

  • http://twitter.com/jeniferlamug jenifer lamug

    This is cool. I like it.