Networking with Startups

By: Justin Taubman MBA ’16

The Smith School of Business’ Office of Career Services (OCS) is a wonderful resource to help students find jobs after school. OCS focuses on bringing consulting, supply chain, marketing, and finance firms to Smith to recruit because most students are interested in pursuing careers in those fields. However there is a minority of students interested in pursuing less traditional careers. Unfortunately, the job hunt is a little bit more difficult for those of us interested in working somewhere like an early stage startup. The hiring process for startups is unlike any bigger more established firm, so applying the same process won’t be too effective. I’d like to share some tips that I found helpful for getting an MBA summer internship and am continuing to follow during full-time job hunt.

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1776 Event Photo Credit: radioexpert.org

Startups hire to fill positions just in time; they cannot afford to hire human resource professionals or recruiters to fill positions nine months in advance. This is why networking is so important for landing a good job in this category. If you are diligent about networking in the startup world and people remember who you are, when they are looking for talent, you are much more likely to come up in conversation.

There are so many opportunities to network with startups in the Baltimore and DC area. I am signed up to receive information from Meetup about tech meetups, entrepreneurship meetups, but there are a lot more specific meetups that might be more useful to others. Local incubators, such as 1776 also hold networking events regularly that are either free to students or charge less than $20 to attend. There are plenty of resources online to find out where the next networking event is being held. If you go to enough of them you will likely start seeing the same people over and over again because it’s a smaller network than you think. You will also start to figure out who the big players are in the area and who is hiring, etc.

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Entrepreneur at work Photo credit: gobankingrates.com

Networking with startup entrepreneurs isn’t exactly like networking with other professionals. Business professional attire normally gives entrepreneurs anxiety, so when going to networking events, I suggest dressing down. Think jeans and an un-tucked button down with Vans sneakers. Entrepreneurs are also probably not going to just meet you once or twice and then call you when they have a spot to fill for their company or one of their friend’s. So the networking process should be organic and should be more like making a new friend. Invite them to go out with you to a cool concert or to meet up if you realize you are traveling to the same city at the same time. Get them to know and like you, not just as a valuable member of their team, but as a person they wouldn’t mind working 100 hours a week with.

Stay in contact with everyone you meet, but especially with the folks that you believe have the most influence to help you find a job. Show that you are high-energy and hard to shut down. Demonstrate your strengths and value to a startup and eventually you will see results.

Once you have found a great opportunity to work at a startup, remember that the Dingman Center offers two very great opportunities for students that get offered internships at startup companies. The Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program for undergraduate Terps and the Hisaoka Fellowship Program for first-year full-time MBAs both award salary matching of up to $5000 for startup internships. These fellowships are extremely helpful as a selling point to entrepreneurs that cannot afford to pay expensive salaries for top talent. As a Hisaoka Fellow, I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to work for a startup without having to worry about a lower salary than my classmates. If you are interested, check out how to apply now!

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