As you can tell now, it worked out: I recently joined Interaction Partners, an early-stage investor relations startup in Zurich. However, the journey to get a job in a startup was anything but easy. In this article I’ll focus on the challenges I met during my startup job hunting and share possible ways to deal with them.
Where to find job offers?
Have you ever opened up a job search and after several hours left completely empty-handed? Well, in my case this was probably because the jobs I was searching for didn’t even appear on platforms like jobs.ch. Looking back, it’s obvious that most startups don’t have a large recruiting budget, hence they don’t post their open positions on big, expensive job boards.
Realizing this, I changed to smaller, more startup-specific platforms like earlyhire and joined a Facebook group called “Zurich Startup Jobs”. Here, I found a couple of interesting openings. Other job ads were posted exclusively on the websites of the respective companies and some (actually most of them) were even only somewhere in the heads of the “way too busy for that admin stuff” startup founders.
A creative approach to job applications
Not knowing how to approach the last category of non-existing “job ads” I started working on a strategy to apply for the jobs I had found on smaller platforms and company websites. However, I soon realized that my mainstream cover letters full of empty standard phrases were not appropriate to apply for those kind of jobs. I had to stand out, but how? I couldn’t find specific format rules, nor other clear instructions to follow. It took me quite a while to change my dossier to a – still professional – but much more personal and meaningful one. Considering that it was the complete opposite of what we were taught at school for years, it was surprisingly hard for me to get creative in that field.
How to apply for a job that doesn’t exist yet?
That one seemed like a mission impossible until I found out that it was not about «how to apply for something that doesn’t exist?» but rather «how to get in touch with the busy entrepreneurs who might have an open position in their own startup or know somebody else who does?».
1. Tell everybody what you’re looking for
All my friends know that I like to talk. For once this turned out to be a big advantage. Be it the girl next to you in the group fitness class or the guy you meet at the tram station – whenever possible, tell them what you’re looking for. I made the experience that many people have interests or connections I didn’t know anything about.
2. Visit startup events
Platforms, such as meetup or Eventbrite are very useful to find startup events in your city. By that time, I had no idea how thriving the startup community in Zurich is! There are overwhelmingly many events to go to, so many workshops and programs to participate in. And attending some of these events, I got even more referrals for happenings or networking groups to join. I got to know many incredibly interesting people from all over the world – all working in different sectors and with different backgrounds. Every single encounter was valuable in its own way: Whether it was directly linked to my goal to find a job in a startup or it simply broadened my horizon.
3. Have coffee (many coffees) with people involved in the startup community
Reaching out to people I didn’t know and asking them if they would like to have a coffee with me to talk about their business or project was definitely the supreme discipline. Seriously, it took me a lot of courage to push the “send” button but sometimes you just have to jump and see what happens, right?
Some of them did never reply, others declined, but to my surprise the vast majority reacted very nicely and accepted the invitation.
Interesting conversation or awkward silence?
So far so good – the first hurdle was taken. The next step would be to have that -let’s call it- “blind business meeting”. I can’t describe the thoughts that have passed through my mind as I was standing in front of the café waiting for a stranger:
- Can I add enough value to the conversation?
- Why does that person even take the time to talk to ME?
- Is there a risk that the purpose of this meeting is misinterpreted and taken for a date? (Yes, I seriously had this concern!)
- Will we have enough topics to talk about or will this awkward silence dominate our meeting?
Fortunately, ALL these concerns were unjustified, since most entrepreneurs have one thing in common: They love to talk about their ideas and are more than willing to share best practices if they see that somebody is curious about their mission.
How I met Interaction Partners
After having applied for different jobs and talked to many, many people one of my former bosses suggested meeting her brother, who recently started his own business and could probably give some advice on how to navigate the startup community. So, I got to meet Flurin Capaul, founder of Boonea, who introduced me to Manuele Fumagalli, founder of Workspace2go, who after a while and completely unexpectedly sent me a text message saying “Hey Nadia, do you still want to work for a Startup? I know somebody who is probably hiring soon…”. And that’s how I met Kilian, one of the founders of Interaction Partners.
Flurin, Manuele, me and Kilian having a coffee at Auer & Co. (right to left)
Best coffee in Zurich
If I could inspire you to expand your network and meet somebody for a coffee, I highly recommend checking out Auer & Co, the café in the ground floor of the building where I work now. Great coffee and entrepreneurial vibes are guaranteed!
Main lessons learned
Let’s wrap up what I’ve learned during my startup job hunting:
- If you’re seeking an unconventional career you’d better choose unconventional paths and get creative with your hunting strategy
- Be transparent and talk to as many people as possible. An informal small-talk can result into the missing piece of the puzzle
- It’s totally fine to write an email to somebody and ask for a personal meeting, as long as it’s formulated respectfully and you have a real interest
- Entrepreneurs rock 😉
And last but not least:
You have to hustle – nothing can be created out of nothing!
This post was first published by Nadia on her Linked-In account.