How to Land Your Startup Dream Job

Here’s how you can get close to the action at your favorite startup

For some, life is all about starting a business, building something from the ground up and being their own boss. For others, the startup hustle is an environment perfectly suited for their dream job. If you’re interested in companies that are on the move with vision and big ideas, then working at a startup might be the right place for you. But how do you get a foot in the door? We talked to Jon Dekar of Dayton-based Obi Robot to establish a guide for landing your dream job at a place that’s destined to grow.

Make Sure You’re in it For the Right Reasons

Jumping into the startup arena during your job hunt shouldn’t be something you’re considering just because you want a paycheck. According to Dekar, you shouldn’t seek out startups if your sole reason for applying is because you need a job or want to make money.

“Of course, we all want and need those things, but if that’s your only reason for applying, it will probably be a poor long-term fit,” said Dekar. “People working on a small team with daunting challenges will need more motivation than those singular wants will provide.”

If you’re lukewarm about startups, consider finding other ways that you can support your passions. But if you’re sure you’ve caught the startup buzz? Dekar suggests that if you’re motivated by potential or want to trade responsibility and risk for accelerated development, working at a startup will be a great fit.

Be a Problem Solver

Like any job process, it’s important to nail the interview. Dekar notes that startups will be especially interested in a candidate’s problem-solving abilities.

“Think about it, startups are constantly faced with threats to their very existence” said Dekar. “It’s mostly a survival environment, so expertise won’t go very far. Many startups are looking for people who can find unconventional ways to solve problems.”

Instead of only focusing on your cut-and-dried experience, try illuminating ways that you’ve solved problems in the past that have required creativity and grit. This is an important step in proving that you can adapt to the ever-changing environment that startups often face. In fact, having confidence that you can address unforeseen problems will go a long way in the hiring process.

Self-Starters mean Success

Another important trait that startups look for? Self-starters. Although this seems like a buzzword, Dekar insists that being quick to take action and looking for ways to improve or help is the key to landing a startup dream job.

“Startups are looking for people that welcome leadership and inspiration and don’t need to be ‘managed,’” said Dekar. “People who can motivate themselves and have a strong desire to achieve will help a startup grow. These people will usually have a history of project-based leadership and a high-stress tolerance while remaining deeply concerned about considering ideas and mitigating risks until their work is flawless.”

If this detail-oriented go-getter sounds like you, applying to a startup is definitely the right move. On a resume or during an interview, make sure that you indicate situations where you’ve taken the initiative on a project. Whether you’ve pushed your team to adapt new ideas or double-checked assignments even though you weren’t asked, these qualities will show that you’re ready to take on the responsibility of being ready to go at all times.

Attitude is Everything

At a startup, you’ll most likely be working with a variety of people from traditional and nontraditional backgrounds. This energizing environment means that having a bad attitude could really bring down the entire team’s morale. That’s why, Dekar says, attitude is everything.

“Startups are high-achievement cultures,” said Dekar. “The interviewer wants to know whether you’re ‘core team’ material. Entrepreneurial ventures require everyone to be onboard because the team is usually small. One person not performing or having a bad attitude can bring down the whole company.”

To make sure that you’re putting your best foot (and attitude) forward, Dekar recommends demonstrating your specific interest in the company. Instead of giving them generic answers, prove that you’re ready to jump in and be part of the team.

“When I’m interviewing a candidate, it’s really impressive when you feel the interviewee already elicits empathy, interest and desire to solve a specific problem as if they were already on staff,” said Dekar. “This makes the interviewer feel like the interviewee is authentically interested in their work.”

At the end of the day, landing your dream job at a startup will require adjusting your typical job search mindset to really focus on the wants and needs of a growing company. By emphasizing your ability to adapt to a role that could change just as much as the company itself, you’ll be well on your way to earning your spot at that hip, open-office workstation.

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