A little passion goes a long way in the startup scene. At 17, I became infused in the Boston tech scene over the last month after joining Testive, an edtech startup that graduated from the Techstars program.
It started with a thoughtful cold email to one of the founders. It wasn’t the first cold email I sent, so I got to utilize many tricks I’d picked up from past experiences. Here’s are some tips I gleaned from landing a position without any prior work experience, specific skills or even a high school degree:
1. Be creative. Don’t limit yourself to a boring resume and cover letter. Spice it up. This doesn’t mean interactivity or graphics. It can even be the language you use. A line I’ve used before was that I am a “hot bowl of fiery passion.” A little creativity goes a long way because it shows that you’re someone who doesn’t limit themselves to the established. An excellent post on this was posted on the HBR blog this week.
2. Show that you’re ready to hit the ground running and prepare to be humbled by how much you don’t know. Now, this wasn’t too hard for me because I actually knew nothing, but I think putting into perspective how little you actually know about the world is important before applying. Since joining, I’ve realized fully how much I can learn from people who have so many more years of college, grad school and work experience.
3. Learn everything you can about the startup and show that you did your research. With Google, the world is pretty much at your finger tips. Find out everything you can about the company. Before even talking to anyone at Testive, I knew where the founders went to college, what they were involved with in the past, and even what Tom’s dog is named (sorry Tom, that’s a little creepy). The bottom line is, you have no excuse to not know the product or the core team. If it’s a consumer product, try it out and see how it works.
4. Share your ideas and vision. This is possibly the most important tip. Show the team that you can pitch ideas by sharing your thoughts about how the UX/design of the product, marketing ideas or potential features could be improved. This not only shows that you are passionate about growth, but shows your willingness to make contributions and your creativity. Even if your ideas suck, it’s still a total point in the passion column.
5. Email the right person. Oftentimes, a direct email to a founder gives you the best chance at a positive response. My friend Smit Patel has an excellent inspirational post on his blog about how he used Rapportive and other tools to find email addresses of founders he was interested in to land a sweet internship at FlightFox.
It’s important not to get discouraged. My cold emails had about a 50% response rate, the majority of which were negative. It’s important not to take rejections personally, since a lot of startups just don’t have space or room in the budget.
With a killer cold email, decent timing and a lot of luck, I landed an interview at a phenomenal startup. The last one month has been the ride of my life and I’m sure the rest of the summer will be just as fun.