According to Dictionary.com, a startup is, “a newly established business.” Forbes.com states the term “startup” has been defined over the past few years as “Scrappy young ventures, hip San Francisco apps and huge tech companies,” and Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder of Warby Parker states,“A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” No matter how it is defined or by whom, people are still left wondering, what really is a startup? On the evening of February 20th, 2019, Sistas in Sales (SIS) held a panel event at the WeWork on Madison Ave in NYC entitled, “StartUps DeMystified,” in order to focus on answering this question for professionals in and out of NYC who are in search of new job opportunities whether they are or aren’t people of color.
This insightful event hosted by CEO/Founder of SIS, Chantel George, was moderated by International Career Strategist Rita Obi. Rita had the chance to ask some pertinent questions surrounding this topic to the panelists, Arius Ford who is on the Customer Success Team at LinkedIn, Melissa Lockhart who is the Director of People (HR Professional) at PayFone, Steve George, Chantel George’s brother and Talent Acquisition Consultant (Recruiter) at Taboola, and last but not least, Simmone Taitt, the Founder & Principal of HeartSpace NY Consulting.
Each panelist answered questions surrounding topics such as financial stability and salary which focused on how to ask those uncomfortable money questions during your interview for a startup company. Some of the questions to ask that stood out to me are, ‘How much money does this company have to support my salary needs, how long do you think it will last, and what is your vision for the money?’ The audience was also advised that the CEO should be transparent about money with you since it is relevant to your salary, raises, and ultimately your upward mobility in the company. Bottom line, you should manage your own expectations when it come to these types of questions. We must remember that they are not only interviewing us, but it is important to interview them as well. Steve George reminded the crowd to be mindful of the questions you ask during these job interviews because it can set you a part from the other candidates. Facts!
Since we all have seen what the media or the internet has us perceiving as the ideal ages of the people who work at startups, the topic of age was also addressed. If we believe what we see, we would think that majority of the employees at these companies are fresh out of college and would never apply! But on the contrary, majority of the people applying these days are in their last 20’s and 30’s ready to work with a company that they can grow with and help implement new processes with as well. The startup life is not easy and not for the weak or lazy; one should be passionate, dedicated, have strong work ethic, open to an ever-changing environment, and be willing to put in more than 8 hours in a day at times. I know working for a startup for the past 7 months, there has been many times where I would come home, open up my laptop to send out more emails, or take a call with a client in Hong Kong on the weekends, or an early call mid-week to a client in Tel Aviv to ensure that the accounts that I am managing are renewing and/or spending more money with us over time. Arius reminded the audience, “You must believe in the mission of the company and not just the money because it will be a constant hustle especially if you are in sales, but in the end, you get out of it what you put in.” Working for a startup is truly an investment in your professional career and future due to the amount of skills you acquire that will be easily transferable to a larger company or maybe even your own company down the line!
Lastly, Steve George discussed what stands out to him when he receives resumes at Taboola. “It takes me 20-40 seconds to skim a resume for the key words or experiences that stand out to me.” I know you are thinking what I am thinking, 20-40 seconds?! In other words, we need to ensure that our resumes are on point and tailored for the role we are applying for within these startups. Not to mention, what we include on our resumes need to match whats on our LinkedIn profiles since Steve confessed he checks that as well. Steve states, “Social media is king! I check LinkedIn to see if it matches your resume or if there is anything additional on there that you were unable to fit on your resume that makes you more interesting then the next candidate.”
Brittany S.S. Hardin, CEO/Founder of the Currency$hift Podcast stated, “The event was great. It was great to hear one of the panelists mention the importance of having your LinkedIn updated and to utilize your network when looking for a new position in a startup or large company.” Steve even went on to say that we should be adding 10 new contacts to your LinkedIn network each day! He also reminds us to “use your networks and have your connections work for you.”
When you actually land a role, you need to be able to match what’s on paper because Arius reminded us, one thing that is true while working at a startup is that everyone sees your failures and accomplishments versus it going under the radar if you were at a larger company, so it is important to stay true to you and your skills. He also made another powerful statement, “At a startup, your work is a representation of who you are, and they want someone that is an overachiever, and a risk taker.” This leads me to some more inspirational takeaways from the ladies of the evening.
Rita encouraged the audience to “Stop focusing on the name of the company but focus on what you can gain and what added value you can provide.” We sometimes forget that the interview process is a two way street, not just a one-way. Yes, we are in need of that particular role and want them to accept us but we must accept them as well. Whether it is a large Fortune 500 company or a startup, never forget what you need out of the company for you to feel encouraged to work for them each day. Simmone passionately expressed to the audience to “Figure out who you are and that will lead you to continue to be your authentic self. I was able to figure myself out along the way and I stuck to what I was good at. That helped me remain successful throughout my career. Get comfortable with failure; risk comes with failure and also with success” This piggybacks what Melissa states, “With no risk, there is no reward.”
Overall this was both an insightful and educational event that had attendees such as Demetrius White, Account Executive at the startup Sawhorse Media/Muck Rack to say, “Hearing from a veteran panel about the ins and outs of startups sparked within me a change to not only continue working hard, but to ask the right vetting questions.” I believe a lot of people walked away with a new lens on how to view startups and to not be afraid to be bold enough to bring the best versions of themselves forward while interviewing at these smaller startups. We should never be afraid of going after what it is we want or what we know we will excel at. We have demystified any of the doubts or negative thoughts around startups; they are not just about free food and unlimited PTO, but an opportunity to prove to yourself how much of an entrepreneurial spirit we all have embedded within us. A startup will yank that out of you, forcing you to be the amazing version of yourself you have never imagined. It is truly rewarding and we are thankful to all of the panelists that dedicated their time and knowledge to help debunk these theories.
See you the next SIS Event…stay tuned!