Making your next move

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Think before acting

On Sunday, I had a brief conversation with a recent college grad who is pursuing her first full-time job post school. As someone who has recently been through a period of unemployment and recently taken a new position (10 years removed from college), I figured I could give her some advice, or at least my perspective.
We connected on a Hangout, and I was impressed with how she’s approaching her search. Here’s why:
  1. She’s Going for It — as a 22 year old female, she had the balls to move cross country from NC to SF solo. She’s not sitting around for an opportunity to find her but rather is out hustling to connect with the right people and companies, and I think she’s moved to the right place for her chosen industry music tech (though I really have no clue, maybe NYC or LA would work as well). She has clarity on the industry she wants to be in and the stage of company she wants to join, two determining factors that made SF the logical choice.
  2. Following Her Passion — Throughout the 20 minutes we spoke, it was clear to me that she was passionate about music and technology and is firmly focusing on the intersection of the two. This level of focus will suit her well as she’s out networking and talking to folks about what she’s aiming to do. She’ll be in a much stronger position relative to the 90% of other folks who want to “work at a startup”, and her passion will be palpable/inspiring. She has startup experience in the industry, and is certainly entrepreneurial by nature. In the course of our conversation, we were able to frame this as a strength that she will be able to bring to a later-stage business, one of which she is interviewing with this week!
  3. She is Engaging with Mentors — We ended up talking because she had actively engaged with someone who I consider to be a grade A mentor in the Valley. He is in my inbox daily, shared her story in one of his postings, and I reached out offering support. Basically, serendipity occurred because three proactive people became connected simply by engaging with each other.

I really only had two pieces of advice for her, both of which came from my recent experience of being on the job hunt:

  1. Focus on the People — I asked her what skills she wanted to develop in the near future. She struggled to answer this question, which was fine. My advice to her was to focus on the people she would be interacting with / learning from every day. These are the people that will be crucial in her development and who she may just end up working with for the next several years. Basically, she should seek out and cultivate this network as they will serve as her primary catalysts. Pascal Finette (the guy who is in my inbox and who intro’d us) pretty much sums it up here.
  2. Consider Company Stage — I have spent the past 3.5 years in really early stage startups (1st employee and Founder). As I was approaching my next position, I put a decent amount of thought into the stage of company I should join. One of my mentors put it pretty simply when he said “Failing is ok, but don’t make it a habit.” My takeaway from this piece of advice was that I should join a growth-stage company that had made it past hurdles I had not previously been able to clear at my previous companies. I put this out to this new job-seeker and her knee-jerk was “I’m entrepreneurial, how will they react to that?” I framed it as a strength she can bring to a later-stage organization. Even if resources are abundant, I personally think a scrappy approach is always warranted and valued.

If you’re looking for your next thing, I urge you to take some time to think through how it sets you up for your next next move and beyond. View it as a springboard that plays to your strengths and helps you develop new ones.

Be proactive. Be focused. Be networked.

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