How To Get A Job At A Startup If You Have No Skills
Editor?s note: This guest post is by Justin Kan, cofounder of Justin.tv and TwitchTV. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was interested in doing product management at a startup. He was working as a consultant, but wanted to join a company like foursquare as a PM. However, he wasn?t getting any return calls and was becoming frustrated, and wanted my advice on why. I told him this:Guess what? Everyone thinks they are the next Steve Jobs, but they aren?t. The odds are you aren?t God?s gift to product design. And even if you are, no one will be inclined to believe it, because you have no evidence: you?ve never 1) started a startup, 2) worked at a startup, 3) worked in product management, 4) designed products as side projects. All your experience is in another irrelevant field; why should a successful startup give you a chance?
The risk that each party takes has to be equal. You are taking a risk in tying your career to a startup: the less proven the startup is, the more risk you are taking. The startup is taking a risk by assuming you will be an effective producer: the less direct experience you have, the more risk they are taking. Many times I see younger would-be employees not understand this: they think they should be able to get a job as a PM at a Dropbox or Airbnb, not realizing that they are taking practically no risk on the company. At the same time, they have no PM experience themselves, so the risk the company would be taking on them is quite high. Consequently, they rarely get the jobs without exceptionally good self-salesmanship.
Sometimes these young people watch The Social Network or read stories about other Millennials founding companies with no experience and think they should be able to join a startup with little domain background. After all, they?ve seen their friends leave their jobs and start companies in completely different industries, right?
This is a fallacy, however. Only one person gets the benefit of the do