Got big entrepreneurial dreams? Great, but before you give years of your life to founding a start-up, you might want to try working at one first. Besides getting in on the ground floor of what might become Silicon Valley's latest "mafia," putting in some time as an early-stage employee will teach you plenty about the nuts and bolts of getting an idea off the ground -- and give you a clearer sense if start-up life really is for you.

So how do you land such a gig? StartupCVs, a company that's dedicated to connecting job seekers with young companies, recently came up with a handy infographic offering advice. Unsurprisingly, they recommend using their site, but they also included plenty of more objective tips, such as:

1. Use your network.

Tiny start-ups often don't have the resources for shiny recruiters or a well-honed hiring machine. As a result they often rely heavily on the team's personal network for referrals. Use that fact to your advantage. "If someone they trust knows you and vouches for you, you already have one foot in the door," says StartupCVs. 

Don't have many connections in start-up land? It's probably time to get busy growing your network then. Tech meetups, hackathons, and startups fairs are all great ways to meet people, the infographic suggests.

2. Stay informed

Start-ups are their own little subculture, and like any subculture, members are going to want to make sure you understand the lingo and have a handle on the latest gossip before you can get in. So stay up-to-date on which start-ups are generating buzz or face the possibility of looking foolish in the interview, StartupCVs warns. If you're dedicated to getting a start-up gig, you're probably already doing this. If not, check out Product Hunt, TechCrunch, Hacker News and the like.

3. Adapt your resume.

"Generally, traits such as a hands-on approach, driven mentality, creative mind or great work ethic should be evident in your resume," advises the infographic. "Also, put A LOT of emphasis on previous startup experience."

4. Be flexible.

No matter what your supposed job title at a startup, as the company grows (or the week's demands change), your role will shift. Demonstrate that you're up for pitching in wherever and however you're needed. "The more flexible you are, the more options will be available for you!" insists StartupCVs.

5. Be savvy about your appearance.

Don't wear a suit to the interview. In this industry the hoodie rules, so you won't impress anyone -- quite the opposite. And follow the interviewer's lead when it comes to the level of formality to adopt. You might be surprised by how relaxed things are but go with the flow.

6 Do your homework.

This is good advice for any job hunter, but it's especially important if you're looking to land a start-up job. The infographic suggests that you be up-to-date on the company's current situation, check out the founders on LinkedIn and other sites, and know about the latest funding and product news. Also, don't be shy about reaching out to anyone you know who works at, or used to work at, the start-up you're targeting.

7. Try the product.

This should be self-evident, but if it's not, here's a reminder from StartupCVs: "You need to know and understand what the company actually does." Failing to do this will inevitably result in awkwardness and embarrassment in the interview.

8. Get references.

Again, this doesn't only apply to start-up jobs, but it might be even more fundamental in this context. "The startup scene is a tight-know community," cautions the infographic. "If you screw up, everyone will know."

9. Follow the money

Where there is investment, there is likely to be hiring, StartupCVs points out. So make sure you keep up with funding news, and if any start-ups you are interested in working for secure investment, send a speculative application. You don't have to wait to see an ad or hear formally that they're hiring.

10. Level up your skills.

Getting the job is only a victory if you can actually do the work once you're hired, so spend some time during your job search enhancing your skills, suggests the infographic. "In a small startup where everyone has to pull their weight, the more you can bring to the table, the better," it says.

Startup founders, what other advice would you give job hunters looking to work at a company like yours? Do you disagree with any of these tips? 

Published on: Dec 3, 2015