Today I grabbed a coffee with the sister of a friend of mine who has just moved to New York from Argentina and wanted to get some guidance and advice on how to get started in New York. She’s interested in getting a job at a startup where she can improve her skills, discover her passion and start a career in the city. I think that this is a terrific idea. Getting a job at a startup can not only lead you to a great career in tech but, as it happened to me, can also be the perfect entry point to later become an entrepreneur yourself.
I gave her a bunch of ideas and shared with her some “hacks” that I did or observed when I first moved to New York and didn’t really know anybody. She thought that my tips were good, so I thought of writing them down here, with the hope that it might be useful to others moving to NYC or any new city for that matter.
Most of the ideas I gave her are related to building your network (and yes, many are pretty obvious). NYC is a city of amazing serendipities, but it’s all about connecting as many dots as possible. In fact, I recommended her first and foremost to read the book “The Startup of You” by Reid Hoffman, who’s main point is the tremendous value for your career of building and nurturing your network. So here are some of the ideas:
1. Attend events: There are hundreds of events every month, full of people eager to connect. Find meet-ups, events and parties on Meetup, Eventbrite and HostCommitee. Also, sign up to the event newsletters of the tech/startup industry to be on the loop of good networking opportunities: StartupDigest NYC, Gary’s Guide, GeneralAssembly, etc. At the beginning probably most of the events will be a waste of time, but the only way to get to the good ones is to go to many, and as you keep going you learn which ones are the ones that matter. I not only met my business-partner Alex at an event in New York, I also met my life-partner Megan in one! :)
2. Organize your own event! This is a “hack” that I implemented when I first moved to the city. I proposed to my friends at Palermo Valley in Buenos Aires to organize an event on their behalf titled “Latin America Meets NY to Talk Startups”. I promoted it via twitter and asked my few friends in the city to help me out. The event gathered more than 70 people and was even covered by TheNextWeb!. I expanded my network significantly and started to become a “node” in the network. As Seth Godin says, being the empresario that stands up and gathers the community puts you in the zone where interesting things happen.
3. Offer your help, selflessly. This is a general advice for life, that I try to embrace every day, and that brings beautiful surprises often. Offer to volunteer on organizations, communities and events. HackNY, StartupWeekend, iMentor, Endeavor and many other communities sometimes need the help of volunteers and they are greatly connected to the tech scene in the city.
4. Find your “tribes”. We all belong to a couple of tribes simply by being born in a certain place and demographic, and as we move on in life we become members of more tribes. In NYC I would dare to say that every tribe in the globe is represented. I connected to Latin Americans (I call it jokingly the “Maffia Latina” :) always willing to help, and also PwC-alumni, Couchsurfers, Focolares, etc! Find yours and connect dots.
5. Search career opportunities in alternative places online. The traditional job sites (craigslist, monsters, indeed) are fine, but there is also an edge in looking for opportunities in emerging alternative places, like AngelList, Hired and TheMuse. Also a good place is the website of Venture Capital firms, like Union Square Ventures, that list the job openings of their portfolio companies.
6. Be entrepreneurial in your application. Both in startups and in established companies one of the most valuable traits searched in employees is entrepreneurial attitude (i.e. pro-activity, creativity, confidence, drive, hustle). A “hack” to demonstrate this from the get-go and stand out is to apply to a company by sending some work done that might be valuable for the company. As an example, some time ago a designer sent me an email saying “Hey, I love your company and your app, but I took the dare of redesigning the app with some new ideas, here it is“. I was blown away by his talent, but more than anything by his attitude. (I didn’t hire him because we already had an in-house designer, but I would have totally hired him otherwise). If you are a business guy you can maybe make a market research on a new market the company could enter, or a list of companies to partner with and the right contact person to reach, etc.
7. Hustle and persist. Making your way in a new city is always hard and it takes time. I moved to Barcelona, Santiago, Bogota and New York and it was always challenging, even if I spoke the language and had some friends in the city. But there is no city that will resist a good dose of hustle and persistence. As Alex Banayan, who’s writing a book about successful people, told me once: all successful people at some point in their life enter through “the third door”; not the regular one, not the VIP one, but the one that you only find by being a persistent hustler.
So, there you go, these are some tips that can maybe help you get a job at a startup, and hopefully start your path to “make it in New York”. Good luck on your journey… and let me know if I can be of any help.