Many people reach out to me, asking for my coaching advice on how to find a job in Silicon Valley. This includes technologists and designers, as well as business people. I ask “Well, where would you like to work?”
Often, they say “Google. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn.”
“Those are all great companies”, I reply. “But you need to think beyond the companies which are household names.”
Here’s what I mean: When I had the good fortune of working at Yahoo in the late ‘90s, it happened to be the coolest company in the world. Yahoo’s stock was going through the roof. We were the darlings of the media. And pretty much everybody wanted to work there.
As a hiring manager, I saw that we were inundated with resumes of job candidates. Competition to get hired was extremely fierce. We turned down many extremely qualified people.
In the 15 years since then, I’ve seen this pattern repeat itself with the hot companies. So what’s the result? It tends to be painfully competitive to get hired at Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever other company that your grandma in Omaha has heard about.
Now, to be clear, these are phenomenal companies and they do a ton of hiring. But for every 1 person they hire, there are hordes of people applying for that same position. For example, according to an article in FORTUNE, in 2011 Google had 2,000,000 applicants for 8,067 hires, or an applicant to hire ratio of 248 to 1.
No matter how highly you rate your odds of getting hired at Google, your odds will be much better to get a job at the next amazingly successful company which your grandma in Omaha has NOT heard about. And which you have not heard about, either. Because at any time, there are companies which are poised to become, well…maybe not the next Google, but at least the next Snapchat, Airbnb, or Uber!
Here’s what you do:
1). Look at the startups which have already received funding from venture capital firms, incubators, angel investors, or private equity firms. These investors are not perfect. But often they’re extremely smart, focused individuals who have done a lot of due diligence before writing a multimillion dollar check to a couple of startup founders. Usually, the VCs know the industry or “space” well. They are aware of the risks and opportunities. And they themselves have sat through an enormous number of founder pitches, in order to invest in a few of the most promising new businesses.
Go to the web sites of the VCs, and look at their portfolio companies. You’ll probably be amazed by the variety of startups, leaving you saying “Wow, what an awesome idea! I bet that company will be huge some day!” By definition, these businesses are funded. Growing fast. And hiring.
2). Contact the startup directly and send them your resume. Believe me, they don’t have 248 applicants for every opening they have. In fact, they’re often so busy building their business that they struggle to find time to even write up a job description, let alone post it online or have people proactively recruiting to fill the job. So send your resume, whether you see a job opening posted or not. In fact, if the job is not posted online yet, there will be EVEN LESS competition for the role.
3). Reach out to the VC firm, and send your resume, stating what sort of work you’re looking for. The better VC firms often have a partner or staff, whose full-time jobs are to help their portfolio companies see more qualified resumes. Many firms send out monthly email blasts to their companies, with a batch of resumes for them to view. You want to be part of that blast.
4). If the VC firm has a partner who does a lot of investing in an area of your interest, then you may consider reaching out to her or him directly. It’s a bold move — but Silicon Valley favors the bold! ; – )
5). Remember that VC firms often have an area of expertise. Some invest only in consumer internet. Some do financial services. Some do clean energy. If you are about to graduate with a biomedical engineering degree, then follow this process and you will suddenly know of a slew of startups doing amazing things in HealthTech — and very likely hiring!
I have a friend who used to do awesome work on one of my teams. She had recently returned to San Francisco after an assignment in Singapore. She was having trouble with her job search. I shared with her all of my suggestions, which she followed. She later told me that the VC firms lined her up for a variety of job interviews with their portfolio companies. She was soon hired by a startup named MoPub. Not long after, MoPub was acquired for $350 million by none other than… Twitter!
Not only is it much easier to get hired at these below-the-radar startups, but the upside from these companies tends to be a lot greater than the upside of going to the big household name companies. Let’s face it — the probability of Facebook’s valuation doubling in the next year is pretty small. It’s just hard for anybody to add $227 Billion of value that fast.
But if you carefully evaluate any of these startups, and you choose to work at one with a proven business model and big potential, then the chances are actually pretty good that their valuation will rise greatly during the time that you’re there. I went to an unknown, 100-employee comparison shopping company named NexTag in 2004, and they were bought in 2007 for a valuation of $1.2 billion. Then in 2007, I went to an unknown, 130-employee online ad network named BlueLithium, and they were acquired for $300 million that same year…by Yahoo!
(Yahoo was more fun the first time around. ; – )
I’d love to hear your ideas about how to get hired in Silicon Valley. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section. And if you liked this post, thanks for sharing it! Jim
Photo Credit: Ramiro Checchi (UNSPLASH)