By Chris Tardio
I have been working in a startup environment for a year and a half, beginning a few months after I earned my B.A. The company isn't profitable, and I've been promoted from an admin role to a marketing role. I manage all marketing, consumer relations, and some PR/creative social media work, and I don't make a salary that is livable in my area despite the raise I negotiated at my one-year mark.
I don't have any potential mentors or guidance in this company, but I'm able to learn as I go in this slow-paced environment. I don't want to become stagnant. How can I leverage the networking events I attend weekly, Craigslist and LinkedIn job postings, and any other untapped resources to begin to move up the corporate ladder?
Startups can be great places to work if you find one with a clear vision of what they’re trying to build, deep understanding of the niche they’re working to fill in the marketplace; and have the brains, experience, passion, and financing behind them to keep evolving and growing. When all of these characteristics are present, startups can be a place where you’re counted on to work hard, wear many hats, learn a lot, and potentially benefit financially if the company succeeds and you were granted equity in the early stages.
But, startups that meet all of those criteria are few and far between. And, if yours is already a couple of years old, still not making money, and you describe the work environment as “slow-paced,” it's probably not one of them. Additionally, at this point in your career, after a year and a half without professional guidance or mentors, and with a salary that leaves you struggling, your instinct is correct: It’s time to take stock of all the things you have learned at your company and set out to find a new job.
The good news is, your skill set is highly sought-after in most businesses today. The key is to update your resume and LinkedIn page to tell the great story you have to share. Something like: “Experience in a vibrant startup environment designing all marketing initiatives and building powerful consumer relationships through both PR and social media.” (Never lie when stating your background, but always put your creative skills to use to describe your experience in a thorough and compelling way.)
Then, get out and activate your network. Make a list of everyone you know who might have a connection to the kinds of businesses you potentially want to bring your skill set to. They can be friends from college, family acquaintances, or people you have met at business networking events. Set up a calendar to help you stay focused and accountable. Establish goals like "number of calls made per day," "number of meetings scheduled per week," and "a new job by spring."
Reach out to everyone on the list you've compiled and see if they — or anyone in their network — can connect you to people with whom you can talk about potential opportunities. Set up as many informational meetings and interviews as possible. The more people you meet and impress, the greater the chance that you’ll make something happen for yourself. Getting your name out through social media certainly has its place — but nothing beats personal references and making connections.