22 Nov What does it take to get a graduate role in a startup?
Claudia graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in Modern Languages this summer. We placed her into a Sales role at an e-commerce technology startup in September. We caught up with her a couple of months later to find out how to get a job in a startup straight after uni, and what working in one is really like.
What were your career plans when you finished uni?
I don’t think I had fixed plans, but I knew I wanted a new challenge- something really different to what I’d done at uni. I also knew I was ready to make some money, and I wanted to work in either a Sales environment, or something client-focused like Account Management.
What attracted you about working in Sales?
I’m very target-driven and goal oriented, so Sales suits my style of working. What also really appealed to me is that in Sales, you know you’re in charge and you dictate what you earn- the harder you work, the better your salary at the end of the month. I didn’t fancy spending ages working my way up the career ladder in a different profession- I wanted instant results.
What’s the most important thing you do?
The most important part of my job is building relationships with clients and prospects. You’ve got to be outgoing and friendly, because that’s the sort of person who’s about in the tech industry. You’ve got to have a lot of personality, so that when you walk into a room at an event you can make people take notice of you, and represent your brand. That’s the part of the job I love most, actually- I go to lots of events, and they’re usually in the evening, and the atmosphere’s always relaxed and fun, and they’re just a great opportunity to meet like-minded people.
What does an average day look like for you?
I work for a small startup, and so every day really is very different. I spend some days out at meetings, building new partnerships, whereas some days I’ll be in the office conducting demos for merchants. Unlike a grad scheme, where you go on a fixed rotation around different departments, I’ve been able to shape my job myself. For example, my company gets lots of partner business, and a few weeks after I started, I took charge of our partner relationships. So one day I might generate some new business by meeting one of our partners for lunch and exchanging leads with them; one day I might go to an event and meet people that way- but basically, as long as I’m hitting my targets, I can decide how I do it. I think that’s quite specific to working in a startup.
What else is different about working in a startup?
My company is still growing, and learning what works, and trying new things. I think a startup is a great place to be as a grad, because you can start in one role, and develop into another- when I started, my boss told me I’d find my niche and what I’m good at. That’s the main difference- at a tech startup you can forge your own path, and your career feels unlimited. Also, unlike a grad scheme, where you’re a foot soldier for a massive company, you get hit with lots of responsibility and autonomy immediately. It’s really important to be organised and structure yourself, or you’ll drown.
What’s your working environment like?
Again, every day is different. I spend quite a lot of time in the field- up North, hot desking at our partners’ offices- but then some days I’ll be in the office in London. When I am here, I’m part of a small team, and I’d say we have quite a close relationship and a fun office culture. Last week we went to Windermere for a company treat, and that was really fun, and a great opportunity to get to know everyone better- that’s something I’d never have done at a bigger company.
Do you have any advice for grads who want to work in a startup?
Basically just be very excited- the tech industry is such a great place to be. There’s a huge amount of opportunity, especially in e-commerce, so anything is possible. Also, be open-minded- you probably won’t have heard of most of the companies where the best opportunities are, but that’s because most of the tech industry isn’t the stuff we come in to contact with on a day to day basis. And be hard working because your career will be what you make of it!
If you think Claudia’s new job sounds like the dream, you’re in luck! Venatrix is working with a number of exciting new companies in the e-commence industry at the moment. Visit our job board to find your next great thing.