By the end of last year, after around 3.5 years with my previous startup Wrapp, I suddenly found myself in San Francisco, the startup capital of the world, with a mind wandering about what should be next. From expanding aggressively into 18 markets across the world, and moving my life from Sweden to our biggest office in San Francisco, we came to a decision to pivot the business and close down all international markets. As my wife had recently launched her company in San Francisco, and due to the fact this city is a rather epic place to live in, I made the hard decision to leave my operational role at Wrapp. Because of the emotional and physical rollercoaster with Wrapp, while being the most formative years of my professional (and probably personal) life, I didn’t want to jump into the first next thing. Instead I chose to take time to reload my batteries, and doing so while working on something which I had a true and genuine passion for - HDWR. Building a product simply for the desire of seeing it become a reality and ignoring all business aspects of the idea is something very refreshing and different from what I’ve done before. As we now get ready for our public launch, I can say that these past months have been a true blast (and meeting with several of my childhood idols hasn’t hurt either). But needless to say, a skateboard community is not the obvious billion-dollar idea...
Because of this, and the reality that I need to bring some 🍞 home, I entertained some other professional opportunities during the spring which now has lead me to a very exciting place. I'll still continue with HDWR, but in addition I'll be working as Entrepreneur in Residence with 500 Startups and Venture Partner with my beloved former co-workers at Creandum. This means advising, mentoring and coaching startups going through 500's awesome accelerator program, and sourcing investments and supporting the Creandum portfolio from the US. It definitely took a while for me to get this right, and I was fortunate enough to meet and explore with plenty of different companies, but I'm ever so excited and grateful about these new beginnings and especially to get an opportunity to work closer with amazing entrepreneurs and investors from all across the world in the 500 and Creandum families. 🍻 to new beginnings!
Because of these new jobs I, and since I've been on the other side of recruiting processes for most of my recent years, this all made me reflect about how jobs really come about and I figured I may share some of my thinking and a few important tactics to use.
- Ads = No. Opportunities = Yes. You will not find your ideal jobs by searching job ads. This is simply because your dream job is something only you know the specifics of and can defined, and the likelihood of a company having an identical thinking and explicit desire to hire for exactly that at the right time when you're looking is minimal. And if you would find an amazing job posting for the world's most exciting company, there's a significant risk they will have massive amounts of applications coming in and you will be assessed on prettiness of your resume and having gone to the "right" school rather of who you truly are (values, ambitions, soft skills, culture fit, etc.). Instead you should see job search and recruiting as opportunistic. This means finding a dream job is less predictable, but far more exciting. Always have your radar switched on. New interesting paths may pop up anywhere, and when you least expect it. This is very much proven for my two new roles, none of which were publicly advertised and rather something I came upon by being open and receptive to it.
- Networks are 🔑. Who knew, right? But of course, since job ads often are 💩, networking becomes essential for your career progression. If you feel strongly for certain industries, connect with the important thought-leaders, frequent relevant events and associate yourself in any form you can to the specific community. But don't settle for the most obvious. Once again, embrace the fact that life is opportunistic, meaning the most amazing opportunities may come from less clear parts of you network. And, since I'm a big fan of transparency in life, don't hesitate to be open to people you meet about your ambitions and career desires. This can be sensitive depending on your current job situation, but in general it's far easier for people in your network to be able to connect the dots between companies they know of and yourself if you're deliberately on their radar. Help them with the equation. And like any other relationship building, keep in mind that it takes time and requires effort. Hence, be patience and don't forget to nurture the network. Buying someone a cup of coffee or a beer can do incredible things. And only a warm relationship will help you. Keep in touch and meet in person, not only through LinkedIn. And don't be afraid of asking people in your network for a specific introduction or assistance, since helping others makes people happy and most people would love to be of assistance. Life is long, and there will be plenty of opportunities down the line. So make sure you do everything you can to notice them, by simply opening up yourself to your network... Marvin, who brought me into 500, and I met many years ago at a conference - exactly like you do with so many other people. But we actually kept in touch and met regularly updating each other on our respective career journeys, and once it was time for me to start looking for new things in SF he was a natural connection to reach out to.
- Context and people matter the most. Don't try to search for the perfect job description. They change all the time, and especially in early stage companies you will have to wear many hats you never knew coming into it. Because of this, don't chase titles. I do agree that a title holds certain pride, and can sometimes (often with external relationships) enhance your abilities to better results in your role (e.g. a senior title may be perceived as more "trustworthy" in a client situation). But most of the time they are simply an indication of internal hierarchies, which should be minimized at all costs. And with some early stage companies allowing employees to pick their own titles (not recommended by the way...more on this in another later post) these semantics are completely watered out. Instead think hard about the industry and space a company operates within. Is this something you can stand behind? Would you feel proud if you contributed to the growth of such industry? Find your own moral compass and gauge it against the company and industry. You will only be world-class at anything if there's a genuine match. You don't get to 10,000 hours if you don't really care about what you do. But also, look for people who you feel are magnetizing. Your job is to a large degree also your life, and you want to spend your life with people you like, who can make you grow. Co-founding Wrapp and working close together with Hjalle, a true serial entrepreneur/hustler/visionary, was exactly that for me. A truly amazing, unique and inspirational experience.
- Show value. Sell yourself. This is the most important thing. Companies, especially startups, to some extent also recruit opportunistically! Sure management defines hiring plans, but those plans are ever changing and simply helps guide the company, meaning you can actually impact them. Companies are always looking for "A player talent" regardless of what open positions are posted on their website. Therefore, if you get in front of a company you love, bring your A-game by showing your value and selling yourself. Explain what the company needs, and how your experiences, skill sets and ambitions can help. Don't be vague ("I can help you with strategy" = 👎), but be as specific as you can ("Because of my experience in this industry I know decision makers at 5 of your top client prospects..." = 👍) and articulate how you quickly can add value ("...and I've created a draft plan I'd love to share with you on how I think we can win them all over during the next 6 months" = 👍👍). Even if you don't know the top client prospects you can still take a stab at the plan. I.e. don't hesitate to do actual work before you are officially hired. Probably the best way to convince a company of your value-add is to give before you get. Show what you can do, stir up some dust, do some work. In the world of startups, results and forward movement matters more than anything, so whatever you can do from the sideline to show your contribution to the progress equals gold. By doing this you show yourself as independent, creative, action-oriented, but probably most importantly you portray passion - the number one ingredient to win a competitive recruiting process! This goes against many other people's advice who advocate that work = 💰, which of course I'm also a believer in. But the world is more often competitive and full of noise, meaning this strategy becomes your ticket to stand out in such a situation. Of course, avoid being used for free labor. Do this to attract attention, exceed expectations and showcase your talent. Not to do continuous work. Ever since I got to know Creandum many years ago and long before joining the team I tried to add value by referring startups and sharing my thinking on the likes, showcasing my potential contributions and skills. And with 500 Startups, during the fall I volunteered pro bono with a significant portion of my time to coach some the companies in their former accelerator batch without any explicit expectations or promises. If you play this correct you can literally be anything you want already today.
...just do it!