Thousands of students graduate each year from colleges across the Southern Tier and begin the hunt for jobs. Some decide to join established companies, and those with an entrepreneurial mindset start their own, but there are those who seek a middle-ground. Characterized by their rapid development, high-growth companies are constantly expanding and on the lookout for potential hires, making them a great starter for graduates looking for work. High-growth startups combine the fast-paced and innovative culture of a startup with the resources, scale and support of a larger company.
We interviewed Dan Mori, founder of Employment Solutions of New York and Director of Business Incubation at Binghamton University, to find out the best way to reach out and stand out if you want to work for a high-growth company. Dan is helping to develop the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, which opened at the start of June. Here’s what he had to say.
“I think culture is company specific, that being said there are some commonalities among high-growth companies”
Connect with local universities that fund innovation
“If you want to get into high growth companies, you’ve got to network with the people that are the support for the company.”
Connect with local universities who have big research and development programs since many of them have centers dedicated to innovation, entrepreneurship and regional economic advancement. High-growth companies often work closely with local colleges and universities that fund innovation and finding ways to get involved with those universities provides the opportunity to network. Consider attending a networking event or lecture on a topic related to entrepreneurship. You can meet people, share your resume or business card, and let them know what you are looking for. When these organizations advise companies on building their teams, you will be on their minds and on the list to be introduced.
Go to mixers and networking events
“Find out about all the mixers that are geared towards getting entrepreneurs together.”
Local business incubators often host events that are open to the public. These events help local businesses share their stories and insights; going to them allows you to connect with the startup community and build relationships. If a company isn’t currently looking to hire, they may know another that is — and you’ll be on their minds for future hiring. Worst case: you leave with a handful of advice and tips. Targeted entrepreneurial events are the best way for people to network their way into a job with a high growth company. And don’t forget to follow up on LinkedIn!
Strengthen your core skills, diversify your secondary skills
“Versatility is a key characteristic of a person [who makes it into a high-growth business] — when you go to work for a startup, you’re inherently going to wear many hats.”
You could be hired as a tech lead or marketing lead because that’s your core area, but it will be far from the only thing you’re doing. Mori said he started as the director of the Koffman incubator but “if I’ve got to mop floors one day or scrub windows or rearrange furniture for an event — that’s what I have to do.” Practice a servant-leadership mentality and show your versatility — the fact that you’re willing to do anything because you believe in the mission will get you far. The best way to represent this is stating that you understand that you would be hired because of a primary skill set, but that you believe in the mission so you’re also flexible to do the other tasks required in your cover letter. It’s beneficial to show diversity in your secondary skills. If you volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, speak a different language or travel regularly to specialty conferences, share that information, you never know what will make you a more valuable asset in their eyes.
Show that you know how to get back up after you fail
“If you screw up an investor, if you screw up a customer, the team [will] say ‘man you really screwed that up, here’s what you can do to get better’…there’s a high level of trust, a high level of accountability and focus on the mission.”
High growth companies are highly accountable; everyone on the team is expected to be the best, bring the best and be accountable for excellence. “They’re always pursuing greatness in everything,” says Mori. If you make a mistake, the team will say you screwed that up, this is what you need to do to get better. The key is listening to the feedback and using your failure as a learning experience. If a high growth company sends a product out for a beta trial and it’s a failure or it’s not ready just yet, they take the setback as an opportunity to improve — they learn and move on, you should too. Mention the moments when you’ve had to get back up after you failed in your cover letter or your interview.
You’re going to need passion
“There’s probably a million other projects that are more individually beneficial.”
Mori said that, for the Koffman team, everyone understands the impact that business incubators can have on “our today.” They come together under a single goal: to contribute to something larger than their personal agendas. When the group puts their individual benefits and egos aside, they can focus on supporting entrepreneurs in the Southern Tier. A shared goal on your team requires a passion for the work you’re doing and increases the quality of what you, individually, take away from that work. In an interview, showing that you’re passionate about whatever it is the company is working towards will get you noticed because it’s a clear sign of your ability to work on a team. Any company needs to know that the person they hire, they hire for their benefit as well as the person’s. Working at a high growth company won’t be easy, you’re going to need to show passion to get hired and have passion to enjoy what you do.
For more information on how to form connections with other businesses in your area, including high-growth companies, the opportunity to attend a networking event and connect with entrepreneurs and startups in the Ithaca area, contact us and visit the Rev calendar for upcoming networking events!
Glenn Epps contributed to the writing of this article.