Startup Career Advice

It’s that time of year when college students everywhere are looking for summer internships and career opportunities after graduation. More and more young people are lured by the appeal of working in a startup: flexible schedules and offices with ping-pong tables, kegerators, and lack of formal dress codes are common.

But beyond the cool exterior, working in a startup is hard work. But don’t worry kids, I reached out to a few friends who are killing it in the DFW startup game and asked them for some career advice. (You’ll probably want to bookmark this one.)

“Be ready and willing to do whatever might need doing. If you think you’re just going to work in one ‘department,’ think again. You will learn so much more than you could ever imagine in your specific field—but be prepared to take out the trash every once in a while!” Jen Lavelle, Marketing Director & Founding Partner at Mizzen + Main

“Reach out to new people, ask dumb questions, make new connections, and be ready to explain your reasoning, what you learned, and document it as a new process for the company. “ Joe Payton, Founder at Genius Den

“Be hungry. Be prepared to work for nothing now so you have everything later.” — Matt Schwartz, CTO at EasyEye Readers

“I think the most important thing to keep in mind is you have to have a balance of work and personal priorities. You have to maintain flexibility in all circumstances because as we all know, anything can happen and learning this balance will help you stay organized and focused on all your goals. Ain’t nobody got time for disorganization!” — Stefani Nguyen, Program Coordinator at Launch DFW

“I get innumerable emails from people who claim to be marketing ninjas/gurus or “SEO experts” and the like. Good people are the key—not buzzy nonsensical nothingness. Rather than looking for someone who has studied-and-can-therefore-do-something, I just look for people with some desire to grow and learn. For all of this, I think the best piece of advice is to be a human, rather than a resumé. Sell yourself on versatility and your desire to contribute tirelessly to a team.” Matt Alexander, Founder at Need & Foremost

“Forget everything you think you know, and approach every opportunity with a learner’s mindset. Also, memorize the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford.” Michael Sitarzewski, Founder and CEO at Epic Playground, Inc.

“Creativity in finance isn’t necessarily an oxymoron. In a startup, a finance professional isn’t dealing with just numbers any more—people management, work ethic, innovation, and reporting, just to name a few come full circle in this role.” Amanda Soutter, Finance Director at Launch DFW

“There are no winners in the waiting game — if you’re waiting for something to happen, you’re doing it wrong. Get out there and make it happen. No excuses!” Chirag Gupta, Founder of NoD Coworking

“Be ready for anything! Working for a start-up in any capacity gives you the opportunity to wear many hats, learn different aspects of business, help create the culture and values of a company, and sometimes even learn how NOT to do things. The knowledge, skills, and expertise you will gain is unlike anything at a large company, and will be valuable whether you decide to move on in the future. Although, once you experience working at a start-up it’s hard to imagine doing anything else.” Marsha Louviere, Co-Founder & COO at GruupMeet

Now that you’re prepped and ready to go, be sure to check out the Student Startup Internship Fair this Thursday, April 16, and the Tech Wildcatters Startup Career Fair next Tuesday, April 21.

Raquel Vincent

Raquel Vincent is a Dallas-based creative with a knack for words and inspired creative direction. When she's not working, you can find Raquel hitting a gallery opening, working on her book, or thrifting for unforgettable vintage finds. She loves music festivals, tacos, and her rescue cat Berlioz.