Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Doing These 7 Things Can Help Jump-Start Your Startup Career Recent graduates might be surprised to find so many similarities between landing jobs at startups and industry stalwarts.

By Ginger Fields Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

jamesteohart | Getty Images

Getting that first job can often be the most challenging task you'll face as a recent graduate, even today when the labor market is the strongest it has been in years. Landing a gig at a startup can be even more difficult. For the new grad, it's the all too familiar Catch-22: To get a job, you need experience, but to get experience, you need a job. A blank resume doesn't bode well.

Related: 7 Skills to Leave Off Your Resume

But, fear not, young entrepreneur, for many of the same rules of engagement that exist at the largest corporations also apply at startups. Here are seven tips I've learned while at Farmers Insurance that can help you find success in the startup job market:

1. Know the product.

Whether it's the latest app, a physical product or insurance, companies need to know that you understand and believe in what they're selling. You don't need to spend hours reviewing the fine print, but a little preparation goes a long way. Review their website, promotional materials and perform a Google search to learn more about the company and the public's perception of its product.

Related: 7 Tips to Make Sure Your LinkedIn Picture Is Helping, Not Hurting, Your Prospects

2. Focus on soft skills.

Remember that your prospective employer knows you're a recent grad. They probably won't expect your resume to provide a lot of work-related achievements. However, they may be looking for soft skills and personal qualities that provide hints about your potential. These include qualities such as leadership, curiosity, problem-solving, writing, communication, organization and collaboration.

3. Individualize your application ... to a point.

Plenty of viral stories of job applicants demonstrate how candidates found unique and creative ways to express their individuality within a job application. However, I've reviewed plenty over the years ranging from the inappropriate to the downright bizarre. Don't get caught up in proving how interesting and indispensable you are as someone with little to no experience. Instead, talk about your hobbies and interests to tell the story of what makes you, "you." Startups may be more receptive to the former, but don't let that justify taking unnecessary risks.

Related: The Interview Question That Employers Should Stop Asking

4. Demonstrate your savviness via social.

It's a cliché but it's true that "it's not what you know but who you know" that opens doors. Some advisors go so far as to recommend spending 75 percent of your time networking and only 25 percent looking through job boards on the computer. You should already be on LinkedIn, but consider additional platforms like Twitter or Facebook to communicate your personal brand by sharing relevant, interesting content. Remember: quality over quantity, provided you remain active and attuned to the most recent trends. It goes without saying, but be discreet about what you post on social. One of the worst things one can do is to use social to trash competitors and alienate your audience and potential employers.

5. Let people help you.

Monster.com recommends making extensive use of your alumni network. You'll be surprised how willing older grads are to meet with you and provide contacts and advice. Also consider joining the local chapter of a professional group. As a young college grad, I joined the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and began attending meetings. That landed me an internship, which eventually turned into my first job in HR. There are plenty of networking opportunities for startups in most major cities, and though daunting as a new grad, you have to take the first step.

Related: Want to Be Engaged in Your Career? Be Indispensable.

6. Culture is crucial.

If information about a company's culture isn't readily available, be sure to ask about it in your interview. That will demonstrate curiosity and will show the interviewer that you've given some thought to the type of corporate culture you would be most comfortable in. Startups often have wildly different interpretations of this, and sites like Glassdoor.com provide firsthand accounts of employees' experiences. You may be spending upwards of 50 hours per week at your first job, so don't wait to find out if you'll be trapped in a constant culture clash.

7. Finally, if you don't get your dream job, consider taking one that's offered.

Having that first job on your resume shows that you've demonstrated value to at least one employer. Even if it isn't the next Silicon Valley unicorn, you're gaining invaluable experience that will serve you throughout your career until the dream job comes calling. And in the meantime, you can hone your soft skills, take classes and continue networking at startup-related events on your way to your next job and to a fulfilling career -- where you will then be able to offer encouragement to a new batch of fresh-faced entrepreneurs.

Related Video: 3 Tips to Crush Your Next Job Interview

Ginger Fields

Head of Recruiting for Farmers Insurance

Ginger Fields is currently the head of talent at Farmers Insurance. She is also a member of the Farmers enterprise Inclusion Council and currently leads the
Farmers Women’s Inclusion Network. Fields has held leadership roles within claims operations, talent acquisition, HR operations and most recently as HR
business partner supporting the claims function, and has a passion for all things related to talent.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

Now that OpenAI's Superalignment Team Has Been Disbanded, Who's Preventing AI from Going Rogue?

We spoke to an AI expert who says safety and innovation are not separate things that must be balanced; they go hand in hand.


What Franchising Can Teach The NFL About The Impact of Private Equity

The NFL is smart to take a thoughtful approach before approving institutional capital's investment in teams.

Employee Experience & Recruiting

Beyond the Great Resignation — How to Attract Freelancers and Independent Talent Back to Traditional Work

Discussing the recent workplace exit of employees in search of more meaningful work and ways companies can attract that talent back.

Business News

Scarlett Johansson 'Shocked' That OpenAI Used a Voice 'So Eerily Similar' to Hers After Already Telling the Company 'No'

Johansson asked OpenAI how they created the AI voice that her "closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference."

Business Ideas

Struggling to Balance Your Business and Your Relationship? This Company Says It Has a Solution.

Jessica Holton, co-founder and CEO of Ours, says her company is on a mission to destigmatize couples therapy so that people can be proactive about relationship health.


Marketing Campaigns Must Do More than Drive Clicks — Here's How to Craft Landing Pages That Convert Clicks into Customers

Following fundamental design principles will ensure that your landing pages lead potential customers from clicking on an ad to completing a purchase.