Tips On Pursuing a Career in Entrepreneurship: Finding a Startup That Works For You

Suzanne shares her story on how she transitioned back into working at startups after a one year break at a traditional job.

Finding the right fit at a startup is a process that can be challenging, exciting, self-reflective, and empowering. Check out Suzanne’s story and her advice on how she transitioned back into her local startup community after a one year break at a traditional job.

But first, 3 quick tips to get you started:

1. Tap into your network

Before you commit to your job search, it’s best to have an idea of what kind of job you want. A great way to do this is to learn more about specific jobs from people who’ve actually HELD the jobs. Get out to meetups, networking events, or reach out to your personal and professional contacts.

Check out our upcoming Startup Talent Showcase event!

2. Make a list of target companies

Determine where you want to work geographically and start researching companies, venture capital firms and accelerators in that city. Most VCs/Accelerators have a portfolio of industry-specific companies you can check out. Identifying companies this way gives you a sense of the maturity of the company whether Seed Stage or Series B. Then, look them up on Crunchbase to get a better understand their funding situation and growth stage.

3. Get to know them

Go to the company’s website and check out their staff page. You can also usually find this information by searching the company on LinkedIn. Follow them on social media, read their blog (if they have one), get a grasp on what they’re doing. Then reach out. Introduce yourself, briefly note your interest in working at the company, then see if they’d be open to having a quick conversation with you to help you learn more about the company. Remember to be considerate of their time. Ask for 10, 15, 20 minutes and stick to it. Have questions prepared. The more specific, the better.

Our Q&A with Suzanne Iovaldi on her transition back into St. Louis startup community and how she did it.

What are you currently up to?

Currently I am gearing up to start a new role as Senior Account Support Manager at Prattle. For over the past year I have been in the medical manufacturing industry working on projects including integrating into a 10+ sales team and quality assuring the data for that integration. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to work on product launches and strategic account relationships. While I have enjoyed my time here, I am excited for the opportunity to get back into the technology space in St. Louis, particularly FinTech, and work more directly with clients.

After a year at a more traditional company, you’ve decided to get back into the tech startup community. What have been the driving factors behind that decision?

My decision to go back into the startup community is rooted in the desire to be an agent of change for both the local St. Louis community, and the marketplace at large. We need strong young companies to become the next innovators in the St. Louis region in order to bring jobs and stability to the economy. From a more broad perspective, being able to come on to a company early on and have input about how a particular product can make people and companies more efficient is an incredible opportunity. It means potentially being able to offer better work/life balance, jobs, and knowledge.

We’re excited to help you get plugged back in, Suzanne! You went through PluggedIn to join the Prattle team. What was that process was like for you?

Using PluggedIn was extremely helpful in getting connected to Prattle. Having an understanding of what I was looking for, as well as knowing what I am capable of from previous roles made it easy to build my profile on PluggedIn. Once I did that I was exposed to jobs that aligned well with my qualifications and interests. It was within only a couple days of finding the position at Prattle that I was in communication with their team. PluggedIn was a non-intimidating way to make a big step in my career.
What will your role be there? What kinds of responsibilities will you have?
I’m coming on to Prattle as a Senior Account Support Manager. My responsibilities will range from working on special projects for the executive team to maintaining client relationships and ensuring their utmost satisfaction with the product.
You’ve worked at Groupon, TopOpps, Better Weekdays. What have you learned about working at various startup companies at different stages?

I have learned quite a bit. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that startup is a term that gets used to describe a lot of different types of company profiles. Some companies are truly starting up, while others are maturing and solidifying themselves as a brand name in their particular marketplace. Having an understanding of how much tolerance you have for change and uncertainty is essential before working at a startup. The earlier they are in their discussions with investors, the more vulnerable you will be to that change and uncertainty. Have a list of questions and characteristics you need to feel secure in that company. For instance, if HR and structure to some degree is a priority for you, many early stage startups may not have that. You will know this by asking who is either in that role, or designated as the interim manager for those responsibilities. Additionally, they would likely have a company handbook and policies.

What advice would you give to job seekers who are looking for a job or internship at a startup or innovative tech company in St. Louis? Where would you point them?

Advice I would give to anyone thinking about a career in startup is really to have an understanding and awareness of what you’re looking for. Your idea of startup may not be applicable to all startups. Take a self-inventory of the skills you want to utilize, the areas you want to further pursue, and the basic benefits/values/structure you require of a company. Talk to as many people as you can, and do your research. Resources such as PluggedIn are a great way to know what’s out there in your community. Even if a company isn’t hiring right now for the job you are looking for, reach out and continue to do your due diligence on them for when that opportunity comes about.

If you’re looking for new career opportunities, you should check out the Startup Talent Showcase next month!