"What advice do you have for 'in'trepreneurs?" .. meaning those who risked jobs at stable, albeit less exciting, ventures in order to work tirelessly behind the scenes to help make their bosses' vision a reality. I think in all honesty, the question stumped us, and we gave some feeble Hallmark-esk response. As the entrepreneurs ourselves, we know what we want in an employee (dedication, flexibility, creativity, loyalty, ability to grow and learn) and we know what we should do in order to attract and retain such talent (provide flexible work schedules, incentives to learn, involve them and give them a voice in the development of the company, reward them when the company succeeds)... but did we truly give advice to those who are seeking or starting careers in the rapidly growing tech startup economy as intrepreneurs..? Well in all honesty.. I don't think the advice I would give is much different than the advice I would give to a budding entrepreneur.. or any millennial seeking a startup centered career in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
1. Set an end game goal
Once you start on that path, be appreciative and open to all that you can gain from each step, even if it is serving and busing tables at PaPa's Italian Bistro, or cold calling customers via Telemarketers-R-Us in order to simply make ends meet while you are in college. Because waiting tables can teach you how to multitask, listen, and respond; and calling complete strangers to sell them something can teach you how to communicate quickly and effectively. Also, remember to be open not only to the opportunities you seek out, but also to those that fall into your lap; and try your best to never burn bridges.
2. Get out there and network
In the Birmingham area, there are a number of young professional groups such as YPBirmingham or the Junior League of Birmingham designed specifically for women. In addition, Startup Drinks Birmingham, is a great way to both network specifically in the startup arena, as well as also get opportunities to practice and receive feedback for your pitch.
But while you are busy hitting the pavement and honing those networking skills, don't forget about your professional online presence (or POP as coined by my colleague Carolyn Garrity at BSC). Create a LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio, and clean up that Twitter feed and Facebook page. You don't need to be fake or impersonal, but the keg stand pictures probably need to go private. Then get all of that information on a business card (c'mon vistaprint is pretty cheap) and make sure to bring those cards with you EVERYWHERE. While the majority of your contacts will be made face to face, you can help solidify that connection with a card that allows the person you just met to follow up on social media or learn more about you on your efolio site. And while you are at it, be sure to follow up on LinkedIn yourself after meeting someone new, ask them to connect and let them know that it was great to meet them the other night at Good People.
One important thing to remember, don't stop networking or updating your resume. The number one mistake young professionals make early in their careers is to stop looking for opportunities for improving their skills, which means they typically stop networking and get comfortable (or complacent) in their current position... And then suddenly when they are, for one reason or another, let go from their current position, they do not know where to start in order to move on to the next step in their path. Make sure you are able to recognize when you have outgrown your current position... or worse, the current position has outgrown you.
3. Reflect and adapt
One of the best ways we can ensure that we listen to our true calling and adapt to an ever changing environment is to critically reflect on both ourselves and our goals. So journal, blog, sing, something. just make sure you take the time to reflect on 1) do you still want to do what you want to do, 2) have the reasons for why you want to do what you want to do changed, and 3) how are the things currently in your life helping you to achieve you end game goal. And if you are unable to check each box, reflect on ways in which you can change either your goal or your path in a way that is both healthy and constructive. And above all, don't be afraid to ask for help, better yet find a mentor or a career coach that you can meet with periodically who has nothing but your best interests at heart.
Now., while I freely admit I do not have the answers for everything, I hardly have answers for my 3 year old son.. But I can say with certainty that if you listen to your gut, take some risks while also learning when to say no.. you can earnestly enjoy both the path life takes you as well as when you reach your final end game goal (whatever it may be). You just have to be both brave and honest.