A little over 9 months ago, I graduated from Allegheny College. That day, I was so glad to be a graduate that I didn’t think about a pressing problem: what next?
I had a vague idea of what I wanted, and at the core was this magical word: entrepreneurship. As a college student, I was a cofounder of a startup, and this experience defined my post-graduate plans. I first applied to a Fellowship program that placed college graduates in a startup for three years. In case that didn’t work out, I also applied to an Early MBA program where I could build my skill set, cultivate a solid network, and participate in a vibrant entrepreneurial environment. As a final safety net, I applied for marketing jobs in the Pittsburgh area. But the end goal was always to be part of a startup after honing my skill set.
So, what happened? The Fellowship program didn’t work out, my MBA application got rejected, and I didn’t get any of the jobs I interviewed for. So, what did I do? I moved back home, where I had New York City and lots of time at my disposal. During the months after graduation, I read voraciously, talked to family friends, connected with fellow Allegheny alums, volunteered as an English tutor, went to a local job fair, and had a couple interviews. As time passed, the startup dream became more and more out of reach, and it felt like I was destined to go the traditional route of getting a job for the sake of having one.
My savior came in the form of Startup Institute. Located in New York City’s financial district, Startup Institute enticed me threefold: a curriculum that addressed my interests, a chance to connect with like-minded individuals, and an opportunity to network with startups in Silicon Alley.
The beauty of Startup Institute was that it offered career changers and recent graduates a chance to develop skills that would allow them to be a high performing employee at a startup. For me, that involved learning with my fellow Technical Marketing Track peers, being Project Manager for a team project with a partner startup company, attending events in NYC, and having coffee chats with individuals I met through this unique 8-week program.
So, knowing what I know now, what’s my advice to college students or recent graduates combing the job market?
- Read What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles and Great Jobs For Liberal Arts Majors by Blythe Camenson. Use these books to figure out possible career paths and networking strategies. Parachute is a great job-hunting manual as well as a must-have resource for career changers.
- Take advantage of your college alumni network. See if you can schedule informal coffee/phone chats to figure out if ________ career/industry is something you want to pursue.
- Use Meetup.com. Find a group near you with similar interests, and attend their events. You never know who you’ll meet and the opportunities that might swing your way.
- Keep updated on the news and current trends. Personally, I love staying informed through Feedly and Circa.
- Keep your skills sharp. Take online courses on sites like Khan Academy, Coursera, edX, etc.
- Stay positive, and don’t give up! You’ll find your Otaku—Seth Godin defines this term in his book, Purple Cow, as “something that’s more than a hobby but a little less than an obsession” (79). Of course, Godin uses this to describe a remarkable product, but I feel that it can also be used to describe a person’s dream job.
Without a doubt, if startups are where you want to be, I highly encourage you to consider applying to Startup Institute. For me, taking the leap to be a Technical Marketing student was the best decision I ever made. Before Startup Institute, it felt like I was driving around aimlessly. Now it doesn’t feel that way anymore. Instead, I’m driving with a definite destination in mind, but the only things I need to navigate are the many different paths to get to that destination.
Anulekha Venkatram is a Technical Marketing Alumna at Startup Institute New York.