The answer is simply – that they’re so much alike. Startups (the term chiefly pertains to the technology industry) and new companies, like recent PR grads and even nearly-finished students, are bright-eyed and optimistic – no matter the economic climate. Here are a few reasons why those of you who are looking for jobs, may want to rethink the big names (ie: Edleman, Hill & Knowlton, Fleishman Hillard) and put your name and interest out to the small or, er – no names.
- Agility: Like you, small companies don’t have a ton to lose. They don’t have families (long-standing business partners) yet, they’re not bound to a location or direction. They can bob and weave through sticky situations and can focus more on innovation than stabilizing a large company. While large companies tend to drag their feet with announcements, small companies have the advantage of churning out huge updates to their products and services on a regular basis.
- Experience over Security: This is my promise: The experience and knowledge you’ll garner in one month will be equal to that of 6 months at one of the big firms. While with big firms, you’re pretty sure of your job ( bonuses, raises), you will likely be doing grunt work for a while, no one-on-one work with clients and no significant media outreach for months. With a startup, you’ll likely be pitching the Washington Post right off the bat.
- Fresh meat: For one, it gives you the chance to take “no-name” companies and build their awareness from scratch, no bad blood, no skeletons. Just your strategy, guts and fresh approach. Same idea with the next…
- Story: Like your resume, they’re still developing their story – very much your job to help with that. But because they’re small, they’re able to adapt and mold their story – or even completely switch gears, without killing it. They don’t have a ton of history to hold them down or to overcome.
- Startup community: One of the coolest things about the startup culture is how tight-knit it is. Take events like Ignite, Startup Weekend, and SF Beta. They bring together and showcase some of the newest and breaking technologies as well as the companies that are about to explode (in a good way) within their veins of technology. Cool stuff, and while they don’t always center around technology, they provide a wonderful support system and network for new companies. Some cool emerging startup communities are:
- New York City – Yes, kind of surprising since it’s the center of all industry, but their startup community is very tight-knit and supportive. Companies don’t drown in NYC, they thrive – Take Etsy, Foursquare, Meetup, and Boxee
- Boulder, CO – They say it themselves: “Boulder is for startups.” They are famous for a wealth of beer-charged meetups and a ‘cool kids club’ type of environment where technology thrives. Some of the coolest companies come out of boulder.
- Portland, OR – Wedged between Seattle (Microsoft fortress) and Silicon Valley, Portland seems to be a catch-all, a stewpan for new companies. Their famous phrase “Keep Portland Weird” should actually read “Keep Portland Innovative.
- Atlanta, GA – There are some sweet things happening in the south. It’s a hotspot meetups, conferences, web development and design, social web innovation not just in Georgia, but spanning a huge community south of the Mason-Dixon line.
- Austin, TX – Home to the insanely popular annual film/music/interactive festival, SXSW, this community is huge for technology innovation: Check out Austin Startup for upcoming events and companies to watch.
- Do or die: Either execute or be executed – startups are ALL IN from day one, because if they don’t strategize, execute and deliver, they’re down for the count. No pressure.
- Innovation/Creativity: When working with startups you see the coolest and newest technology in its earliest stages. But whether companies are unfunded or are there is an element of desperation (see “do or die”) and it’s this desperation that triggers innovation and thinking outside the box with their technology – just like you will need to think outside of the box to give your company a voice and make some noise in very noisy industries – tech or not.
- Triumphs are longstanding/failures short-lived: [for the most part] The nicest thing is that with such a high metabolism, a startup can quickly recover from a flawed beta test or an awful review in Macworld. What’s more, when you land a great story in the New York Times, the interest in new technology is so great, that the story has potential for massive syndication, follow-up/response stories and tons of tiny blog posts. You, too, are young enough that you can recover from mistakes and make improvements.
- Opportunities for disruption: Startups have the unique opportunity – responsibility, really – of disrupting their channels of technology, taking done ideas and reworking and revamping them to turn the industry on its head and take it in new directions. You, too, have the chance to take a very done practice, like PR, and create new ideas for awareness and storytelling.
I’m just sayin’ – lots of opportunity here to give yourself a leg up without depending on larger companies who are already drowning in resumes. For starters, search and GO TO your local tech events: Ignite shows – see who’s sponsoring them, find out who’s presenting. Eventbrite, while focusing on all types of events, is a startup itself and thus is used by lots of startups – look at different events in your area to find out who is participating. Easy enough, right?
The point is that it’s a tough market for a new job-hunter. And here’s one place where your communication training and skills are so needed. And if you think you can’t get into tech, believe me, it’s more relevant to you than you might think – and pretty addicting stuff.