Want an internship in tech? Don’t apply for one.

Last January I knew I wanted to work “in tech.” I didn’t know anything else.

By February I had spoken to over 50 people - CEOs at large and small companies, growth hackers at funded and unfunded companies, VCs and angels. I didn’t have a job – but I understood what various jobs entailed. And I knew what I wanted to do.

I didn’t ask each person for a job – I asked what he or she did. This might sound stupid, but I just didn’t know what a “growth-hacker” or “PM” did on a day-to-day basis.

With this information, I was able to make an informed decision about the job I wanted. I wanted a small company. I wanted to do a bit of everything. And I wanted to work right along side an experienced entrepreneur.

Knowing exactly what I wanted was awesome.

I was in a situation where:

  1.   I knew exactly what I wanted.
  2. I could explain to anyone why I wanted the job and why I’d be good at it.  
  3. I had just spoken to 50 people in the industry. Because I didn’t come to them immediately begging for a job, they were all open to helping me.

Of the 50 people I spoke to, only 5 were working on very young projects – I asked about 20 of them if they had friends working on young, unfunded companies.  Most people knew three or four people.

They referred me. Being referred is far better (I think) than applying only through a generic hiring platform.


Details:

How did I meet with the 50 people?

I asked around: I couldn’t think of any friends living in SF. I checked facebook and LinkedIn – turns out I did have friends there. I also contacted alumni from my school. I asked smart family friends for intros. I was blown away by how much everyone (friends, alumni, family friends) wanted to help me.

I cold-emailed: I didn’t email companies (jobs@whatever.com). I emailed people. I figured out whom I wanted to work beneath and contacted them directly. If you can’t figure out whom you want to work for, or how to contact them – then good luck keeping up at these jobs anyway.

Here is an example email:

Hi Whatever, 

My name is Logan Randolph. I'm a college junior studying behavioral economics. I’m fascinated by startups. Working a few projects of my own - Doing basically everything uncoded. Learning a ton. Loving it.

Anyway, a friend of mine is using X and loving it - he is obsessed. When he told me about it, I immediately fell in love with the idea. Really rad idea, and (from what I've heard) killer execution. 

I'm passionate about productivity/efficiency startups. I'd love to hear more about the project and about your background.  

I looked at Cruchbase and saw that the X Office is in SOMA. I wondered if you had time for a coffee or lunch next week? Maybe Weds or Thurs? 

Thanks,

-L

 

Another thoguht: when you are reaching out to strangers at a startup… don’t go for the founder – she will be busy. Go for the right hand man. He has a ton of sway, and was smart enough to recognize genius in the founder.

In these emails, I was sincere. When I emailed companies I didn’t actually love, I never heard back. When I emailed companies I loved, I heard back immediately. People can smell passion. You can’t fake it.

I responded to rejection smartly. Some people didn’t respond or shut me down. There is a time for pushing - It’s not 10 minutes after getting rejected.

What Can you do to become a better candidate?

Hone a skill. Everyone can learn quickly and hustle. In addition to this, have a skill you can use on day one. I bragged about my analytics and organizational skills.

Be honest. I told people what I sucked at (spelling, working when I’m hungry, etc). I told people what I was good at. I focused on showing people who I am. This made interviews less stressful. My honesty also made me more credible when I talked about what I was good at.

Read up:

Read hacker news.
Read TechCrunch.
Read the FR Review.
These sources will make you litereate in the world of tech.