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Scooters. IdeaPaint. Ball pits. Nerf guns.
It’s all coming at you. Straight at you. All you need to do is plunge right in.
Boston Startup Job Fair will be hosting an estimated 60 startup companies looking for talent, that is job seekers, to add to their teams on Thursday, April 11. Register by April 7th to secure a spot--it's free.
The Boston-based fair is a branch of the New York Startup Job Fair that just hosted its 6th event in the fall of 2012. The New York fair has been around for three years and was started by Patrick Duggan, a graduate from Columbia University now working at Credit Suisse.
“A lot of the time startups have trouble finding good talent, especially if they only have 10-15 employees,” said Ben Davis, the director of the fair and a Boston College Law School graduate. Most startups, according to Davis, often do not have the time or resources to actively seek out college graduates or qualified candidates to fill the positions needed for the startups to grow—some may not even have a Human Resources department. A more established company could have an entire team dedicated to college graduate recruiting; this simply isn’t feasible for a startup.
This is where Boston Startup Job Fair steps in.
“We allow startups to get together in one place, and bring the talent from the entire area to them,” Davis said, the talent being college students on the verge of graduation and on the hunt for a job.
The fair, set to be held at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, is expecting to draw in 40 to 60 startup companies from the Boston area with a few companies coming from New York, having participated in the New York fair. Most of the companies have local offices in the Boston, Cambridge and Waltham area, according to Davis. A few are based on the west coast.
The first two hours of the fair are reserved for developers to network with the employers.
“Thirty-three percent of our job seekers are developers,” Davis said. Given the heavily tech and digital-oriented nature of startups, Davis said that the group wanted to have some time dedicated towards the developer field.
Front end and back end developers are the hardest talent to find and are in the highest demand, according to Davis. However, he added, companies are looking for people to fill other positions as they grow and that the fair’s focus on developers shouldn’t deter students focusing in other fields to check out the fair.
Companies at the fair will be looking for students with backgrounds in communications, marketing, public relations, advertising and business management, in addition to computer science and software and developer-related majors. Internships through mid-level and senior positions are being offered. See job postings here.
Uber, a startup and a luxury car service in Boston, advocates itself as “your on-demand private driver.” According to Davis, the company is looking to fill two positions that aren’t technically related. Flipkey (owned by TripAdvisor) helps with travel plans. TheLadders is a comprehensive job-matching service for professionals and will also be looking to hire. And Thrivehive provides marketing services for local and small businesses.
“We’re hoping to get 1000 job seekers,” Davis said. There is no fee to register and attend the event. The New York fair last fall resulted in 80-100 hires and had more than 2000 students in attendance.
Risk and return: why work for a startup?
“I'm excited by it because somewhere out there is the next Google, or the next Facebook,” said Louis Gaglini, the associate director of employer relations and recruiting at Boston College’s Career Center, about the startup trend, a trend that reached a 15-year high in 2010 in terms of the percentage of Americans starting businesses, according to a report from the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes U.S. entrepreneurship.
As for 2011—the most recent data available—the percentage has dipped. The Kauffman Foundation reported that 0.32 percent of Americans created a business per month through the year of 2011, a 5.9 percent drop from 2010. This percentage translates to about 543,000 new businesses being created each month across the U.S.
However, “the reality is that a lot of new companies don’t succeed the way in which they had planned,” Gaglini said. The financial backing of a startup may be strong one day and can appear very weak the next day, according to Gaglini.
It all depends on the marketplace and what the organization is doing internally—a downturn in the market could significantly impair a young startup just as much as a failed launch of a new product could.
In fact, the risk is that three out of four startups fail, according to research done by Shikhar Gosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School as reported in this Wall Street Journal article.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, reports tell us that roughly 60 percent of startups make it to age three, and 35 percent reach age 10. Another BLS study of new businesses, published in 2007, found that if a company can get through the first four years after its birth, it has a better chance of surviving longer and experiencing employment growth.
“You need to do your research,” Gaglini said. He suggests that a student find out everything there is to know about both the company and the field—that advice applies to any type of organization whether startup or not. Knowing where a startup’s financial backing is coming from is as important, however, as knowing where their intellectual capital is coming from, according to Gaglini. Who are the people that are leading these new businesses?
“Are they smart people? Do they belong in the space that they work in?” Gaglini said to ask oneself. It’s about being aware that a company can fail and go into bankruptcy. But Gaglini said to pair cautiousness with excitement, enthusiasm, and ambition.
Although a larger organization might be more able to absorb shocks in the economy more easily than a startup, working at a big corporation like General Electric or Morgan Stanley isn’t for everyone. It’s really all about the right fit.
That doesn't mean you have to be a tech-geek to fit in. Most startups, in fact most organizations, take the best raw talent in a student and show that student how to do the work that they do in order to grow, Gaglini said. Startups need bright people full of energy who'll enjoy coming to work everyday—those people can be marketers, accountants, in human resources or from any other field of study.
“In most startups, you will have less hierarchy, fewer doors to go through—some startups don’t even have doors physically,” Gaglini said. Hierarchy is sometimes just more inherent in the nature of larger, more established organizations; they’ll have structure and they might have stockholders they are responsible for, according to Gaglini. Startups often have more room to move around.
“Everything is set in stone. They know how they want do things, and there is not as much room to innovate,” Davis said of larger, more established firms in comparison to startups, where new employees can have more say in what the company is doing and the direction in which it is heading. “It’s a lot harder to turn a big ship than a small ship,” Davis said.
Much like Google’s company culture, startup companies have open-space offices, ping pong tables, and group outings. They often invest in and promote a youth culture that makes the office place a more desirable place to spend time.
In addition to ball pits and perks, the return is that startups often give greater opportunity for fast professional growth—not that you’ll move from intern to vice president in a day but you have more of a chance to have a say and make an impact on the company's growth. In a startup environment, Gaglini said, you have to be willing to expect almost anything, “to thrive in uncertainty or ambiguity.”
For some people, living in a day-to-day mentality is exhilarating, and that's what working for a startup is all about. Others might want to stick to a predictable environment with a more established firm. That’s okay, though, because the choice is yours to make.
Register here to attend the Boston Startup Job Fair on April 11.
Feature photo courtesy of Ericluwj/Wikimedia Commons.