You got hired because you have a passion for brands and were able to talk intelligently to the client about Snapchat. You always thought you’d be doing something that had an impact on consumers. Clearly, writing Facebook posts for a cheese client wasn’t what you had in mind when you envisioned your career at a marketing agency.
So you’ve realized it’s time to do something else. The good news is, your skills are not at all limited to agency life. In fact, they are very applicable to the startup world. As a former agency person, let me explain why your skills can work well and are very needed in startups.
Building the right team is the most important thing in the first few years on a startup’s life. A quality product, happy customers… all of that is a result of getting the right people on the bus. At One Mighty Roar, we invest heavily in the people we bring into the company. Every person who ends up on our website has a backstory and lessons learned from their former work lives.
For me, I came to OMR after suffering nearly four years of agency life without much to feel good about. Now, my work as a strategist gives me more opportunities to impact how people use technology. Specifically, my team is working to help the Internet of Things be easier to use and make connected devices work together. I can see the real world business value on projects like this and this is my motivation to keep pushing the notion of what’s possible.
You might not realize the skills you learned while eating lunch lonely at your desk trying to power through a deck. But the truth is, startups are looking for people just like you. We sometimes just suck at writing job posts that reflect the skills we really need, so you may need to look beyond the bullet points and seek us out.
Here are four skills that I promise will make any startup person smile during the interview:
Attention to Detail – The likelihood of clients reading your meeting notes is about the same as getting your time-sheets done on time. However, this attention to detail can help the team keep track of items that need more attention. Your ability to take notes and follow up will be a surprising change to people who are used to being pulled in different directions all day. They will look to you as a valuable project manager and as the organized person to remind them about that pitch presentation that has been sitting on their to-do list for a month.
Distill Thoughts to Actionable Goals – Inside the war rooms of startups, many ideas are talked about with little or no action on what to do next. People with an agency background have been trained to distill a client’s thoughts into goals for the agency to solve or explore. Think of the startup as your client. By coming up with action items for each talking point, you’ll be the envy of the office happy hour.
Focus the Team on Solving One Problem – Remember that time you shut your creative team in a room until they solved how they were going to make a 30 second spot into a 15 second one? Well, the same skill to keep a team motivated and focused applies in the startup world too. While it’s not on most job descriptions, startups are looking for people that can motivate teams members, be their cheerleader, and keep projects on the right track.
Creative Thinking with a Mind to Build – Does it ever frustrate you that your agency doesn’t really make anything? You don’t make products, you advertise them. Building things is exactly what startups do. But what they need more of are people with a maker’s passion — but creative thinking — to solve the daunting “What’s next?” question that many agency folks can’t seem to master. The skills needed here are simple: You have the ability to think creatively on hard problems. This type of thinking happens all the time at agencies; you just don’t have the right team to actually implement the ideas. This is your chance to finally create things that people will use.
I hope by outlining the skills startups are craving will inspire you to consider switching to startup life. Skill level aside, what I believe to be the best reason to take your agency experience to a startup is the power you have to make change happen. Some agencies pitch “pie in the sky” ideas to clients knowing moving forward won’t actually happen. Startups, on the other hand, foster a culture to take on challenges and take the risk to actually execute ideas and try new things. Change is something startups embrace. Watching the success of a startup from the outside is one thing, but being involved in the experience will impact you the way you wish your agency did. Trust me, I work at a startup.