Tom Higgins Toon, an MML graduate from Selwyn College, shares why you should take the plunge and work for a start-up
As a recent graduate, my last year at Cambridge was punctuated by seemingly innumerable careers events. In Michaelmas, law firms, consultancies and banks would compete for students’ attention, stalls filled with corporate goodies and slick HR managers. The message, it seemed, was clear — your future lies in big businesses with well developed graduate recruitment schemes.
The idea of working for a start-up in these uncertain times never crossed my mind. Why would I risk putting my neck on the line for someone else’s brainchild? Surely Brexit had killed off the famed British entrepreneurial spirit? Wrong. According to the Daily Telegraph, a remarkable 660,000 new companies are registered in the UK every year — and the rate is increasing year on year. This begs the question — why shouldn’t graduates consider exploiting this gold mine of ideas, innovation and ingenuity?
Part of the problem is marketing. Since most entrepreneurs throw considerable amounts of their own capital at their business, they tend to be reticent when it comes to splashing the cash. First and foremost, there must be a convincing product to advertise! Simply put, most start-ups and SMEs simply cannot afford to reach out and recruit university graduates.
So how did I find out about TempaGoGo, the two-piece London-based recruitment start-up for whom I now work? As with most things, the internet. Or, to be precise, the Careers Service website, a brilliant portal that instantly puts companies, no matter what size, in contact with fresh-faced university students looking to land their first big job.
Here are my top five reasons why taking a dip in the uncharted waters of the start-up world can put you on a fast stream to success. Take the plunge!
Think about it. If you find yourself behind a hot desk at EQ, it might take forty years hard graft before you can even consider making any decisions worthy of note. Yet in a start-up environment, you might well end up contributing 25% of all ideas! Founders are rarely certain themselves as to how their product might pan out, and so it is up to you to come up with ideas and work out how to implement them.
All hands on deck
In a company that has fewer than 5 people on the books, you might well find yourself doing marketing one day, operations the next and accounts the day after that. Since recruiters cannot afford to be picky, the ghastly ‘one-year’s experience in this or that’ seldom comes into the equation. There is always something that needs to be done and not enough people to do it!
In a corporate setting, it is all too easy to feel like a cog in the proverbial machine. Recruiters love factual evidence, so it can be hard to separate ‘I’ from ‘We’. But one good idea in a start-up — maybe pushing visual content via an Instagram account — and you can watch the leads flowing in before your very eyes. Same too for the business more broadly as it scales up towards SME and listed status. Whilst it is true that most start-ups fail, those that don’t can prove exceptionally lucrative.
In 2019, any start-up founder worth his or her salt must know how to manipulate data. Since analysts are prohibitively expensive, you have to learn how to crunch the numbers yourself. Getting to grips with Google Analytics and SEO will stand you in good stead for years to come, so you might as well add the digital string to your bow sooner rather than later. Plus as a key member of the team, you will be given the freedom to experiment with social media, marketing options, website design…
The life of an entrepreneur is not as glamorous as Silicon Valley might suggest, but start-ups are nonetheless a hotbed for young fresh talent with big ideas. Tech start-ups often tap into university resources and networks, so you don’t ever really have to leave!
This article was originally published on UniCamCareers, the official blog of the Cambridge University Careers Service.