I would like to build my own startup one day, but for now I want to gain experience and learn as much as I can about the business side of successful startup companies.
What skills, habits and past experience are you looking for or admire in your employees? What do you recommend doing to someone trying to get a job on a unicorn startup company?
Every company has its own requirements, they are looking for some skill sets depending on their current needs.
But interest is a good start. When companies find out you are interested they are more likely to hire you.
The best way to get noticed is to be an active person outside the classroom. Honestly, everything you learn in college is either obsolete or standardized. So there is no key differentiation just by reading the textbooks and completing assignments. A high GPA may help you depending on your major, but I'd rather hire someone who has used their skills in the real world.
How do you do that? I will give you some suggestions:
1. Get involved in student organizations of your interest.
2. If you haven't found some organization that you are interested, create a side project with friends! In college I managed a social entrepreneurship project called Green Industry. We promoted sustainability and better waste management practices. We donated cans to a group of women who started a project to sustain their families, they used the cans as a material to fabricate candles. Also, we donated plastic bottles to a group of farmers because they wanted to implement a drip irrigation system in their crops. Do something valuable and people will notice it.
3. Network, network, network: Networking is a great way to meet people who can endorse you. In my experience, the people I've met were the ones that matter when I was looking for a job. Sometimes just applying to a position feels like you are shooting bullets to the air hoping you will hit the mark. Everything is about the people. But be a friend, be natural, offer your help, endorse their projects and be honest when they are looking for advice. The right people will see your value not only as a professional but also as a person, and believe me the second one matters a great deal.
4. Start a blog: This helps a lot if you want to get your ideas and thoughts noticed. I bluffed with this point a lot and I kinda regret it but I will launch one soon. Blogs are a great tool to write about your interests or the things you know. And if you manage to monetize it, now you have a new stream of income!
5. Apply for internships: This is crucial, look for student opportunities that could add value to your resume. Sometimes your college has a link to some organizations. These companies can end up hiring you in the future.
6. Acquire some on demand skills: There are several skills not related to your major that are always on high demand. Choose one or two you may find likeable. Some examples are: Web development, web design, accounting, writing, budgeting, process documentation, video editing and photography. You can use Udemy, Coursera and the Google-Udacity partnership to find some courses on these skills. With this you can earn some extra dollars and also people will notice it and recommend your services.
7. Make yourself visible in crowd-sourcing initiatives: Some companies get new ideas or delegate work to freelancers and the general public. For example, big tattoo studios delegate tattoo designs requests from customers to independent graphic designers. One friend of mine paid some bills with his tattoo designs. This is also a good opportunity to apply your skills.
8. Creativity is the future: Find your creative flow, complement your skill set with creativity.
9. Values: Everyone wants to be the best in their field, but sometimes you don't need a master, you need someone reliable. I prefer to hire a person with morals and good habits, someone who can fill me up with energy than a super genius who is always shady and feels fake. I'm not telling you to be always the optimistic and happy person in the room, we all know the world is not sunshine and rainbows and there is no need to force your feelings but to have principles. Like companies have a vision, mission and values who work as guidelines in every decision they make, a person should have them.
Hope this may help you, I wish you the best!
Sounds like your question may really be, “how do I make myself an attractive startup-hire candidate in a competitive talent pool?”
If your ultimate goal sooner or later is to build your startup, and if your financial status allows you to do that right now, I'd suggest that you do it from now really. Startup life is very hard from beginning if we are new, as hard as getting the initial ideas, cofounders, funds, users, investors, MVP, AB test, private/public beta test, and many other indispensable resources. As long as you have one startup exit somehow (might have some failed ones before), you are already on the road. That's why serial entrepreneurs build startups like playing games for fun. The fact that lots of serial entrepreneurs don't have experience in big companies is good evidence of suggesting doing it now. :) Your failed startups are your credits when it comes to investor interviews since the failures make you matured.
Emma - Find a company whose values and purpose align with yours then be humble, hungry and (people) smart. Lastly, always find ways to contribute - big and small. Good luck!