überlin

How to work at a startup: 3. Cover letter and social media

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

Ever wondered why cover letters are called cover letters?

That’s because they’re a cover-up, a fraud, a final attempt to reinforce all the lies you’ve shamelessly written on your resume and spice them up with some hardcore lip service. A good cover letter is something you can’t have your wife and children read without them thinking you’re willing to trade your family for a part-time customer service job at an internet startup.

Now, in order to write a convincing cover letter you have to be able to write a regular one. I know that nobody writes proper letters anymore, but in our childhood we’ve all done it in (at least) two specific circumstances.

#1 Love Letters

I remember middle school as the place where my first literary attempts took place. All the guys were pouring their hormonal intensity into odes to girls who either wouldn’t let them touch their breasts or didn’t have breasts at all. One of my letters was so successful that a 12-year-old girl in my class pulled me aside and kissed me, making death poems suddenly look like a better idea.

#2 Letters to Santa

Growing up in a catholic family, I could either write my Christmas wishes to Santa or to baby Jesus. I always picked the former, assuming that the old man wouldn’t be up to date with my sins. In hindsight I feel like I was never really filled in on the magic of Christmas and as a result all my letters to Santa sounded like financial scam against a vulnerable senior, as if I had to convince him to spend all his pension on my presents. Also, I probably looked down on Jesus, thinking that a baby born in a shed wouldn’t be able to discern between the real Little Mermaid merchandise and those cheap rip-offs.

Anyway, the perfect cover letter takes something from both examples; it combines the pained longing of the teenage love letter and the manipulative hidden agenda of the Santa letter; it makes big promises but also claims big rewards; it tells a company that you’ll be their dream, you’ll be their wish, you’ll be their fantasy. You’ll be their hope, you’ll be their love, be everything that they need. You’ll love them more with every breath (truly, madly, deeply do), you will be strong, you will be faithful ’cause you’re counting on a new beginning, a reason for living, a deeper meaning, yeah.

Template

Dear NAME_OF_RECRUITER,

My name is Federico Prandi Barry LaVaughn [PRO TIP: use a name that oozes out awesomeness: fake IDs aren’t as expensive as you think!] and I’m applying for the position of Online Marketing Manager after applying to three others and being rejected finding the job posting on some random Reddit thread the company website.

I’ve spent the past year watching every season of Survivor on my couch traveling around the world, but now I need money feel like it’s time for a new professional challenge. I’ve been keeping an eye on NAME_OF_COMPANY for the past seven minutes, while simultaneously shopping on Amazon years and I was always impressed by your constant achievements in terms of growth and marketing efforts.

Before traveling, I worked for two months years at a marketing agency whose main focus are on-site and off-site SEO. When the company started offering a wider range of services, the fact that I have a Twitter account with more than 6 followers my holistic approach to online marketing came especially handy and I was given new responsibilities. My professional path gave me practical experience in stalking people online conducting detailed on-site audits, developing actionable inbound marketing strategies and researching keywords in a clever way. My team left the boat before it sank swayed between “very small” and a “one-man-show”, which made me cry in the shower at night called for crazy organizational skills, high versatility and alcoholism a talent for setting priorities.

In my private time I tend to read and write Harry Potter erotic fanfic in a lot of online places (forums, blogs, e-zines, online newspapers, social media…you name it!); this gave me a very sharp sensitivity when it comes to anything futile in life contemporary online trends and the language of the web.

Having read the profile you’re looking for, I am going to ignore all the requirements I don’t have and apply anyway think I might be a valuable asset to your team and at the same time have a chance to grow as a marketer.

I look forward to hearing back from you and dive deeper into the selection process.

Best,

Barry

Ta-da! You’re all set!

You have the perfect CV, the perfect cover letter and you’re now ready to pack everything together and send your application via email.

Bonus Track: Clean up your social media

via GIPHY

Actually.

There is one more little thing that needs to be done in order to make your application really really perfect.

Hire a private investigator (or me if I’m bored) and ask him to turn the internet upside down in search of some dirt about you. As much as you consider yourself an amazing human being, that time you made fun of coat-hanger abortions on Twitter may not be well perceived by everybody.

Delete the tweet and, since you’re at it, replace it with a photoshopped picture of you hugging a koala bear (which, in my opinion, is exactly what restored Luke Perry’s public image after 90210).

Bingo – you’re all set!

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, read the rest of the series here. And check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).

How to work at a startup: 2. Your resume

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

If you’ve read the previous chapter of this guide, you should have identified the startup job of your dreams and be ready to apply.

If you haven’t found your dream job, that probably means you’re being too picky and are doomed to homelessness while you wait around for that perfect job to pop up (“Hairstylist at a horse beauty contest”).

hairstyle

But let’s assume you are ready to go.

Applying for a job at an internet startup is a delicate process that you can’t afford to fuck up. Your whole career depends on this preliminary phase, so in this second chapter I’ll focus on how to put together a spotless Curriculum Vitae.

STEP 1 – LAYOUT

Once upon a time the world of CVs was ruled by an evil king called European Model. The European Model states that all the information inside a CV shall be divided into two columns and presented in the most readable (i.e. boring) way possible, as if to proudly proclaim to the world that we all have OCD.

Then the game changed. Recruiters were getting tired of their job life after hours of going through piles of excruciatingly boring and anonymous documents, while at the same time Internet startups started understanding the value of differentiation and personality.

I remember the day that Davide, a former boss of mine, decided that pink was the right colour with which to rebrand his career and had a professional graphic designer redesign his resume. Not only did the document suddenly look shiny and fresh, but a couple of weeks later Davide was offered a new, better job.

Clearly, I needed to follow his footsteps.

I went home and dusted off my self-taught Paint skills to give my CV that subtle touch of personality which makes it look like the Myspace page of a 13-year-old Luke Perry fan.

blur_CV

I only wish the PDF format allowed me to include a “My Heart Will Go On” midi file and an animated glitter effect on each page, but I guess you can’t have everything.

STEP 2 – THE PHOTO

Stop everything you’re doing now. You need to take care of your CV photo ASAP. There are three possible strategies to follow:

1) The Conference Photo

My personal favourite resume picture is the one in which the subject is giving a talk at a conference, looking irresistibly smart.

Of course, you can always fake this. You just need a shot taken from below (or by a very short person) while you’re holding a microphone. Karaoke will do, but be sure to take care to Photoshop out the lyrics of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” from that giant screen in the background.

2) The German Photo

Months ago I tricked my boyfriend into watching five hours of Vier Hochzeiten und eine Traumreise (the German version of the American reality show Four Weddings). It really seemed as if the future brides on the show hadn’t grown up idealising their wedding and I ended up applauding German society for that.

The truth is that in Germany your wedding day is not even as important as the day on which you have your LinkedIn picture taken. Little girls grow up dreaming of which pantsuit they’re going to wear and their prudent mothers make sure to have enough money saved up to pay for makeup artists.

A German CV photo basically portrays you at your fanciest. If the Financial Times and Men’s Health were ever to merge and I was asked to appear on the cover, that’s the kind of picture I would go for.

3) The Boy Next Door Photo

I hate to highlight this, but a lot of internet startups are owned by nerds who still giggle when they see a boob and have been wearing the same three hoodies for the past 13 years.

If you suspect option 1 and 2 may be too threatening for the company you’re approaching, just go for the boy-next-door photo. Smile at the camera, look natural, don’t overdo it. And if you can’t help thinking the picture could be better, send it to your friend who claims to know Photoshop and ask him or her to Vogue it up. That expensive nose job you’ve always desired is only a couple of clicks away.

noses

(Shout out to my co-worker Maria for noticing, after months of working together, that “there’s something different in your LinkedIn picture, but I couldn’t say what”).

STEP 3  CONTENT

Wait a second now. Nobody knows better than I that the sentence “I can easily operate an excavator” comes with a price, so I don’t mean to suggest you write things that aren’t true on your CV. You should definitely consider, though, writing things that are *almost* true.

Every single task you do at work can be blown up to unprecedented levels of greatness and graciously land on your resume. Last week, for example, I put together a scrapbook for a co-worker who’s leaving the company and even though the result looked pretty amateurish, I can’t wait for my next employer to read about my skills in “coordinating and executing internal design projects involving more than 20 team members”.

You know what I mean? In order to write a good CV you need to walk the fine line between truth and outright lie, and pray that nobody checks your criminal record.

Some more random tips include:

  • Never specify you can work with Microsoft Word and are an accustomed Internet user unless you’re planning on sending your CV back in time to 1997.
  • If you’ve ever played team sports be sure to mention it, even if you were forced by your parents who eventually changed their minds after you went on a two-week long hunger strike.
  • Mention somewhere that you’re very good with pivot tables, then head to the nearest church to ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  • Ask a trusted friend to check for grammar mistakes, typos and the inadvertent inclusion of terms like “semi-reformed arsonist”, which could lower your chances of getting the job.

In the next episode I’ll teach you how to write a proper cover letter and manage your online persona before submitting the application.

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).

How to work at a startup: 1. Finding a job

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

My mother used to put stuff in boxes. Professionally. She did it for 30 years at the same small-sized suburban Italian company and while the boxes were sent everywhere in the world, my mom and her career weren’t exactly going places.

My dad, the only male among four siblings, had to drop out of middle school to help his father in the fields. Like many of his peers, he learned to think of work as something that is closely related to suffering, sacrifice and blind obedience.

Whenever I tell my parents about company breakfasts, team building events and gamification, they share a very specific look that I’ve come to interpret as “Our son is lying to us. He doesn’t have a job in Berlin. He’s squatting an abandoned building and carries stolen drugs across countries in order to pay for his groceries.”

I get that look. I do. Growing up with a blue-collar mindset made me both conscious of my current luck and weirdly aware of the seemingly absurd sides of the startup life.

This series of posts is the natural consequence of that.

CHAPTER 1: FINDING A JOB

This is going to sound obvious, but in order to work at a startup – in Berlin or anywhere else – you need to either found one or be hired by one. I’m going to focus on the latter ’cause I’m a slacker and I’ve made it my life goal to achieve less and less every day.

If you’re smart you’ve probably created alerts that fire off an email every time a desirable position is available, either through Google Alerts or more specific job hunting platforms like Indeed.de or BerlinStartupJobs.com. What you might not know, though, is that when it comes to job titles startups can be as quirky as the side character of an indie TV series.

The chances that your alert will be triggered by the keyword “customer relationship manager” are thinner, for example, than the ones for the keyword “Customer Happiness Ninja”. Stop looking for “Sales Manager” and keep your eyes open for stuff like “Customer retention power ranger”, “Office management karate kid”, “Java Sorcerer” and any title that could have easily been invented by a Dungeon Master after his sixth pint of mead. ‘Cause nerdz.

Startups want their jobs to sound so cool that it’s impossible not to want them. I’m perfectly happy with my own job, but if I ever read an ad for a “fluffer of moral erections”, I’ll drop everything and go, even if it means I end up teaching old ladies how to dance salsa in a holiday resort a la Swayze in Dirty Dancing.

The exceptions to this rule are the internships. Companies don’t even try to make these “jobs” sound cool, given that the word “intern” is at times already an euphemism for “slave”.

Centuries ago, before the invention of coconut M&Ms or, like, minimum wage, I was doing an internship. Money was so tight that I felt compelled to rewrite the Wikipedia page for the term to reflect my true real feelings about the matter.

internship_wiki

Unfortunately a Wikipedia editor told me I wasn’t being – air quote – objective about the facts. Fine, Mr. Logic. Whatever.

Anyway, you need to really read those job postings and check off the required skills one by one, even if that’s boring. And when you’re doing so, try to be honest with yourself about your real capabilities. I once thought my brain had no boundaries, but then it turns out that things like the Norwegian language or “Ruby on Rails” (I still think that’s the name of a synthetic drug) cannot be learned overnight.

Bummer.

Once you’ve found a position that seems perfect for you, don’t just start shooting off applications like crazy. You need to pick the right startup before even letting them pick you. Of course you wanna be employed by a winner and there’s one basic criteria to discern whether an internet company is gonna take over the world. Mark my words: It’s all in the name.

Look around: the “General Motors” days are over. Don’t look for class, meaning or authority in a name. The startup world is now calling for “Goojdi”, “Faamp”, “Leerk” and “Huora” (which was gonna be the name of my own startup until someone told me it literally means “whore” in Finnish). In other words, you need to look for a name that sounds like something between the first words of a baby and what your cat may have written while walking on the keyboard.

The only acceptable alternative to this are Latin words. A lot of startup founders pick these, probably by listening to Harry Potter spells and noting down stuff that sounds nice. Sometimes it works, but other times your web agency ends up being called “ferocity” in Italian.

Roar.

In the next episode I’ll teach you how to actually apply for the startup job of your dreams.

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).