Get a job by acting like a start-up

A lot of people are faced with redundancy, and traditionally either use recruitment agencies or career consultancies if they are lucky. But one approach not traditionally considered, but which could well work for you in these uncertain times is to act a little like a start-up. Here’s my notes on how to do this based on real life experience of redundancy and start-up skills. It’s an unusual mix but one which could make the difference between success and failure in difficult times.

OK, so the lean start-up method is based on the idea that successful start-ups aren’t just about hard work and luck, but need to based in testing out your product: build-measure-learn. In other words once you have an idea you validate it with customers, and if it doesn’t fly you ‘pivot’ and change tack with a more customer friendly approach until you hit the sweet spot.

Similarly, people treat job hunting as a combination of hard work and luck, but don’t consider sufficiently that you need to be able to sell yourself, where the CV is really a piece of marketing material and the interview is really a business meeting where you ask for feedback from a potential customer. So just like a start-up you may focus on a particular market and test out whether your skills and experience are sufficient to land a job. But if not then it’s not the end of the road, but the beginning of a process following start-up principles.

Instead of simply pumping out hundreds of CVs you listen carefully to feedback from potential employers (customers) for their views on your performance (your ‘pitch’ to use start-up jargon) to refine your offering. If necessary, where you aren’t making headway consider ‘pivoting’ and look at a different sector where you have sell-able skills and experience. Above all you’re not a ‘job beggar’ simply asking for a job for the sake of it, but a business person looking to meet the employer’s business needs.

That way while you may ‘fail’ at a series of interviews, by taking on the feedback and considering what the customer says, you are going to fail faster and eventually succeed; by taking a more entrepreneurial approach more likely to beat the competition you can land the job of your dreams, even in a recession-hot jobs market. Believe it or not I’ve been turned down by top global companies including Barclays, Shell, and Ernst and Young in 2012 – but through application of start-up techniques ended up with a nice job.


Orange Different Business

Having been on a lean start-up weekend for budding entrepreneurs, I know how tough it can be to get a great business idea off the ground. I’ve also gained some good experience working with entrepreneurs as a consultant, from online gaming start-up ‘Name That Place’ to a China-based surgical planning software company, to know it’s easier said than done. In thinking through the many issues around getting an idea to product stage and then into the marketplace – from validating the idea with customers, through to seeking investment, each stage requires time and effort. So it’s welcome news that mobile company Orange has launched the Win Your Business competition to give you the chance to follow in their footsteps.

Of course, the business-savvy folks at Orange aren’t just handing out investment cash, (but then money isn’t the key to start-up success). What they are doing is making sure you have the necessary support, advice and investment to get you started on the road to success – and change your life forever!

The competition panel of judges includes some of the UK’s most successful business leaders – Spencer McHugh and Martin Stiven of Everything Everywhere, the name of the combined Orange and T-Mobile business. Nigel Jones, head of one of the UK’s biggest integrated advertising agencies, Publicis Group UK. And Steve Neal, Partner at One of the UK’s top 20 firms of accountants Kingston Smith LLP. So why not tell them about your innovative new idea and you could become the UK’s next different business? They’re looking for a different idea, different approaches, clear strategies – something that is worth funding. The prize is worth up to £200,000 and includes not just investment capital, but legal advice, business planning advice, mentoring, and marketing consultancy.

To speed things up I’ve added the entry guide for you below, or access it online here (pdf). Then once you’ve registered and completed the application using the guide, you need to submit it by 31 March.


What is your different business idea? As a guide, describe your idea in 100 words:

  • What is it that you propose to do?
  • What is your vision?
  • Is your idea innovative? How does it differ from what has been done before?

marketing plan

Take the judges through your topline marketing plan — this is how you’ll bring your strategy to action. As a guide, try to do this in 500 words:

  • Evidence of your market research
  • An understanding of what are your competitors doing
  • What is your vision?
  • Identify your target market — who is it for?
  • Lead times
  • Any regulatory restrictions
  • Marketing penetration strategy

financial plan

Take us through your financial plan — have you identified the level of business financing you will need to grow? As a guide, try to do this in 400 words:

  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash Flow Analysis
  • Profit and Loss Analysis
  • Break-even Analysis
  • Personnel Expense Forecast

why different?

Tell us why your idea is exciting, different and innovative and why it should be considered for the prize. As a guide, try to do this in 200 words:

  • This doesn’t mean the product or idea has to be completely brand new – it may be a different approach to an existing idea or concept

operational plan

Tell us how your business will run and how you plan to get your products/service to market. As a guide, try and do this in 400 words:

  • Who is doing what?
  • What are the day to day activities?
  • How will the suppliers and vendors be used?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • What are the labour requirements?
  • What are the sources of raw materials?

So that’s pretty much it. Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions is 31 March. So get involved, and share this opportunity with your friends.


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