Jason Calacanis, famed serial entrepreneur (LAUNCH founder), angel investor (Uber’s first-round!), and blogger (calacanis.com), recently wrote an article on his personal blog that has some incredible advice for those just starting their careers.
I want to share Jason’s post with you, as it really resonates with me, both as a young adult and an aspiring entrepreneur.
The article, in typical Jason fashion, was very long, but extremely insightful.
My quick summary of his post follows…Enjoy!
#1. BE GREAT AT AN IMPORTANT SKILL.
The important skills in the world right now include:
c. product design
f. corporate storyteller
#2. REFINE YOUR SKILL FASTER THAN YOUR PEERS.
At most startups, there is a very limited number of seats. These jobs go to the people who:
1. Work the hardest 2. Have the most skill
What does this mean? Be infinitely curious. Learn every tool that you can find on the internet. BE FAST.
In your career you will find that life is a zero sum game: the winners get the prime positions and the person who comes in second place for that position is the first loser — not the second winner.
#3. TAKE YOUR SKILLS TO A STARTUP. NOW.
Don’t worry about the salary, just get enough money to live in a closet close to work.
Focus on providing your CEO 10x the value of your contemporaries. Eventually, your CEO will 1) notice you and 2) LOVE you.
CEOs love people who work hard and who refine their skills faster than everyone else (see #2) because those people remind them of themselves. How do you think they got the CEO slot, by waiting in line? By random luck? No, they “took” that slot.
If you take your slot by working harder than everyone else and by refining your skills faster than everyone else, your CEO will definitely notice.
#4. ONCE NOTICED BY THE CEO: TAKE ON EVERY PROJECT THEY OFFER.
Great CEOs OBSESS over their high performers.
They like to talk to them. They like to mentor them. They like to challenge them.
Once you prove yourself, it’s time to reap the benefit of being a hard worker with massive skills and the ability to learn new ones.
1. Never leave work before the CEO
2. Respond to CEO’s emails and requests/demands quickly and with NO excuse(s)
Example: Here are things to say to your CEO when he/ she gives you amazing responsibilities that will make them love/trust you more.
BOSS: I want you to set up the sales department for our startup.
YOU: I have never set up a sales department before, but I’m going to find three people who have and suck their brain dry after work. If you know anyone smart I can leverage, let me know — if not, I’m off to the races.”
BOSS: Set up a blog and podcast for our startup.
YOU: I’m on it. Then, 24 hours later, return with results in a Google Doc. Then tell her your results.
“Here are links to the five best corporate sites I could find, ranked in order of how well I think they’re executed. On each one, I listed the three best editorial devices they used. I also put together a list of the platforms they’re using and how often they have each published in the last 60 days. Based on all of this I’d suggest we use Squarespace or WordPress, SoundCloud or this podcast plug-in. We should publish a blog twice a week and spend 2x as much time promoting it as we did writing it. By my estimate, this will cost us 20 hours a week of editorial time and 50 hours of setup time. At $25 an hour fully baked it’s a $30,000 year-one expense, so if we land three clients for our average enterprise software subscription we break even — at a 20-month LTV, of course.”
Here’s how most folks answer that: “I’ve never set up a blog.” or “Can you just tell me what to do?” or “I wasn’t hired to do this.” DON’T DO THIS.
There are two types of people in this world: the killers and the killed.
You can move yourself from the killed bucket to the killers bucket by ‘doing the work’.
Hustle early and often is the best life strategy.
Counter arguments to working hard: burnout + missing out on life.
However, through hard work and paying your dues early, you can secure the quickest way to acquire the skills necessary to become a founder yourself — If that’s the main goal, right?
#5. TEACH EVERYONE AROUND YOU EVERYTHING YOU’VE LEARNED.
There is always more knowledge to acquire, new skills to be mastered, yet most folks hoard their talents.
DON’T BE A TALENT-HOARDER.
Give away everything you learn, and take credit for doing so with your CEO, by keeping her in your loop. “I’ve fully briefed our new hire Joe on how the blog and podcast work, and he understands the best practices we’ve established. I’ve asked him to update the best
practice document, plus if he learns anything new, I have requested him to send us those learning points by email as well. What’s next?”
If you level people, up you have a new job title: CEO!
A counter argument to teach everything you know:
What will I do if someone does the job better than me? Simple! You either learn from them or you move on to developing your next skill.
#6. GET AS MUCH EQUITY AS YOU CAN, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR MORE!
If you’ve done 1-5 in the list above, it’s totally warranted to ask for more money or equity. I suggest asking for equity first and letting your boss bring up cash — they will, because they value the equity more (pro-tip!).
#7. BRING ORDER TO THE CHAOS.
In a startup, things can often be vague and confusing because things are just – starting – up. No systems, no HR manuals, no organizational charts, etc. It’s all totally confusing, as things in startups change constantly.
Your job is to take what is unclear and make it clear. Create the system(s). Set up and analyze the metrics. Map out strategies. Stay focused and work with discipline. Do all these things simultaneously.
That is leadership, and leaders at their best, define reality.
Bust your butt and sharpen your skills for both your CEO and YOU ! Taking on lots of the problems at a startup is not being taken advantage of — it is taking advantage of. Slurp up all those problems and knowledge.
Leave nothing for anyone else to do.
Tackle the hardest problems, because those are the ones that make you strong, especially when you succeed at solving them.
Do you agree with Jason’s advice? Any other advice you can think of? Drop a comment!