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Perhaps you’re interested in a working at a startup, but not quite sure you fit the docket.

Sure, the accomplishments listed on your resume are an important factor in your job search, but there are a lot of other things to be considered. It’s not enough that you went to a good college or have a high GPA. Startups aren’t necessarily looking for someone with a certain degree, but instead they’re more focused on finding people with specific traits.

Many of these traits are innate, meaning you’ve either got it or you don’t. Hopefully, you do. So, what exactly are these characteristics? Startups are looking for…

Self-Starters – You proactively move the ball forward, instead of standing around waiting for the coach—or in this case, the boss—to tell you what to do. You’re always looking ahead to what can be done next.

Comfortable with the Unknown – Startups are by nature ambiguous—and heavily resource-constrained—organizations. This means there won’t be any time for handholding. You might be given a project that you, nor anyone at the company, has experience with, but it’ll be your job to structure it and see it to fruition. You’re going to have to hit the ground running and wing it.

A Can-Do Attitude – Startups look for problem solvers. They need people who approach challenges saying “How can we make this happen?” versus “There’s no way we can do this.”

Someone Resourceful -Being resourceful is a key trait of any successful startup team member. You may have to do a little background internet research on something new to you, reaching out to your friends for connections and feedback, or coming up with your own creative solutions.

“Whatever It Takes” Mindset – Are you a true team player? In a startup, there are a lot of things that need to get done that aren’t glamorous, or in your direct line of duty. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty, even if that means working on some lackluster tasks.

Resilience & Passion – There are always ups and downs to startups – they look for people who can push through setbacks and bounce back stronger because of their passion for the team, mission, and product. In sales, you might get 100 closed doors before you land your first client. Your ability to be persistent will make you stand out.

Hustlers – Basically it comes down to being a hustler. Will you do whatever it takes to make things happen?


If you have some, or all of these traits, a position at startup may be within reach. Use your intro email to show that you could be a great fit, giving examples of your resourcefulness, resilience, etc. Put yourself out there, because they could be looking for someone just like you! 

Want to work for Techstars? Check out our job openings here. 

Originally posted on Planted.

Susan Zheng Susan Zheng
Susan Zheng, co-founder and CEO @ Planted, a platform that helps companies hire junior, non-technical talent.

  • Leo L Daugherty III

    Good message Susan, and so true! Thank you.

    As an example that speaks to your opening sentiments regarding education…

    I have been involved in, and worked in 5 startups – 2 of them solo. I’m in the funding stage of number 6!

    I barely made it out of high school, with no formal education beyond. I’ve had only 1 job interview at the age of 15 (35 years ago). Please don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for those who reach any level of completion in education, or professional achievement.

    It’s only important for each individual to understand the importance of growing to achieve. For me, it’s best understood in a creed I made up some time ago, which I say to myself at least once everyday…

    ” You may never know what you want to be when you grow up. So, in every moment, be the best you can be, hurting no other along the way. “

  • Olivia V Bond

    awesome stuff!