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What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

Hopeless.

Nowhere to go.

Are there any more companies I can even apply to?

Getting rejected feels awful, especially if you’re unemployed and have been rejected by forty companies. Back in the city I grew up in, San Diego, I was forced to pick one of these two choices:

1. Work for a corporate company where I would slowly develop new skills.

2. Continue being rejected by recently profitable startups in hopes that one would hire me.

I had promised myself I would not choose number one, but I felt like I had been forced to select the corporate world.

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The reason: I’ve worked for seven failed startups during college; as a result, people were scared to hire me. First, I had the word failure written all over my resume, and second, I was seen as a job-hopper even though leaving was never a choice.

The worst part of the job hunting process: employers request work references.

Do I give them the startup founder’s name who never paid me? What about the startup founder who after day one left me as an unpaid intern, and I never saw or heard from her again for two months until she fired me through email? Maybe the startup founder who paid me, but left after day two to never return?

I know many people would say great things about me just not people who I had worked with. The hard truth: Unprofitable startups without funding present massive problems for their employees. Many of us college-graduate entrepreneurs want to chase the dream of working for a startup that takes off. In reality, it’s much more of a gamble than the Silicon Valley dream makes it seem.

I was the exception because I wanted to learn fast, and I had been willing to sacrifice everything to work for a top-notch startup. With a quick learning curve, I had hit obstacles over and again. But I tried never to make the same mistake twice.

And through repeated failures, I had slowly figured out what startups were worth working for. The problem: Those startups are extremely careful in who they choose to employ. After all, they just became profitable, and they assume you want a piece of the cake.

The problem with companies whether corporate or recently profitable startups is that they are reluctant to take risks when employing college graduates. You have the college graduate who had two one-year internships and a high GPA. Then you have the college entrepreneur who worked for seven failed startups, has completed some huge projects, and has a mediocre GPA. Companies almost always hire the former choice.

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This type of hiring mentality says a lot about a company’s long-run performance. With constant technological innovation, if you don’t take risks, then you’ll quickly become outdated in almost any market. If a company never takes a leap of faith, then they may just leap into the unknown.

But what if the numbers aren’t there?

Numbers don’t back the most important decisions you should make. They sure didn’t back Elon Musk when he started Tesla or SpaceX, and they didn’t back Steve Jobs when he made his most critical decisions at Apple.

You’ll find discomfort and people doubting you with your best decisions. And if you fail, at least you’ll know what not to do, and sometimes that’s the best lesson you can gain.

As a marketing entrepreneur, I have one of the riskiest jobs – without excellent marketing, a company doesn’t grow. So naturally, a business is already on the fence about hiring me. Giving a college graduate the responsibility of managing a company’s entire email list and digital communications is scary.

Moreover, as a marketer, you must stay with the company for a month at a minimum to execute only part of your strategy. And keeping your marketing knowledge relevant in a fast-paced tech world is hard. As a result, many marketers decide to limit their expertise to just one channel.

Every college graduate will face countless difficulties in their respective fields. However, the decision to push their limits so they can work for a recently profitable startup often comes down to a few benefits: excitement, positive energy, quick feedback, and the ability to make important decisions.

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This is why I went through tough times that included forty plus interviews to work for a company where I could retain these great characteristics.

With so many startups, how do you pick the right one?

I found my answer when I met with a CEO of a company who was willing to hear my story. Isn’t that what life is about anyways – living a life worth a great story?

If you can find someone willing to listen, you can make a life-changing connection. People can be genuine and kind, but to establish a relationship, they must always listen. And if you can find a company who’s willing to listen to your story, then those are the people who you should work for unless you rather start your own company of course.

It’s not easy. Heck, it took me forty plus interviews. You start off scouring LinkedIn and AngelList to make a well-defined list of companies you can send your resume and cover letter to. Then you organize the list by labeling companies. You denote your favorite choices by the letter “A,” down a notch are “B” companies, and your last-resort companies are “C.”

Now immediately throw all your “B” and “C” companies away. Your “A” companies exist because you don’t want to waste several years without fulfilling your potential. Several years unemployed is better than several years pretending to be content with your job.

My “A” list had included forty companies in San Diego and San Francisco. For months, I had traveled back and forth with an old beat-up car. I never landed a job in San Francisco, but it was worth it just for the experience of finding out the companies where I didn’t belong.

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I always went above and beyond for my “A” list and you should, too. I either submitted my resume in person or sent them a prepared package of between ten and fifteen pages analyzing their company’s marketing strategy. As a recent graduate in a tough job market,  I had no choice.

Each time I walked into a company to submit my resume, EVERY employer gave me credit for having the guts. I even applied to companies that weren’t hiring just because they were on my “A” list. You have no choice, but to repeatedly try until they give you a chance.

Moreover, you only have one life, and you’re competing against job seekers who are willing to go above and beyond. If you’re not getting the results you want, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

So what happened?

After interviewing with numerous startups, I realized it wasn’t their product or service that made me interested in working for them – it was their culture. I saw what a good culture looks like when a CEO finally gave me the opportunity to tell my story.

I stuck it out with forty plus rejections to find someone who was willing to listen. And now, I barely notice rejection anymore and I’m happily employed at a great company.

My advice: Work where you will learn the fastest and make it your mission to be overambitious in your job search to ensure that company has an incredible culture, too. So the next time you’re looking for a job, you won’t even think about making a “B” and “C” list.

Featured photo credit: handsome young hipster guy in hat looking at hazy sunshine through a thick mist on a calm sea and blue skies back view via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

Apart from making crucial decisions for their own businesses, entrepreneurs innovate and grow their ideas. Albeit there being no cookie-cutter answer that fits everyone’s experiences, taking a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs today, you might spot some similar traits and characteristics.

Starting and nurturing a business entails a great amount of hard work and commitment. However, for aspiring entrepreneurs who are prepared to dedicate themselves to their vision, here are 10 most successful entrepreneurs you can learn from:

1. Melanie Perkins: Know Your Worth and Keep Trying

    Melanie Perkins founded Canva, a Sydney-based business valued at $1Billion having successfully raised a number of rounds of successful funding and boasting more than 10 Million users in 179 countries.[1]

    She told BBC that one of the biggest challenges she faced getting into the business was talking about her company’s accomplishments when she first got to Silicon Valley. She attributed this difficulty to a cultural difference where Australians tend to ‘talk down’ their achievements and this would slow down her fundraising progress for a few years.

    Despite hundreds of rejections, Melanie emerged three years later with a much clearer strategy and stronger investor pitch that prompted a series of fundraising rounds netting the company $82Million of funding in total.[2]

    2. Bill Gates: Keep Learning and Exploring

      If you don’t know Bill Gates, you likely know the company he founded – Microsoft.

      Bill Gates’ story is a prime example of nurturing an idea that might seem out of this world but make sense in the future. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in history did not complete his degree at Harvard University to pursue a vision that the technology would soon become the future.

      He told a white lie to Altair, saying that he had made a computer program for them, therefore pushing himself to create a system that would change modern history.

      “The most important speed issue is convincing everyone that the company’s survival depends on moving as fast as possible.”

      Gates’ success is built on self-improvement and the seeds of an idea.

      3. Elon Musk: Never Stop Innovating

        Traditional thinking suggests that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must focus in a single field or industry.

        Elon Musk, however, breaks that rule.

        Today, the multifaceted tech entrepreneur, investor, and engineer advocates for the diversification of skills and businesses by delving into various fields of interest.

        When done right, skills in a single domain can be carried over then applied into contrasting industries to create something new the world might need. Musk owes his accomplishments to a constant thirst for knowledge.

        Having birthed Tesla and a myriad of products across the arenas of aeronautics and software design, Musk continues to evolve as an entrepreneur and plans to innovate for the long haul.

        4. Richard Branson: Develop People First

          British entrepreneur Richard Branson founded Virgin Records in the early 1970s. Virgin Records has since grown into the Virgin Group, today responsible for over 400 companies.

          The billionaire is strongly particular about working with a team that shares his core values and aspirations.

          Branson believes that managing a business can become taxing, thus he acknowledges his employees for putting in the effort that they have.

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          A good leader knows how to raise morale for positive productivity. Utilising emotional intelligence and compassion is a game changer in seeing results within a team.

          Branson’s supports the idea of nurturing a positive work environment, with the belief that credentials must go hand-in-hand with an enthusiasm for work.

          5. Jeff Bezos: A Relentless Focus on Customer Satisfaction

            Having founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos is known to be one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. The e-commerce pioneer fixates himself on angry customers with the belief that a business’s loopholes are found in the experiences of unsatisfied customers.

            For the 8th year in a row, customers have ranked Amazon as the number one in customer service (according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index).

            While numerous companies ignore unhappy customers, Bezos found success in learning from reviews and surveys. By focusing on customer service, Amazon shows they care, both for their customers and for rising above their competitors.

            While praise and recognition are signs that a business is accelerating, criticism is an opportunity to improve a product or a service.

            6. Mark Zuckerberg: Start Small, Think Big

              Valued at over 55 billion dollars today, Mark Zuckerberg built the first version of what would become a social networking giant in his Harvard University dorm room. As one of the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Zuckerberg undoubtedly took countless calculated risks to get his brilliant idea to its current status with 2.38 billion active monthly users.

              “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

              He’s always daring to explore with a fearless mindset.

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              The young tech entrepreneur never shied away from innovating outside of the box. Soon after Facebook became a hit to users and advertisers, big corporations took interest in buying Facebook from Zuckerberg.

              However, he took the risk and decided to stay with his creation. Turning down billions of dollars offered by Yahoo CEO, Terry Semel, he envisioned turning his brainchild into something much bigger than what it already was then.

              7. Steve Jobs: Live Your Own Dreams

                Steve Jobs lived a rocky path all his life and an aspect of which is a tumultuous career.

                The founder of Apple endorsed his beliefs on the temporality of life and limitations of time. He preached about the importance of working on the very legacies people wish to leave behind, an achievement he’s undoubtedly etched into the the archives of human history.

                Never one to hide under someone’s shadow, Jobs did not live by anybody else’s principles so he formed his own. He tirelessly dedicated himself to building a unique brand of products that became the benchmark for contemporary technology.

                After his highs and lows through his brief battle with cancer, Jobs concludes with yet another lesson to takeaway from his remarkable life. “No matter how much money you have, even the richest man can’t buy time.”

                8. Warren Buffett: Balance is Essential to Success

                  Despite being the third wealthiest person in the world, Warrant Buffett sported a frugal lifestyle for most of his life.

                  After buying a house in Omaha, Nebraska for just above 31,000 dollars, he has lived there since 1958. As a leading investor and a founder at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett believes in setting aside an amount to save and spend only on necessities.

                  With a long term goal as a top priority in mind always, treating oneself can be sustainable once in a while. He advices to save money by deciding first and foremost what aspects to scrimp on and what aspects to splurge on to ensure a happy and balanced lifestyle.

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                  9. Jack Ma: Never Give up

                    On every journey to success, everybody stumbles and arrives at roadblocks. Some more than most, like Jack Ma, who survived countless rejections and failures only to get back up and brave every storm.

                    Ma is the founder of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group. Despite being rejected to Harvard after every one of his 10 applications, Ma was never defeated.

                    His grit and tenacity is a fine testament to the fact that grades do not determine a future. While qualifications on paper are important, the development of skills and an attitude is just as helpful in making a recipe for success.

                    Despite finding himself in the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990s, Jack Ma possessed the resilience to put one foot in front of the other until he finally made it. “It’s important to have patience,” he says.

                    10. Tan Min Liang: Passion Can Pay Off

                      Tan Min Liang is the founder of the leading high-performance gaming hardware, Razer. Always on the look out for new opportunities to connect and scale his business, Tan has been bold in making many of his life’s decisions.

                      Having deviated from a traditional path set by a family that consists of doctors and lawyers, Tan was to find his life’s work and passion while gaming with his older brother.

                      The idea was simple: there were so many games out there to play, however, there were hardly any gaming equipment to match this.

                      So he dropped out of law and began going a different direction, into creating solutions in the gaming industry. At the start of 2019, Tan wrote to tech luminary Elon Musk to which Musk’s reply suggested of a joint venture between two of the most successful entrepreneurs today.

                      Final Thoughts

                      In today’s cutthroat world, the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur is a long and arduous process trailed with ups and downs. A valuable lesson that a good hand of entrepreneurs would love to convey to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep the spirit of innovation and to explore uncharted waters.

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                      Learning from experience and failure is one direction to a desired end goal. Exhibiting the same dedication and grit so many entrepreneurs have through their unexpected careers – today’s budding visionaries ought to hang on their dreams and leave room for improvement along the way.

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                      Featured photo credit: Patrick Tomasso via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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