From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

February 2013
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How do you make an Initial Contact with a Start-up
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, Mentoring
Posted by: site admin @ 8:44 am

A tremendously thought provoking question came from
an attendee at a recent workshop:

Dan,… “we met and talked last weekend at the University
of Pittsburgh during the “Job searching for chemical
professionals” workshop.  I plan to graduate with an MS
in organic chemistry at the end of this semester and am
looking for jobs with small biotech and start-up companies.
You gave me good advice on how to follow the venture
capital money to find new jobs, and I was hoping to
follow up with you and get some more advice on how
and when to approach these opportunities.

My concern,” he continued in the email, “is about whom
I should contact, and when.
“  He described what he has
learned about a company with growth plans from <10
to 15-25.  “I don’t know how to contact anybody with the

Should I send to VCs asking to be referred to any of
the upcoming positions?

This may apply to a larger audience, so please let me
share the response.

While I do have an inkling, I contacted people who know
directly about recruiting [Shirley Condra] and working
in small VC funded start-ups [John Podobinsky

From John:
-checked ABs Linkedin profile.  It needs to be refreshed.  Add
more about his thesis topic, additional skills and a photo.
-strong pedigree for the field, has he spoken to their career
services/placement offices?  Is he part of alumni groups?
-Suggestion:  Find a “warm introduction” [rather than a “cold
contact” though someone connected to the firm] to each
opportunity.  Does he know someone there or a previous
employee?  Does his adviser (someone in his network) have
any connections?  How about alumni from his group?
- some venture capitalists have websites and he ought to apply through
them directly.  Recruiters often work for small firms.
- Incidentally, J does have a website and if he has skills they
are seeking people with skills in cancer immunotherapies
[Again, a “warm introduction” can be an advantage, through a
referral or networking.]
- is he focused on a location?  I can offer leads for some specific
areas…(SF, SD, Boston, NJ, TX…]
- is he presenting a poster at NOLA ACS or attending the career
fair?  It is a huge upcoming opportunity.
- Brush up on presentation and interviewing skills simultaneously,
so when the next step happens, he is ready.”

Shirley offered some terrific advice:
first,use Linkedin as a source.
  does anyone at the company have a profile?
  articles regarding VC will list appropriate individuals, who have
Linkedin profiles
   send an “invite” on Linkedin in a nice personalized note expressing
interest in their company and industry.  Don’t ask for a job in an invite!
   continue to constantly expand your network
second, explore local industry specific networking events through
Linkedin.  I highly encourage this.  Sign up for specific groups in
Linkedin, attend periodic [can be monthly] meetings, and find out
about start-ups, etc.
third, I recommend having business cards with them.  Vista
( offers a cost-efffective product.  A person
might list their specialization on the card, that can be handed out
at networking events.

fourth, be sure to check out all industry-specific websites that list
job openings.  Surprisingly, a number of companies use Craigslist,
Door64 and other unrelated sites.  Check Forbes’ list of best
cities where biotech congregates.
fifth, ALWAYS have a good rapport with university professors and
campus counselors
.  Many times, these individuals can offer a
wealth of information.
Finally, pay attention to “consequential strangers”, who are people
you meet and have something valuable to offer.”