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

December 2021
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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.”

3 Responses to “How do you make an Initial Contact with a Start-up”

  1. site admin Says:


    Thank you for getting back to me, this seems like
    it will help a lot. I’ll definitely spruce up
    LinkedIn and try to reach out and do some networking.

    I think in person networking will really help, too.

    Feel free to use this for a blog post, along with
    anything that may come from it in any follow ups.

    Again, thanks, and I will keep in touch.

    Sincerely, A
    P.S.: I did feel embarrassed about the J website. …
    I found it about a half hour after I sent the original email to you.
  2. site admin Says:

    Spoke with a colleague last night who said that Linked
    seems to be replacing resumes as our main PR document.
    So, consider strengthening your Cloud presence,
    membership and interest groups,
    make it pass the “5 second test.”
    Have a good photo
    define yourself well.
  3. site admin Says:

    Another mentor, Lee Johnson, offered some insights
    that have significant merit. Lee wrote:

    “Many ways to expand your visibility.

    Slowly, SLOWLY, change your profile on LinkedIn. features startup jobs in the
    venture capital space. High tech and biotech.

    LinkedIn has a great job listing section.

    Expand your network in a logical way toward the
    companies for whom you would like to work.
    Ask people you know to send and recommend your

    Look for alumni of Pitt to contact directly. Refer
    to alumni pages for groups on your campus.

    Gene town career fair is coming up.
    Acs job fair is coming up.

    Sincerely, Lee

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