As someone who just recently donned my graduation regalia, and now works for an awesome startup, I have a lot to say to my former self and other college seniors itching to snag a similar gig.

Sure, there are many obstacles between us and that coveted role. Most obviously the fact that entry-level job seekers don’t have the experience to meet the demands at a startup. But that just means we need to emphasize what we do bring to the table: enthusiasm, an open mind, and grit (okay, we do offer more than that, but who’s going to hear that under the sound of zero years of experience?!).

Advice to my former self

1. Let’s be friends

No matter how much we want to avoid reality, the reality is that who you know often trumps what you know. Whether that be friends, family, or colleagues, it never hurts to reach out to them first and see what’s out there.

Not only are warm intros much more credible to employers, but you’ll also be the first to get face-to-face with them and showcase qualities that would otherwise be lost on a resume. Most job postings on LinkedIn and Angellist reel in large volumes of competitive applicants, leaving you wondering whether your resume even has a chance.

Plus, the very nature of a startup prizes culture fit and attitude. Who’s a better testament to that than a friend, or one of your peers?

2. Get your feet wet

If I hadn’t worked for a great media incubator at UNC-Chapel Hill, Reese News Lab, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Venture for America. The fellowship offered me the network and mentorship (and a whole lot more) to land a startup job.

Getting involved with organizations related to entrepreneurship will not only strengthen your network, but will also give you the chops to work in the trenches of a startup before day one.

Whether it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, a pitch competition, or starting your own company in college, you’re going to want to show recruiters that you’re a self-starter, and you’re all in.

3. If you do have experience, show it

To reiterate what I just mentioned, nothing drives the point that you’re qualified more than actually doing it. Whether it’s an internship or your own company, past experiences will oftentimes be the subject of conversation, and the thing that closes the deal, during your interviews.

Even if it’s a side project, talk about it. You’ll reveal much more about yourself from what you’ve done.

4. The pitch

When it comes down to it, you’ve got to put yourself in the CEO’s shoes and ask yourself: Why me? And why this startup?

You have to carefully express your enthusiasm for the vision, the team, and the product. While most jobs at big corporations will require you to address your qualifications for a specific role, working for a startup means you’re going to have to wear multiple hats, to learn and adapt to change quickly, and to be fully committed to growing the company. Because what you do will directly impact the company in a huge way.

5. Career services

As strange as it seems to find a startup job via your college’s career services, they’re generally helpful when it comes to crafting resumes and cover letters. In the time that both of those are still ubiquitous in the job search process — even for startups — it’s good to polish them.

Your career services website will also post events about career fairs and workshops that, if anything, can help you take that first step and meet the right people.

Got more advice on getting a startup job? Comment here or tweet us @goconspire.

Feature photo credit: bensonk42 / Visualhunt.com / CC BY