Until recently I worked as a VC investor, and I would often receive emails from recent college grads and others asking me what they need to do to get into venture capital.
I came up with a list of tips that I would respond with, and now that I am out of the industry I thought I would share that list to help others land a job in VC.
Know why you want a job in VC and what the job entails
VC not all about going to networking events, attending conferences and cocktail parties and hanging out with cool startup founders.
That may be the case once you are a partner or have a few years of experience under your belt, but VC is not as sexy as people make it out to be and it involves lots of late nights at work, spreadsheets, and research.
Is it the right career move?
Guy Kawasaki points out in his blog how many recent college grads want to go into VC right after they graduate, but he says that “venture capital something to do at the end of your career, not the beginning.”
VC is an industry that relies heavily upon past experience, the ability to read people, and a deep understanding of many different types of sectors, all of which comes from years of prior experience.
Be a generalist
David Blumberg, Founding Partner of Blumberg Capital, once told me that it is important to have a broad knowledge-base but still have an area of expertise.
In VC you will come across many startups and advanced technologies, and you will be expected to know a lot about a wide array of fields. However, there are many funds that focus on certain areas (software, hardware, life sciences…) so being an expert in the field that is most relevant to a specific fund will improve your chances, but you must also be a generalist.
Have a deep understanding of overall market trends and also make sure that you are always trying to learn about new industries.
Understand your chances
There are not that many entry level positions that open up on a regular basis. Most firms do not have summer internship programs in the same way that investment banks or accounting firms do, and the turnover rate for entry level positions in VC (or any position for that matter) is not very high.
Be ready for a long process against some tough competition.
Know the kind of firm you are applying to
There are some VCs that only look for candidates with Wharton MBAs and others that only hire non MBAs. VCs often look for a certain type of pedigree when they hire, and understanding what they look for will save you a lot of time in your job search.
Look at the firm’s past hires, search for the partners speaking about their hiring philosophies, and speak to everyone you can in order to determine where you will find the best fit.
It’s not always about what you know, but who you know. While this holds true for most industries, it is especially true in VC.
Many VCs do not publicly post openings, so you need to be connected to the right people to hear about openings and to have good recommendations from the industry. Reach out to current analysts and associates and ask them about how they got their jobs and if they know of any openings (it helps to make them feel important, by telling them how you look up to them and you would really value their advice).
Ask startup founders to introduce you to their investors, and attend the same networking events that VCs do. Make sure to keep in touch by following up with them to build a lasting relationship so that it does not look like you just want a job.
Networking is not enough… you need to offer them value
This bit of advice is hit-or-miss, but remember that most VC receive lots of annoying requests from people looking for jobs, so try to do something that helps you stand out. In your initial email after whatever networking event you met them at, send the VC some research and suggestions that you put together on startups that you think would be relevant to their portfolio.
When I started looking for a VC job while I was still in school, I would ask VCs if I could interview them for my blog or just to learn from their experience, and I would also invite them to come and speak to students at my university. This way I could network with them them without having to ask them for a job.
There is a lot of luck involved in getting a job in VC. Even if you know your stuff, have the network, and do everything right, sometimes you just need to be lucky and be in the right place at the right time.
There are so many other suggestions that I could give, but at the end of the day there is no clear path to venture capital. I do not have an MBA, nor did I go to an Ivy League school or study computer science.
I have met VCs with PhDs in literature and philosophy as well as college dropouts. If you really want to work in VC, then do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Network like crazy, know why you want to be a VC, learn as much as you can about startups and investing and once you get the job, make sure to reply to all the emails from annoying college students who will eventually start asking you for career advice.