Recently, a few people have asked me: “When do I know if I should quit my venture capital job search?” Because the VC job hunt can take a very long time, with few signs to show you if you’re heading in the right direction, it’s especially important to understand when you might consider quitting your search for a VC job (and instead evaluate an indirect route, like working for a portfolio company first), and when you should press on with your search.
It took me 16 months of active searching while in business school (+ a couple of months after graduation) to get my first VC offer, so I’d like to think I am somewhat of an expert in knowing how to evaluate when to quit – because most people in their right minds would have quit if they were me (jobless immediately post-MBA, with twins on the way that summer)! However, I had a couple of major data points to suggest that I was getting close and that I should keep pushing. If you are seeing these data points in your VC job hunt, you might want to keep pushing, too…
Point #1: If you are in “final round” interviews with a firm or on a very short list of candidates (< 5 candidates remaining), you probably have what it takes to get yourself in that position again with another firm. I remember on the day I graduated from business school, I received a voicemail from a firm with whom I had conducted a final round interview. Unfortunately – it was a “Ding” call – I did not get the job. However, I knew that if I was that close, I had a reasonable shot of getting to final round interviews with another firm. And that’s exactly what happened – with 3 different firms over the next couple of months.
Another example — a few weeks back, I met someone last week (pre-MBA) who has been searching for a VC job for the last several months. He was trying to get an indication from me as to whether or not he should quit his search as he had become frustrated with his perceived lack of progress. When he told me that he had made it to final round interviews with a firm, but didn’t get the role (the firm chose to hire no one, incidentally, even though they were running a somewhat formal hiring process), to me that was a big indicator that this guy had a shot at cracking into the industry, so I encouraged him to stay the course. And I definitely won’t be surprised if he gets to a final round interview with another firm soon.
Point #2: Do you know which venture capital firms are hiring? Do you know which VC firms have junior staffers who have just left their jobs or who are leaving soon? Do you know which firms have recently raised a new fund?
If you’re not able to answer these questions pretty readily after a few months of serious searching, this could indicate any of the following things:
- You’re not searching hard enough!
- You’re not approaching VC firms in the right way (e.g. via warm intros through their trusted networks)
- You don’t have a background that fits the firms you’re approaching
If you’re challenged by the 1st item, you need to do a gut check. As I have mentioned in other posts, it is very hard to break into the venture capital industry and so you have to have a tremendous passion for the subject matter as well as the job search process.
The bottom line: If you think you have a realistic shot at breaking into the venture capital industry, be relentless, polite, and persistent in your search!
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