Landing a venture capital job is not an easy decision. The first thing you need to consider is if this is going to be a long-term career or something you are considering for a few years until you decide to change your career path. If you are considering a job in venture capital as a means to build a long-term career, you need to take a series of carefully planned steps that will boost your potential.
a) Curve your name on a MBA degree from a top business school
In majority, venture capitalists (VCs) are top graduates from high-esteemed business schools. Harvard, Berkeley or MIT are full of students who aspire to become the next Michael Moritz or L. John Doerr. In fact, it will make your life easier and your goal more attainable to have an MBA degree because a venture capital job is often based upon the merit of MBA education. On the other hand though, reality has shown that candidates who possess an MBA from a non-top 10 business school have fewer chances to get a venture capital job than those who do not possess a degree at all. In other words, the industry creates and supports its own mechanisms that require future venture capitalists to be equipped with a top tier MBA degree. Otherwise, try to acquire valuable working experience to trade off for the degree you didn’t get.
b) Find your niche market
Venture capitalists are unique for what they do. They define markets. They set investment goals and they adjust their decisions on a combined set of skills that match their insight. If you were to join an investment bank, you would most likely be asked to implement predetermined investment policies to support the company’s mission statement. Venture capital does not work like this. As a venture capitalist you would have to place money in a high risk – high growth company for a specific period of time and expect a return on your investment either by public placement or by selling the company to another owner. Therefore, you have to be able to identify new market opportunities and companies that can add value to your portfolio on a long-term horizon rather than blindly follow the investment policies of an investment company. Moreover, you would have to leverage the company’s marketing and sales policies by branding yourself effectively and remaining on the right track.
c) Join a start-up organization
When pursuing a job in venture capital, it is very important to have a start-up experience. If you don’t feel like starting your own company, you may join a start-up organization with full potential to give you valuable insight on what are the necessary steps in the early stages. Working for a start-up company will expose you to venture finance and equip you with all the necessary experience to become a successful venture capitalist in the long run. Besides, your personal insight and passion for the job combined with the institutional investors who will trust your instincts and will agree to take the opportunity you offer to them, can serve as a means for future success in the difficult field of venture capital. All you need at this point is to align your passion with the requirements of the particular industry you will choose to deal with to ensure the greatest long-term benefit from your start-up experience.
d) Network, Network, Network
Networking is extremely important in any kind of job. Particularly, when pursuing a job in venture capital, the value of networking becomes extremely essential. This is because venture capital job opportunities are rarely advertised. Instead, people who already work in a venture capital company are asked to recommend anyone who would be suitable to work for the company. It’s all a matter of trust. Venture capital companies base their recruiting policies first on trust and then on the resume. Therefore, you need to develop a networking strategy and follow it religiously, while adding value to anyone you meet and interact with. Keep in mind that building the right network can help you becoming a venture capitalist possibly in no time. Yet, maintaining your network and keep it growing is what will make you a successful venture capitalist.
Overall, you should know what you’re asking from a job in venture capital. In 2009, venture investing declined by 30%, fundraising declined by 44.5%. If you think these stats are black and discouraging, you probably shouldn’t considering joining the venture capital industry. On the other hand, if you see clearly that venture capital is still a promising market to invest with high returns, then, by all means, join.
Moreover, make sure that you know what you profile is. You may shoot for the best firm on the market, but if your profile and insight do not match the company’s positioning and investment decision making, don’t expect returns and dynamic partnerships. Even more, don’t expect to be able to define new markets and propose new strategies because soon you will find yourself to be a misfit in the firm you have chosen.