Author: Colleen Jenkins


About Colleen Jenkins

Colleen Jenkins is the founder & CEO at PluggedIN, a high-touch, matchmaking platform that connects job seekers to opportunities with growing companies, including startups and business units. Prior to founding PluggedIN, Colleen served as Head of Talent Acquisition at Cultivation Capital and currently works as the Entrepreneurship Career Advisor at Olin Business School.

Most entrepreneurs will tell you that the team around them makes all the difference in the world. They’re looking for smart, energetic people who can provide value from day one—people who can sell, acquire customers, design, engineer, improve a product or process, or create compelling content to help drive the business forward.

As a career advisor at Olin’s Weston Career Center, I help students understand the possibilities of pursuing a career path in entrepreneurship, providing them with tips and insights and connecting them with startup ecosystems nationwide. I founded PluggedIN HQ, which is an online matchmaking platform for emerging talent with local startups, and the Startup Talent Showcase, one of PluggedIN’s product offerings—a live matchmaking event set this year for February 23 at CIC at the Cortex Innovation District.

As this year’s showcase approaches, here are insights on what startups need, the difficulties they have recruiting talent, and tips for job seekers and startup founders.

Startups globally tend to have issues preparing job descriptions, identifying talent pipelines, recruiting talent, etc. What are the issues—and why?

Most early-stage companies don’t have a talent function—HR department, internal recruiter, hiring process. Often, founders struggle with developing a hiring plan or prioritizing the kind of hires they need to make to drive their business forward, partly because they haven’t hired for particular roles/functions and partly because they have so many things on their plate while running and growing a business.

While there are some job boards where they can post openings, doing so will almost always inundate them with a surplus of passive job candidates who don’t even remember applying to the job, not to mention, know anything about the company. The process takes a lot of time and has questionable results.

Recruiting talent takes resources and startups are resource-strapped. Most can’t afford an agency recruiter, which costs 20 to 30 percent of the candidate’s initial salary. It also takes time, a founder’s most valuable asset.

At the same time, there is no clear pathway for job seekers and students to a city’s startup ecosystem. With the exception of some notable entrepreneurship programs at universities, the majority of college students interested in pursuing careers in entrepreneurship (working at a startup, launching a company or working in VC) don’t know where to look or how to navigate a city’s startup community.

The good candidates who want to be involved in the startup scene simply can’t find their way in. It’s difficult for startups to compete with corporations, consulting firms, and large tech companies (Google, Amazon) that have enormous recruitment budgets and are able to recruit students with irresistible job offers.

What roles are most often “up for grabs” at the Startup Talent Showcase?

In short, all of them. Startups need people who understand the startup environment and can hit the ground running and provide value from day one, whether it’s through building (software development), designing (product development, marketing), selling (business development and sales), growing (strategy), improving or optimizing a product or process using data analytical skills (operations, data analysts), or ensuring customers are deriving value from the product or service (customer success).

Attitude, aptitude, experience—in that order—is what savvy startups look for in a great candidate.

Skill sets, job descriptions, and experience aside, they need people with an all-in, can-do attitude who will commit to the company’s vision and success, develop the necessary skill sets along the way and become experienced contributors to the business.

Why did you start the Startup Talent Showcase in the first place? Tell us a success story.

I led recruitment and hiring for venture fund Cultivation Capital and its portfolio of firms. In this role, I saw first-hand the pains of hiring for startups at various growth stages. At the same time, I received multiple emails daily from college students and job seekers desperately seeking an entry point in the St. Louis startup community.

Rather than serve as a gatekeeper, I wanted to create a space where job seekers and startups could connect (physically) in a more systematized manner.

The format for this event was designed with a few things in mind: minimized risk, cost, and time for the founder; pre-vetted, talented folks who were prepared and ready to pitch to companies; a safe, fun environment for job seekers to learn about the startup community and learn what it takes to be a sought after employee.

WashU senior Devin Goodkin attended the 2016 Startup Talent Showcase, where he landed a summer internship as a data analyst with Gainsight. After completing his Gainsight internship, he networked and navigated his way even further into the local startup community and landed an internship the following summer with Venture Cafe as a special projects and data analysis intern.

He then went on to intern as a venture analyst for Stadia Ventures and venture consultant for local startup Tallify. Since his pitch at the 2016 showcase, he’s been very proactive in his approach for finding a job, with both a great attitude and startup mindset.

Attendees were expected to give a short speech about their background and what career path they were looking for,” Goodkin explained later. “The event concluded with catered food, drinks and an opportunity to network. It was a creative and fun approach to a career fair.”

What are your top tips for job seekers or startups at the showcase?

For job seekers:

  • Create a profile on PluggedIn.
  • Do your homework on the companies that will be there. They’ll be listed on the event site.
  • Craft a killer pitch that is totally “you.” Lean on your strengths and what makes you unique. Don’t stress out about what a company may or may not want to hear.
  • Relax, have fun, and let yourself shine. Remember, all of the founders in the room were once in your shoes.

For startups:

  • Post your open job reqs on PluggedIn.
  • Think about the kind of person you want in your firm more than the role you want them to fill. If they will fit your culture, you’ll be able to find them a role.
  • Brush up on your company pitch. It’s the most important recruitment tool you’ll have at the event.
  • Be open-minded and prepared to meet some awesome people. You might even decide to create a job/internship/project at your company because you just clicked with the right person for your team.

One more tip: For graduating students who want to work at a startup, check out Venture for America.

Click here for more details about the Startup Talent Showcase on February 23.

The below post was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“The more you know about yourself, what you’re good at and what you bring the team, you can then surround yourself with people who fill in your gaps. I think that’s part of what makes up a good team.”
– Mary Jo Gorman, serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor and managing partner of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs

In this podcast, Mary Jo Gorman talks about how she got her start as an entrepreneur, what milestones and key learnings propelled her to success, and what she looks for when making investments in women-led companies through the Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Accelerator. Prosper is currently accepting applications for their Spring 2017 cohort. They are looking for early stage companies with a scalable business model in the Tech, Health Tech, and Consumer Products spaces. She shares insights on:

  • What investors look for in companies to invest in and how to use The Berkus Method to better position your company when raising capital.
  • Successful entrepreneurs tend to have great critical thinking skills. Many, many decisions get made, and you have to make more right ones than wrong ones
  • When a startup should consider going from bootstrapping to raising venture capital, and markers and milestones that serve as key indicators. Check out The Founders Dilemma.
  • Knowing when to pivot and ways to mitigate your risk at each step.
  • How hiring for the level of experience depends on our rate of growth.

Learn more and follow Prosper STL:

Photo: Mary Jo Gorman speaks at the Knight Hall/Bauer Hall building dedication on May 3, 2014. Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.

The below post was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“Being thoughtful about hiring is the best way to scale an organization. If you get the right people around the table, it makes all the difference in the world.”
– Matt Mullenweg, Co-founder, WordPress

As famed basketball coach, Red Auerbach said, “You can’t teach height.”

When hiring new employees and building teams, many startup founders look for the “athlete” candidates. Startup companies are a constant work in progress. Roles and responsibilities tend to change on the regular. Founders consider not just where that person is today, but how they adapt as the company changes.

There are intrinsic qualities employers look for that are tough to teach. We recently tuned into a podcast interview with Matt Mullenweg, co-founder at WordPress and founder & CEO at Automattic.

Here are 4 intrinsic qualities he highlights as being most important when it comes to hiring startup talent:

1) Work ethic
2) Taste
3) Integrity
4) Curiosity

If someone has these four traits, there’s a higher likelihood they will be able to rise to whatever the job requires of them.

In addition to these traits, startup matchmaking platform PluggedIN considers these 3 factors when evaluating a candidate:

1) Attitude
2) Aptitude
3) Experience

If you have the right attitude, you’ll gain the ability to do the job and then get the experience you need to grow professionally.

The below post and podcast was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“If you have the conviction and the personal belief that you can make anything work and solve problems, let your resourcefulness be your biggest resource.” 

In this week’s PluggedIN podcast, we sit down with Colleen Wilson, Founder & CEO of Collaborate Chicago and former Head of Product Marketing for the capital product at Square. An Olin Business School alumna, Colleen shares insights on how she decided to become an entrepreneur and multiple fantastic career tips from her business education and career experience.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom Colleen shares in this episode:

  • The importance of prioritizing learning and mission when looking for jobs. Ask yourself, what do I need to learn, and where am I best equipped to learn those skills?
  • One of the best ways to get experience is through doing pro-bono work.
  • The importance of being self-aware and knowing what you’re good at (and what you’re not good at).
  • The “why” reveals the pain points, and when you find the pain points, that’s when you can start to find the solution.
  • Why your own personal gut-check can mean the difference when it comes to finding happiness in your career.
  • You can build anything, but sometimes it’s what you don’t build that can make all the difference in your business growth.
  • Presence equals productivity: How to find that constant state of flow through personal productivity hacks.