Practical Steps To Secure Your Ideal NEF Placement
In the last post we went over the kinds of things to consider ahead of choosing which host companies would be a good fit for you. In this post we’ll go over some of the things that you can do to find potential companies, and then have them super-keen to offer you a role
I’m drawing this, again from speaking with other people on NEF, and also my own experience of finding a NEF host company when my original host pulled out 4 weeks before the program was due to start.
Ways of finding a host company
NEF do a great job of finding companies who might be interested in hosting you. However, you can also go to events where company CEOs will be talking/ mingling, and also reach out to your own network and see if they know anyone who could help you out.
In my case, there were a couple of people I’d done internships with who were happy to put me in touch with contacts that they had and I found my company after attending a talk given by the CEO.
How to approach a company (via email)
Following on from the above point, it might be that someone in your network does an e-intro for you.
This is a great excuse to catch up with people in whom you might not have spoken to in a while, and let them know how you’re getting on. If they can help, then they will also earn some brownie points with the person they connect you with, for introducing them to an awesome future entrepreneur!
To make their job easier, distil the key information down for them so that they simply need to copy and paste into a message. Or sometimes they would like to give their own summary.
In either case, give them a run down of the salient points that you’d like them highlight about you, the most relevant/ attractive points for them joining NEF, and also your CV and any documentation from NEF.
Here is an example of an intro my cousin made to 4 companies.
3 replied, and although the recipient of this particular message person wasn’t able to help, he then forwarded the message onto 5 other people in his network who I then got in touch with.
Here’s one example of the message I followed up with
This then led to a phone conversation and face-to-face interview (although with the company being based out of London, it didn’t work out in the end).
TOP TIP: when ‘pitching’ yourself to these companies, I found it helpful to explain the benefits to the company of becoming part of the NEF network. Say that not only are they getting a fantastic cut-price employee, but they also get to interact with the top businesses that work with NEF through the events that they’ll be invited to. And further, that you’ll be receiving excellent training as part of the course that you’d share with them. Who wouldn’t want to learn new entrepreneurial insights??
How NOT to approach a company (via email)
There were some people whom I contacted off my own back. The following example saw no response, and on reflection, I can see why.
There’s a whole lot of text that busy people aren’t likely to read. If it’s your first contact with someone, take some advice from this template (by an entrepreneur who ran a workshop with us)
The details of what NEF is all about could be saved in the attachment. That said, I’m sure that putting in some big names in the text could be a good tactic; I’ll leave that up to you.
IF YOU CAN, DON’T GO COLD: I had a much higher success rate when it was other people giving the intro. They are in a much better place to give a recommendation for you, and also are more likely to answer an email from somebody in their contacts.
How to approach a company (face-to-face)
Another method for finding host companies is to go along to events where they are likely to talk. For example, Meetup.com is great place to find these talks, and there are also myriad mailing lists you can sign up for more. EscapeTheCity have a good one, but basically use Google.
Let’s say you attend one of these events, and there are a couple of people you want to meet, and maybe discuss working together with. The key thing is to take it step-by-step. Here’s something I’ve found worked quite well.
First meeting: OBJECTIVE – 15 minutes for a coffee?
Introduce yourself and take an interest in their company. Try and steer the conversation towards how many people are working there:
Are you guys growing at the moment?
How big is the team?
Do you think you’re likely to grow it in the next 6 months?
It might not be that they’re actively thinking about hiring, but you can always plant the seed.
If the answer to question 3, is anything other than “Absolutely not”, then explain that you’re looking for a placement with an innovative company as part of a scheme called the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (if they’ve heard of it: great. If not, now’s not the time to go into the detail) and would love to chat more.
Will you have a spare 15 minutes in the next week or so to have a quick coffee?
By this point, they should be interested enough in you to see value in taking 15 minutes out of their working week to talk to you, and so politely ask for their business card.
Second meeting: OBJECTIVE – leave knowing about a potential role
The next time you meet, it’s likely to be in a coffee shop/ at their offices. Treat this as your second round interview, so dress appropriately (my rule of thumb is “First Date”, if it’s not a suit work environment).
Ascertain whether there are any specific roles at this company. Find out a bit more about the person, whether you’d like to learn from them, and basically begin the due diligence. Tell them more about NEF, why NEF chose you, and what the next 12 months holds.
If they’ve just been polite, and there aren’t in fact any roles at the company, don’t worry at all. They’ll probably know other people to introduce you to. If they don’t offer, then don’t be afraid to ask.
Third meeting: OBJECTIVE – get a job
See ‘How to prepare for an interview’…
TOP TIP: there is very little downside to networking with successful entrepreneurs, and saying that you’re looking to learn from them is a great compliment. Further, people like helping. If you’re nice, they’ll probably be able to pass you on to someone else they know. Who knows where it’ll lead.
How to prepare for an interview
Depending on how you met the company, it might be that you just have some meetings and it eventually turns into “Hey, come meet the team!”
Or it might be a bit more formal (especially if there are other candidates applying for that position).
Either way, there are basic things to do before an interview that I won’t bore you with (check company background, see when they were in the news etc.)
What to bring
Whenever you meet them, always bring a couple of copies of your CV.
If you have examples of work you’ve done, bring them along too (I brought some T-Shirts I sold at university, it can sometimes lighten the mood!)
What to wear?!
You could always ask.. But a safe bet would be what you’d wear on a First Date (unless it’s definitely suits).
What to prepare
If it’s an online service, try signing up for it/ having a go with it. Write down you notes when you do. Don’t be afraid to give them honest feedback with how you felt the process was.
Also, really have a think about the business model. In the previous blog, we talked about “Would you invest in this company?”. If there are any niggling points about the business model that you’re unsure about, just ask them. It shows you’re properly thinking about the company.
Some questions I remember
More than other roles I’ve interviewed for, they all wanted specific details
Q: For this company, what are you better than most people at doing?
A: <insert glowing answer with concrete example to back up>
They said how much are you worth to the company, I said £30k a year (ballsy, I know..)
Q: “OK, but if we’re losing you for 25 days a year, on top of holiday, then surely on a pro rata basis we should pay you less?”
A: “You could see it that way, but that would assume those 25 days brought no value to my role, or the company. I’d say they do bring value, so would politely disagree”
Handling multiple offers
There’s a chance you could have a few companies vying for your employment. It’ll then depend how you want to play it.
If one of them is in the early growth stage, it would probably show a lack of understanding to go in and ask for a higher wage, if things are as tight as they are.
In general, I find all parties appreciate being kept in the loop on things. Those that you are considering, you can always think of a reason to stall them (that isn’t a direct criticism of the business), if you’re waiting to hear back from someone else
My former boss set me up with an interview with one of her friends, and I really need to go along and have it
is quite a useful one, as it implies the decision is out of your hands.
When it get down to it, take a piece of paper and write out the pros and cons of each placement, and see how they match up with the things we talked about in the previous post.
If you’re still stuck, then reach out to friends, and perhaps myself and the NEF alumni who could give you some advice. It’s often good to get another opinion on what to do.
There’s been a fair bit covered, but should nevertheless be useful. The key takeaways are:
- Great excuse to catch up: finding your own placement gives you a reason to get in touch with past employers, and also provides them an opportunity to match you people in their network
- People like to help: if you are genuine, and take an interest, people you meet will happily put you in touch with people they know
- Don’t rush into them: when explaining what you’re after, don’t overload them with info on NEF. Dripfeed it into your contact with them (or attach on an email) and they’ll be impressed
- Back yourself in an interview: you’ve been picked because you don’t do things like everyone else. Have a conversation over how the business could be improved in your interview
- And the salary: they might not know what the going rate is for a NEFer, feel free to bump up what your wage is going to be if you feel comfortable doing so…
Best of luck with it all – finding a host company is a great opportunity to get in touch with lots of interesting companies. And who knows, even if you don’t end up working for them, they could become useful contacts in the future…
If you have any questions about this, please either leave a comment below, or reach out to me via samuel.floy[@]gmail.com – I’m more than happy to help.