Upon completing your education you’ll be faced with a decision; go work for a large institutional-quality firm which demands professionalism and attention to detail, but inherently forces you to specialize; or work for a start-up firm where you’ll be involved in all the decision-making whether for good or bad.

Personally I’m attracted to the small company environment where I’m involved in all aspects of the company. My day-to-day responsibilities consist of acquisitions, asset management, property management, marketing, accounting, and investor relations just to name a few.

However, these jobs are hard to land. Here’s how you can set yourself up to procure a job with the highly coveted start-up firm.

Be an Athlete
Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Jason Freedman, founder of 42Floors. In a recent blog post he explained that, as a start-up tech firm, he decided to only hire athletes. By athletes, he didn’t mean guys who played sports, but people who were first and foremost generalists and could play any role within a company. He hires people who are adaptive and possess an array of skills that can be applied all over the company. These employees act like founders because they’re not locked into one individual role. In the early stages of a start-up, when needs are changing almost daily, you want people who enjoy the ever-changing role.

Make the Most of Your Graduate Program
If you’re enrolled in a graduate program, make the most of it. One of the benefits of a generalized real estate program is developing a broad fundamental skillset from finance, accounting, and legal, to land use and sustainable development. Spend your time developing higher-level softer skillsets rather than hard expertise which can be learned on the job.

When choosing a summer internship, pick a place where you can hone a functional skillset; don’t base your decision on what will look best on a resume. Down the road, no one will care where you worked for 10 weeks one summer.

Have At Least One Demonstrative Skill
To be attractive to a start-up firm, you must be adaptive, but you also must possess at least one demonstrative skill. It could be financial modeling or sales, as long as you have something to contribute immediately.

Landing a role with a start-up firm is challenging; you must be an athlete while possessing at least one demonstrative skill. If you’re in a graduate program, use your time wisely.

What do you think?