The Inside Story behind Getting Your First Job (as told by an entrepreneur)
We’ve all had our own humble beginnings. Whether it’d be working as a paperboy for a neighbourhood route or bussing tables at a family diner — success starts somewhere. This includes Derek Ruston, who is an entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist. Today, he runs his own private investment firm and is Co-Founder and Partner at Eventi Capital Partners, a growth capital investment group. But where did his success start? The team at Wirkn was lucky enough to sit down and interview him about his story. Here are 5 things that you can take away from Derek’s experiences to apply to your own job search.
1) What’s Your Motivation?
Finding your first job is not an easy process. Sometimes it can take weeks or even years to get an employer’s attention when you have little previous experience to offer. Rejections will happen! But don’t feel demotivated from them. If you keep yourself motivated with the right purposes you will definitely get over any challenges that come along the way. No, getting a job just because you want to fit in with the rest of your working friends will probably not motivate you enough to do this. As they say, if you want something badly enough, you will eventually get it. This is what Derek recalls from his first job search experience and his motivation behind it.
When I was demobilized from The British Army at aged 20 after serving in Korea I was faced with the problem of finding my first real job. I had left Grammar School at 15 where I had a very good basic education but was required to help my recently widowed mother and six children — I was the second eldest.
Derek was forced to adapt to his difficult situation and make the best of it. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and for his family, he stepped up to the plate to help out his family. This drive is what pushed him to find his first job and so can you!
2) Find Meaningful Work
Sometimes it may feel like your first job isn’t going to amount to anything monumental but you should always be on the lookout for opportunities that align with your career goals in the future. For example, working as a receptionist at a local gallery could expose you to deeper knowledge and new network towards your dream job as a freelance artist in the future. Like Derek, remember to not sell yourself short and be selective during your job search.
Without any formal qualification there seemed to be few options other than manual work or menial clerical situations. However, I was determined not to accept anything without prospects. So I scoured the newspapers for opportunities and found an opening for “A Work Study Engineer”. I didn’t know what it was about but I decided to apply.
Although Derek could use any job he could find, he still had a long-term vision for himself and for his career. He made sure he didn’t forget about his future job prospects and professional growth. Remember to do the same for yourself to bring in value from your very first job.
3) Be Adaptable and Persistent
Recognizing that his resume alone would not be enough to get him the job, Derek adapted and kept pushing to meet the manager face-to-face. He took an unconventional route and faced obstacles, but being persistent got Derek what he needed.
Rather than submitting a resume which would have been immediate rejection, I showed up at the company and asked to meet the manager doing the hiring and insisted that the gate person let the manager know that I wanted to see him just for a few minutes.
Most job applications are now received digitally and employers are judging candidates without ever meeting the individual in person. Especially when looking for your first job with little experiences to sell, you’re going to want to go the extra effort in getting noticed. Meeting the hiring manager in person will play favourable on your part and demonstrates that you’re interested in the job amongst hundreds of other applicants! You can also take the time to learn a bit more about the work environment (and whether or not it’s right for you) and convince them face-to-face why you’re the ideal candidate.
4) Be Human — Openness to Experience and Humility
Employers are not expecting you to come in with a wide array of skill sets under your tool belt. They recognize that you may just be entering the job field and will have realistic expectations of you. Quite frankly, most of them are looking for someone who’s hardworking, honest, and human! Don’t be afraid to admit that you may require extra training on a certain area and never ever lie about what you can’t do! Be yourself and be open to learning and acquiring new experiences. Most employers will appreciate your honesty and you will stand out from the rest of the candidate pool.
With Derek, he recognized and spoke honestly about his own weaknesses, admitting that he was not qualified. He also demonstrated modesty by asking to be paid for what he is worth. This is more powerful than being a technically qualified candidate.
It turned out that the manager had served in the Second World War and was somewhat sympathetic to ex-soldiers but pointed out that I had absolutely no qualifications for the job. My response was that I could learn fast and moreover, I would assume the total risk, he could pay me whatever he liked.
5) Confidence is Key
Confidence can take you far in life and that includes your job search. Talk about your passions, be open to discussing your experiences and remember to smile. When you project confidence, it automatically opens many doors along the way because people will be drawn to your energy.
I wound up spending over an hour discussing the books I had read, my military experience and my ambitions. On the way out he asked me if I could read a slide rule. I said I would by the time I showed up for work on Monday. This was a turning point in my life.
Not only did Derek have confidence in his ability to learn how to use a slide rule, he showed confidence by opening up to the manager. Sharing his stories candidly showed Derek’s integrity, which created a deeper connection with his manager.
What was your first job or job searching experience like? We’re collecting first-hand #MyFirstJob stories to hopefully inspire you with the humble beginnings of others. Curious to know what Donovan Bailey or Carol Huynh’s first job were? Visit and find out!