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A Talent Partner’s Advice on Job Seeking in a Down Market

February 2, 2023
Jordan Ormont, Talent Partner & Kandace Elam, Director of GTM Talent

Layoffs sweeping the tech sector have spiked concerns about a potential recession; that anxiety is felt most acutely by those looking for work. Landing a new role in this market can feel daunting. But it’s not all doom and gloom for job seekers. 

Startups will continue to invest in their most important asset: Talent. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy managed to add 223,000 jobs in December alone. The unemployment rate remains low, and with new talent entering the market, non-tech companies are working to attract experienced tech workers that were previously outside their grasp. Tech companies are still hiring, but we’ve seen the power shift to favor early-stage companies. Many startups raised large funding rounds during the frenzied funding peak and still have the financial runway to hire. They consider this a buyers’ market and are eager to hire great people. Experience remains a hot commodity.

How to Structure Your Job Search

In a constrained market, a larger talent pool competes for fewer jobs. You can’t control the peaks and valleys of the job market, but there are several things you can do to stand out as a candidate.

In 15 years as a VC Talent partner, I’ve advised hundreds of professionals on their job searches and noticed two simple truths:

  • Applicants who take a structured and purpose-driven approach to their search land the best roles.
  • Relationships matter: Your personal network is an asset. The ability to connect and build new relationships is a superpower.

With those key tenets front and center, I’ve laid out my top tips to help candidates approach their job search with confidence: 

1. Focus your search

Too often, applicants cast too wide a net in their job search. Getting specific helps manage your time, stand out in interviews, and ultimately land a role that’s a great fit for you.

What are you passionate about? Create a heat map of the top 20 companies you want to target in a sector. For each, create a one-pager on the business and prepare your case for why you would be a good fit for a specific role. Go beyond the career webpage. Look for recent videos of the CEO speaking at a conference or blog posts from the hiring manager. It’s a quick way to learn about the business in their own words. It also helps to prepare for interviews and come up with questions. How does this role help the company reach its goals? 

Next is the hard part: Getting a foot in the door. Try to improve your odds with referrals from your network. As you research each company, also make note of possible connections. Even if you don’t have a connection, tailor your outreach in a way that is personable or relatable. For instance, reach out to fellow alumni that work in similar positions at the company and ask for advice or insight into the role. 

2. Fine-tune your pitch

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is talk about yourself. Before you start to interview, you need to perfect your personal pitch. Sales leaders often speak about value-based selling. This is value-based interviewing. A personal pitch should go beyond a long list of responsibilities, similar to a sales pitch. It defines how your skills drive value for a company. 

Be an expert. Generalists don’t win in this competitive market. Companies are looking for specific skills in the roles they’re trying to fill. What achievements are you best known for in your current and past roles? Which skills set you apart? At the same time, don’t be afraid to share the areas that you don’t excel in or don’t enjoy. Hiring managers appreciate self-awareness. 

A company wants to understand the potential ROI you would bring to the team. Quantify your work. Did you generate new revenue or implement cost-savings measures? How much? Did you have to implement new systems? Build a team? Describe the key metrics for success in your previous roles.

All in all, a good pitch is concise and to the point. In a few sentences, clearly explain: your current role, quantify two to three career achievements, and tell me a bit about your expertise. It should give a hiring manager a sense of who you are but still leave room for questions. Practice your “why me” story out loud. Repeat it in the car, on your run, and even in the shower—make it muscle memory.

3. Network IRL

During the pandemic, we got so used to sitting at home trying to design our lives from behind a computer screen. Now is a great opportunity to meet new people in person and emotionally connect. Put yourself in the flow. When you put yourself out there—physically—you allow for serendipity and authenticity that is hard to find online.

Join professional networks that align with your interests or background. Connect with angel investing networks like AngelList and the Cap Table Coalition. Take part in communities that represent you, like All Raise, BLCKVC, and /dev/color. Find peers in groups like Pavilion for GTM leaders or Chief for women in leadership. Attend local events or host your own. Networking and building meaningful connections will help you on your journey to find the right job for you.

Finding a new job can be overwhelming but there are still great opportunities to be discovered with the right game plan. We hope that this post helps you navigate the job market with confidence. We wish you luck! 

Menlo Ventures’ companies are hiring

If you’re looking for a place to start your job search, we encourage you to start at our career page, which allows you to search by role and location: For executive roles, we encourage you to reach out to us via LinkedIn.

Among the Menlo-backed companies hiring: 

Sana Labs logo