# 1. Let the market tell you what you’re good at
Startups are obsessed with the articulation of the customer problem they solve. But sometimes their customers say they are actually solving a different problem! They usually embrace it and build on that strength. How to steal this: Observe why your friends and family are counting on you. Are you the person to contact for technical issues? To plan trips? To find offers? To suggest restaurants? To boost people’s morale? Build on it! It will tell you what others around you think you are good at – you might be surprised at your strengths and discover a whole new career path in this field!
# 2. Chase Insights
Insights are “aha” moments when startups discover something new about customer behavior, product use cases, or the invisible boundaries of a process. Startups use experiences to move from one insight to another.
How to steal that: Try a lot of different things and look for the “aha” moments – in your topics, interests, or conversations. If you find a good source of information, treat it!
These a-ha moments will tell you what excites you and lead you to the areas you will love to learn the most. And when you enjoy something, you do it a lot better! (For me, the highest density of information was in economics)
# 3. Maximize long-term income
All businesses maximize their profit. But startups maximize their profits over the long term. They consciously forgo some short-term income to reach a critical milestone that “proves” something is possible (VCs make it possible). Once proven, it often opens up a much larger market than conventional businesses can access (this is when the VC bet pays off).
How to steal that: it’s normal to want to maximize your income. The long-term approach is to make choices that maximize overall lifetime gains. Sometimes that can mean taking on high-risk roles or steep learning curves (which is an investment in the overall income of life). If your family situation allows it, some of the steepest learning curves can be found in early entrepreneurial experiences. It’s the same premise that accepting unpaid internships is that you can work for free for a while, but in the long run you will learn so much that you may not be able to in a regular newbie role.
# 4. Benefits> features
Start-up marketers have ‘benefits, not features’. Benefits are the end result that a customer values (eg IPod = “1000 songs in your pocket”).
Features are details that are supposed to impress but often do not impress the customer (eg IPod = “64 GB of space on portable music player”). How to steal that: The “characteristics” are your scores, your references and your past accomplishments. In personal statements to colleges, in internship cover letters, or during networking, explain the value you can add (eg, “fresh ideas”, “a teenager’s perspective”, “a group of discussion for product reviews ”or“ here is a version of your website that I designed with better UX! ”). In fact, this is a very useful technique to use throughout life – whenever you try to convince someone, think about the benefits they will find useful and present them with the specific advantages rather than your characteristics!
# 5. Ask what you want
Startups are jostling each other. They ask, and most of the time they don’t get it (it’s okay, they have thick skin). But when a big partnership clicks, it’s a 10X accelerator. Teenagers, be bold. Connect with people on LinkedIn and request internships, a 20 minute mentoring session, a sponsorship for your school club.
You are not “too young”. No one is “too old”. A “no” (or silence) shouldn’t stop you from asking someone else. This one, I can back it up from experience – you’ll be surprised at what you can get just because you asked (kindly). Most people are afraid to ask because they don’t want to hear a “no”. A “no” isn’t necessarily a sign of rejection or failure, it just means you’ve tried and it didn’t work this time around. So the next time you’re hesitant to ask for something, remember this – the worst case scenario is you hear a no. On the other hand, if you get a yes, you get what you want!
This article was adapted from a LinkedIn post by Sriram Subramanian, CEO of Clever Harvey, India’s largest career booster for teens. Learn more about Clever Harvey Junior MBA
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