Not many folks know this, but back in 2020 when Earlywork was just a newsletter, launching a community wasn’t the first ‘product’ idea we tried.
After research with 150+ students & graduates across our newsletter audience, we found that the average graduate was willing to pay $3000 to guarantee their dream graduate role, with some going as high as $10,000-$20,000.
We had also encountered a super low literacy around job application & interview processes for tech & startup roles in Australia.
Based on these two insights, we launched a job search coaching service to help students and graduates land roles in tech & startups.
If we could help someone land a job, incrementally, we would be landing them tens of thousands of dollars and a ton of upside in terms of future learning and career progression.
In doing so, we also wanted to democratise ‘job search as a skill’ and level the playing field. Notably, for our beta cohort, we opted for a pay-what-you-want, no-win, no-fee model, so that anyone regardless of income level could access the service.
Leveraging our newsletter, social media presence, and campus network, we tested our coaching model with dozens of young people from a diverse range of academic and professional backgrounds, with structured sessions around:
- What Career Pathway to Choose + How to Discover Top Startups in Australia
- How to Create a Killer LinkedIn, Resume & Cover Letter
- How to Leverage Cold LinkedIn DMs
- Behavioural Interview Tips & Tricks
But we made a ton of f*ckups along the way… 🤦
With no upfront cost, limited screening, and no formalised coaching agreement, our beta cohort attracted candidates with a mixed bag of needs, urgency and motivation levels.
Folks would have one or a couple of sessions, but they would:
- Drop off to focus on other areas of life like uni and current work
- Already have landed their own interviews with companies before starting sessions
- Stop sessions and later use the initial insights & skills learned to land a job independently
- Not yet have the right foundational skills to land the jobs they wanted
We didn’t have a rigorous system of collecting product feedback and hadn’t formalised a neat way to request payment, so we struggled to capture the value from folks who eventually landed jobs with our help.
After this initial beta cohort, we were on track to launch a more structured, cohort-based career coaching program to help students & graduates land startup roles in early 2021.
But we asked ourselves: “Why should we focus on helping ten people when we can help thousands?”
So in April 2021, we turned our LinkedIn group of early newsletters fans into a dedicated community on Slack: the Earlywork community.
From those intimate one-on-one coaching experiences navigating career stories, one valuable thing that did emerge was a set of four key factors that determine whether a role is the right fit for someone, which we termed the PEGS framework:
To this day, the PEGS framework is still the introductory paradigm I use when mentoring students and recent graduates who are unsure about what role to take on.
Here’s how to use it:
#1: Problem 🤬
What problems piss you off?
Choosing a career in the tech & startup space, given its fast pace and high level of ambiguity, can come with a lot of ups and downs.
When I look back at the roles I enjoyed the most, a common thread was that I was working on a problem that pissed me off i.e. a problem worth solving.
Working on something you give a shit about makes the harder days worth it, so when you’re evaluating what ‘industry’ to work in long-term, come back to a broad lens view of the world around you.
What big problems personally frustrate you, excite you, or capture your curiosity?
“Follow your passion” comes from a good place in chasing what you’re curious about…
…but when it comes to choosing a career, not all passions come with equal opportunities.
The sweet spot is finding where your curiosity intersects with the pain points and unmet needs of others.
If you’re struggling with an answer here, that’s okay! Start somewhere, and the more problem spaces you explore, the stronger your answer will be.
#2: Environment 🏡
What does your ideal working environment look like?
You can take one problem, say, the transition to renewable energy, and tackle that in many different environments:
- Multinational corporations
- Fast-growing startups
- Government departments
- Consultancies & agencies
- Investment firms
- Not-for-profits and charities
The environment you choose can have a huge impact on the learning, responsibility, culture and impact you get, so choosing the right one is arguably as important as the problem space itself.
Here are some key dimensions to consider as a way to segment different environments and understand where you can best thrive:
a) Are you primarily looking for mentorship or ownership?
b) Do you thrive in structured or unstructured environments?
c) Do you prefer independent or collaborative work?
d) Do you want to go broad or go deep?
e) How comfortable are you with risk & change?
A lot of these questions often wedge on the total headcount of your workplace, so it’s worth getting exposure to big and small companies to help you get clearer here.
Our earlier piece on Corporates vs. Startups may be helpful in the general strengths & weaknesses of each of these environments.
#3: Goals 🎯
What do you want out of your role, and career more broadly?
The role your friend chooses may be a terrible fit for you, even if both of you are interested in similar areas.
Fundamentally, people choose careers with different underlying drivers. It’s important to reflect on what these are for you, both short-term and long-term.
Over the 1.5 years of running Earlywork, these are the most common career goals I’ve encountered in early-career job seekers:
- Learn as much as I can
- Run my own business
- Earn a high salary
- Have a good work-life balance
- Work flexible hours
- Work on lots of different areas
- Work on something with massive scale
- Make a positive social impact
- Work on cutting-edge technology
- Travel across the world for work
Of course, it’s not easy to get all of these factors in one role, and you may not even want some of these factors, so it’s worth defining your own drivers and understanding their comparative priority.
Use this list as a starting point and try to rank what factors are most important to you both a) In your next role and b) Long-term.
As a general pattern, we’ve seen folks in the community prioritise Learning and Culture as the most important factors when evaluating a job offer, over Compensation and Impact:
That allows you to narrow down the vast array of career options out there, and weigh up competing possibilities.
In formulating my own career framework as a university graduate, I came to the 3 pillars of Learning, Impact & Camaraderie as the most important things for me to optimise for right now. Here’s a previous piece I wrote outlining this approach in greater detail.
#4: Skills 🎨
What skills do you want to use to solve the problem you care about?
Let’s say your dream company knocked on your door today and said “Hey mate, take any role you want.”
What job do you take?
Focus less on the title and more on the underlying skills you’ll get to use, whether ‘hard’ quantitative skills or more qualitative, interpersonal skills.
To understand where you can have the greatest leverage:
a) Map out a list of skills you have today
These can be both specific skills you’ve honed from education or work experience, as well as more general talents and strengths.
Often, these are the sorts of things your friends would say you’re great at or things you picked up easily as a kid.
Understanding your current skillset in totality helps you to get a sense of the type of roles you’re best positioned to fill in a company.
Shilpa Mohan from ProcurePro gives some great examples of how to translate non-tech experiences into skills related to tech roles in one of our previous pieces here.
b) Segment your skills by how much you enjoy them
The act of utilising and honing some skills will give you energy and joy. Pay attention to this intersection.
As Naval Ravikant (Angel Investor and Founder of AngelList) often remarks:
“Do what feels like play to you, but work to others”
If you try a job and hate it, great, you learned something about yourself that helps you to narrow down your options!
Just because you’ve built up a baseline ability in an area, doesn’t mean you have to go down that path.
I tried my hand at a Computer Science degree, but aside from a brief stint in WordPress development, recognised that this area didn’t capture my curiosity or give me as much energy as others.
c) Define what skills you’d like to build but don’t yet have
Understanding your desired skills helps you to prioritise roles based not just on how much you’ll learn, but the relevance of what you’ll learn to your goals.