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Tips for Breaking Into Venture Capital Field?

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Dear J.T. & Dale: I was recently downsized and am looking to get into the venture capital field. I am looking for an internship in that field. I have a business degree and 20 years’ sales experience. Can you provide some guidance? — John

J.T.: I’d suggest starting by checking out Guy Kawasaki online. He blogs about the VC world, and many of his articles offer great advice on standing out from the competition, connecting with VC folks and so on.

Dale: And I would suggest starting by burning your resume. With all your sales experience, John, you know that there is no point in sending a brochure to people who aren’t in the market for your product. And you need to face up to the fact that your brochure — your resume — doesn’t fit any standard buying (hiring) situation. That’s not personal; usually it’s true of anyone seeking to change fields. Instead of wasting time sending resumes, search out connections between your past and future. With all the people you surely have met during your sales career, there must be several who are connected to the venture capital world. If you network in it, you’ll have a chance to sell yourself, in person.

J.T.: However, I wouldn’t go in selling yourself for internships. I think you’re better positioned to offer yourself as a “try before you buy” consultant. If you build the right personal branding package, you can position yourself in such a way that you can offer to do a project for free in exchange for a reference and a shot at a paying gig. This will appeal to their start-up mentality and even may get them thinking about current ventures that need your type of experience. The key is to have as many conversations as you can with people, and eventually you’ll know the time is right to stop asking for advice and information, and instead “ask for the sale.”


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Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons).

Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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