Take the Initiative

It seems so often that young kids don’t know where to start when it comes to standing out from a crowd, specifically to a business they might want to work for. I’ve learned through personal experience that it often is in the candidates’ hands to show off their skills through value-creation for the company even before the first interview.

To drive my point home, here’s two stories, one of a fellow young developer and one of my own, on how value was made for a company before the word “interview” was even thrown around.

My Story

When I was 15 I found out about a long-form messaging app called Jot (changed to Chalk later). I thought it was absolutely amazing but it got a bit tedious to type those long paragraphs on the iPhone. I decided to message the founders to see if they had any plans to make a web app and to my dismay they said no. So I set out to make one myself.

That same day I started to reverse-engineer the app’s API endpoints through a proxy on my Mac and then built those into a backend that I made in Node and Express. After that I built a quick frontend that resembled Jot’s iOS app and started using it for a day or so to test its functionality.

After a few tweaks and making sure I was happy with it, I messaged the founders of Jot to see if they would be interested in a Skype call to demo it. They were very impressed that I built an entirely functional web client without any API documentation and only a few days later I accepted an intern position at the company.

Stefan Stokic

Stefan Stokic was 16 at the time when he decided he wanted to get the attention of Shark Tank investor and Silicon Valley legend Chris Sacca. Instead of just sending him an email asking to chat, Stefan went ahead and made a website that listed all the job openings at Lowercase Capital’s companies. He shot Chris a link and both Chris and his partner, Matt Mazzeo, replied and showed their appreciation for Stefan’s work.

Chris was so impressed with Stefan that he actually mentioned him in a recent interview. Stefan went on to become one of the two youngest entrepreneurs ever backed by Y-Compinator with their company, Silk.

As you can see, though both of these stories are different, they both share a common theme: creating value before the company even hired us on. It’s important to show that you’re different than the rest of the group of applications in the pool by going above and beyond what the company expects, truly wowing them. That doesn’t mean you have to make a whole application or website to prove your value. It might be as simple as taking some product photos for them or even designing a logo.