When I started interning at I2A Fund in the Spring of 2012, I tried to take on as much responsibility as possible. I’ve done a lot of menial tasks in my life, from stuffing envelopes in political campaigns to couriering packages at my internship at Time, Inc, and (as noted in my last post) I had a chip on my shoulder….I thought I was too good for those tasks. I was wrong.
I can’t remember who taught me this piece of advice, but when I was in my teens, someone told me that the trick to longevity at a job, promotions and overall success was “making yourself indispensable.” What that means at every organization is different, but what I realized after a week at I2A Fund was the extraordinary level of scheduling complexity and busyness during any given day. A lot of entrepreneurs and aspiring VCs simply don’t understand the makeup of a day in the life of a VC. Below is the schedule from an “average” week of one of our partners:
Ever wonder why VCs take a couple of weeks to get back to you? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself – “well, he’s got some free blocks in there…I work a 8-7 so my day is just as busy.” The difference is that at a normal jobs, you actually get time to “work.” You know, like do some research, read through some analysis, do some writing.
In this partner’s case, he’s responsible for half a dozen board obligations, he’s trying to close a deal, he’s working on getting our annual letter finalized and out to LPs, he’s helping portco’s hire, continuing to network. Oh, and he gets 100-200 relevant e-mails per day. How long does it take you to respond to an e-mail? 30 seconds? 2 minutes? That’s 1.5-3 hrs/day of responding, assuming 1 minute/e-mail. And don’t forget that some e-mails, many e-mails, require a lot of thought. Oh not to mention, that partner might have a wife/husband, kids, some hobbies? It’s not’s easy being a VC.
If you are fortunate enough to land an internship, associate level role, or even higher at a VC, or heck, literally any role at a startup, this is the understanding you need to have when you enter. From the moment you enter the door, you need to be focused on: “how do make other people’s lives easier? How do I reduce some of their workload?” And then you just start doing it. You don’t ask “can I transcribe your notes to our CRM?” You just go and do it. You take notes, then you circulate a doc and say – “let me know if this helpful. Open to any feedback.”
If they don’t like the notes, you find something else. You take initiative and put together a graphical report of deal flow, or of portfolio diversification, or of the strengths/weaknesses of different companies. You just start doing things without being asked. The truth is that busy people are terrible at delegating jobs because it simply takes too much time/effort. Which is why VCs/Startups like to hire people who can show they do things – the right things – without being asked.
Be a self starter. Always be thinking about how do I make X or Y’s life easier. How do I add value? That is how you make yourself indispensable.