Layoffs at such companies as Shopify, Twitter, Netflix, Substack and Wealthsimple made headlines this summer. The tech job market is not, however, all doom and gloom. The latest figures from Statistics Canada reported there were 1,037,900 job vacancies across the country in June — a 3.2 percent increase from May. And many tech startups are looking to pick up highly skilled workers as they grow their teams — there are currently more than 3,300 positions posted on MaRS’s online job board.
It turns out that now is a great time to look for a job at a Canadian tech startup.
“It’s a candidates’ market,” says Daneal Charney, an executive in residence at MaRS who works with high-growth companies on talent attraction and retention challenges. And many of the startups she works with are viewing this as an opportune time to find skilled candidates and are actively luring people who have been recently let go. “Those employees come with later-stage experience, which is great for startups.”
When it comes to recruiting talent, there’s growing competition among startups, says Martine Massarelli, director of employee experience at Dialogue, a virtual healthcare provider that’s experiencing steady growth. That means it doesn’t take long for qualified people to find their next position. For job seekers, she says, “it could be a good time to look for something new and to join a startup.”
Brigitte Rajabian is the chief human resources officer at Flexiti, a startup that has ranked among the fastest growing companies in Canada for the last three years — its staff has grown by nearly 60 percent since 2020. She has found that the benefits of working for a startup can outstrip that of a typical corporate gig. “A lot of the work that we do is not siloed,” Rajabian says, which means employees get the chance to work on various business initiatives with different teams. Corporate culture is another area where startups have a strong advantage. At Flexiti, the social squad regularly hosts events, such as foosball tournaments and beer cart Thursdays to encourage employees to get to know each other outside of meetings. “If you don’t have a winning culture, you’re not going to have a business that gets off the ground,” says Rajabian.
When it comes to potential hires, Rajabian looks for people who are adaptable. Massarelli agrees, and also adds that a humble confidence is a top asset — she likes to look for candidates who feel comfortable in their abilities, sharing their skills with others and supporting other people’s growth.
But before you start sending out resumes, it’s important to know what to expect in joining a startup instead of a larger company. “It can be chaotic, fast-moving and unstructured,” says Charney. She recommends reaching out to others in the startup world via Slack and Facebook Groups as well as attending events, like Elevate, to learn more about the community and the impact you can have.
If you do decide that startup life is for you, it can make a big difference in your career. Charney has interviewed employees who said that one year at a startup is like three years in the corporate world. “There are no rules about how quickly you can move up,” she says. While your compensation might be relatively lower, Charney adds, you become much more marketable with the skills you acquire. “Startups are like a blank page where you can write your own job description; it’s up to you how much you’re going to put in and what you’re going to get out of your career.”
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