Phil Strazzulla is the founder of SelectSoftware, which helps HR buy the right software through free online guides.
Tell us about one of the toughest days of our life.
I graduated from college in 2008. It wasn’t the best time, but I was still able to get a job at a small finance company that I was very excited to work for. I’ve always been a finance geek, and thought that working in a boutique firm would allow me to get more exposure to decision-making and strategy.
Fast-forward a year later, and I had lost my job. It was the peak of the recession, and those in the media were saying that I would be part of a “lost generation” who’s career would probably never launch due to a lack of opportunity. The next year would be one of the hardest in my life and there were many times I thought that I would never get another good job.
I spent those twelve months subletting a room in NYC from an older couple who wanted a bit of extra cash. I worked at two startups for basically nothing in order to keep building my skills and network. I applied to hundreds of jobs, and went on well over 50 interviews. Most of these companies never hired anyone, let alone me, and the rejection started to take its toll on my confidence.
I finally broke through and got a job offer for a small consulting firm. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was enough spark to give me hope. I actually didn’t take the job, and in what was probably a very dumb decision, I instead rolled the dice to see if I could get my dream job working in venture capital. I’d been interviewing with a firm for a few months at that point, and they were close to making a decision on me.
I ended up getting the job, after being rejected by them twice in the previous months, but finding new ways into the interview process. From there, I went to Harvard to get my MBA (they liked the comeback story I guess), and then started my own business.
It was a very trying time, but the experience shaped me for the better. It started to build a muscle that allows me to fight through the various adversities inherent in starting a business, and gives me confidence that I can get through whatever comes my way.