The world of social media technology has again netted overnight billionaires. On February 19, Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and stock. Never heard of WhatsApp? You’re not alone. WhatsApp is is an instant messaging app for smartphones that has garnered 450 million monthly users, according to Forbes. It’s an important, strategic acquisition for Facebook because the company wants to start appealing to young users who have eschewed Facebook and instead embraced social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and yes, WhatsApp.
The founders of WhatsApp, Jay Koum and Brian Acton, are now instant billionaires. And while their trajectory is nothing short of stunning, there are a few lessons we could all learn from the acquisition, in particular when it comes to a job search.
Align yourself with smart, hardworking people who bring out the best in you
WhatsApp’s founders come from very different backgrounds. Jan Koum is a college dropout who immigrated from Ukraine, and Brian Acton graduated from prestigious Stanford University. They first met years ago and got to know each other while working at Yahoo. Their different educational backgrounds and life experiences complemented each other well during their creation of WhatsApp. Neither Koum nor Acton sought out business partners who paralleled their skills sets and qualifications; rather, they partnered up with people who could contribute new abilities and perspectives to the table.
Lesson: Don’t overlook anyone and actively seek out those whom you admire in your field.
Let your failures and struggles drive you, but not define you
According to Forbes, Koum was born and raised in a small village near Kiev, Ukraine, in a home with no hot water. Because of political unrest in Ukraine, he left at age 16 with his mom and settled in Mountain View, Calif. while his dad stayed behind. He brought government-issued school supplies with him so he would’t have to pay for any in the U.S. Once in America, he and his mother received public assistance, including food stamps and housing. When it was time to sign on the dotted line for the Facebook deal on February 19, he returned to the now-shuttered welfare office where he spent time waiting in line for that public assistance and signed the deal there.
Lesson: Don’t dwell on the hardships you’ve faced in the past — regardless of whether it was a bad job interview two days ago or a bad job two years ago. Learn from those struggles, pat yourself on the back for making it through them, and appreciate the fact that they made you stronger.
Forge relationships, network face-to-face
LinkedIn is great, but sometimes nothing beats face time — not the app, but the ancient art of communicating with someone in person. If you think someone could help you, don’t hesitate to invite them for coffee. You never know where those relationships might lead you. As The New York Times reports, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t hit Koum up on Facebook asking to buy his company; instead they took two years to get to know each other, which no doubt included plenty of emails as well as face-to-face meetings in a variety of settings. According to the NYT, the two initially met for coffee and a stroll, and then met for several more strolls and dinners. By the time a deal was struck, Koum felt comfortable enough in their relationship to crash Zuckerberg’s Valentine’s dinner with his wife.
Lesson: The only way to really know if an industry, company, or position is right for you is to talk to those who know the space. Take time to meet with others face-to-face and strike up a conversation.
Acton worked for over 10 years at Yahoo and Apple, but in 2009 he found himself looking for work. He applied at both Twitter and, in a wonderfully ironic twist, Facebook, and was turned down by both. Rather than fuming and giving up, Acton remained optimistic, tweeting “Got denied by Twitter HQ. That’s ok. Would have been a long commute,” and “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.”
Lesson: Realize if you didn’t get the job you wanted the first time, it might be because something better is just around the bend. The way you act in the face of rejection says a lot to potential employers. Make sure you’re sending the right message, because when the next great position in the company comes along, that job recruiter who saw your positive attitude might call you first.
Stay educated and active in your field while you work towards the next big thing
Koum dropped out of San Jose State University, but his thirst for learning propelled him forward. According to Forbes, he is self-taught in computer networking via manuals purchased from a used book store. He also joined a hacker group and picked the brains of other industry giants, including Sean Fanning, co-founder of Napster.
Lesson: Always keep learning in your field. Whether it’s taking a MOOC or getting a subscription to a trade website and reading an article a day, keep searching for new knowledge and skills.
Take a timeout
In between their tenure at Yahoo and when they began formulating the idea for WhatsApp, Koum and Acton took a year to travel and chill a bit, reports Forbes. They went to South America and played a lot of Frisbee, but also applied for jobs during that time, including with Facebook, from which they were both rejected. In early 2009, re-energized and rejuvenated, they began thinking about creating an app.
Lesson: Surely Acton was helped along by the money he saved while he worked at Yahoo, and most of us can’t take a year off from work just to hang out and live off our savings. However, even if you just take an afternoon to go see a movie or take a stroll in the park, even an hour or two where you don’t think about your job search can give you some clarity of mind and perhaps a new perspective.
The Facebook purchase of WhatsApp wasn’t an overnight deal. Zuckerberg had been watching the company for two years, according to The New York Times, and he started talking to Koum in person in the early months of 2012. While you don’t have the luxury of waiting two years to find a job, you do need to always keep your options open, keep learning and continue to network even after you’ve secured a job. The next great thing could be right around the corner.
This article was originally published on OnlineDegrees.com