Me and two friends at the seminar where I first heard about Praxis.
Praxis is a highly competitive entrepreneurial program designed to be the fastest way for young people to go from where they are, to a career they want. Participants go through a 6-month self-directed professional bootcamp, followed by a 6-month paid apprenticeship at a high-growth startup in the US. No college degree required.
I was fortunate enough to discover it in June 2016, and be one of its 100 first customers — the first Brazilian participant.
Two months after discovering it, I applied.
The process took about a month and required me to answer two sets of questions, send a writing sample, my resume, recommendations from co-workers, and have two interviews.
It was really hard to be accepted. It required a lot of self-knowledge, preparation, and effort.
But at the same time, it was simple.
Here’s how I did it:
Initially, I asked myself a few good questions, like:
- What are they looking for in applicants?
- What do the most successful participants have in common?
- Am I the kind of person they want to work with?
- Do I believe in the program’s premises and philosophies?
After some research, I figured I met the criteria they were looking for — someone hardworking, curious, seeking an experience that challenged me more than just going to college.
But I was also grossly underqualified.
- 17 years old, while the average participant age was 21.
- English as a second language, while all participants until then were native English speakers.
- No experience in startups or in the area I wanted to work in (sales).
- Some knowledge in a few areas, but no real hard skills.
These facts beg the question:
“In spite of all of this, how can I show that I deserve to be accepted into the program?”
Answer: put in the work and show (don’t tell) them that I can do it.
So I obsessively consumed their content — 4 books, hundreds of blog posts, podcast episodes, and YouTube videos. And I applied what they taught — I got great results at my job at the time, while finishing school at night and developing side projects.
I also focused on learning who the members of the staff were, what they believed in, how I should behave on the interview, how to tell my story, etc.
That’s why it took me 2 months from discovering it to applying.
Not only did I need to convince myself that not going to college was a good idea, but also that I was prepared to come to the US and succeed at a startup.
Small secret: when I applied, I still felt unprepared.
But there were two things I knew I was good at and could use them to be accepted: thinking and hustling.
So I did it.
I kept in mind two basic economic principles:
- In order for one to gain, another doesn’t have to lose.
i.e. any long-term social interaction is only worth it if both parts gain value out of it.
- Humans act according to their self-interest.
i.e. understand which are the incentives driving their behavior, and use that to your advantage.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to ask a big indirect mentor of mine, Gabriel Goffi, this question:
“What is the one thing an ambitious young professional should do to leverage his career?”
His answer? Create value for someone who’s where you want to be.
It all comes back to incentives.
How can I give them what they’re looking for? Why would they say yes to me?
I just did my research better than most people would do.
Praxis is a for-profit business, but they only have a 5–12% acceptance rate. Why does that happen?
They have buzzwords. What is value creation? Conveyor belt? Bias for action? Value proposition? They seem to have a strong philosophy against college. Why? Do I agree with it? What are they advocating for?
It was so simple, that I found two articles on their website: The Extraordinary 5 Traits of the Best Praxis Applicants, and Five More Traits of the Best Praxis Applicants.
You don’t even have to read between the lines, they’re explicitly saying: please, read this.
If you have what they want, use it in your favor. Bet on your strengths.
Here’s how I began my application:
“My values are similar to those that Praxis is looking for — I want to further my skill set, invest in the startup of myself, as well as improve my ability to get things done and create value for others, aiming to transform the world into a freer place.”
During the application, my focus was to show that I had the right mindset and that I could create value for the startup I’d work for.
One of their questions was: “What will make you an excellent Praxis participant? What talent, skills, and experience will you bring to the program?”
I simply pointed to my results at previous companies, thought about my skills and mindset, and tailored my communication to show how I could help a business.
For example, instead of saying: I worked without supervision and I’m a fast learner (which is mostly okay), I’d say: I don’t need to be told more than once how to do something. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll figure it out.
This highlights my initiative and shows how I save my employer time and money on training.
All it takes is a little bit of thought, planning, content consumption, and lots of action.
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Also published on Medium.