Working in a Startup – What Is the Big Deal?
In the sea of corporate buzzwords, startup is an indispensable one. Everyone seems to be talking about these brand-new companies, but what’s the big deal?
What is a startup? Startups are new companies offering unique products to cater to the needs of the market. Startups often notice the gap in the offer or services provided by companies and attempt to bridge that by creating and continuously improving a singular project that bridges that gap.
Startups are new and fast-developing enterprises, very attuned to the needs of their clients, which leads to their rapid advancement and progressive tweaking of the features of their product. A good deal of startups is led by young people with a vision to make a positive impact, although there are those who are out to sell greenwashed products in a get-rich-easy scheme (in other words, beware of Instagram influencers turned entrepreneurs).
With such a dynamic company environment, the employees are also eager to learn and be fast-moving and flexible.
Pros and Cons of Working in a Startup – The Good, the Bad, and the Evil
In all honesty, startups need employees, and to get them, they have to step up what they’re offering. Working as a part of a young and relatively relaxed team, enjoying simple and more generous perks, and having more control over what you’re doing are certainly some of the benefits of getting a job in a startup.
However, you should be aware that a lot of glossed-over information provided in job ads or company descriptions can be misleading, and the truth may be somewhat more disheartening.
We would be failing in our mission if we didn’t say it like it is.
Advantages of Working in a Startup – The Good 😇
There are indeed many advantages to working in a startup:
- Learning opportunities. Everything is hands-on in a startup. The company is developing, and its leaders are learning as much as the employees. In such an environment, every new project is a chance to advance your skills.
- Career boost. If you’re willing to adapt to the quick-paced progress of the company, you’ll learn a series of soft skills like negotiation techniques, compromise, and personal agility. Additionally, you’ll pick up a series of educational and practical tips that’ll boost your career and help you land various jobs if you decide to leave the startup.
- More flexibility. Flexibility is the secret middle name of any startup – from remote work and hybrid work options to non-fixed work times. If you feel like popping down to the office and busting a ten-hour shift so you can stay home and rest tomorrow, you’ll be perfectly liable to do that.
- More responsibility. You can take on as much (or as little) responsibility as you like. If you’d like to exercise your leadership potential, you can ask for more tasks or high-profile roles. Or you can do your work comfortably. You decide.
- Less micromanagement. Don’t we all hate it when someone’s breathing down our neck and backseat-driving all the time? You would think that getting a job and adequate training would be enough to prove you can complete your assignments, and yet, some people just have to look over your shoulder and nag all the time. None of that happens in a startup – you’ll be in touch with your superior, but you’ll have more freedom than in a traditional company.
- No rigid assignments. Some people are perfectly fine with doing the same thing over and over again. However, if you’re among those who seek variety, a startup is the place to be, as you won’t be chained to a single job description and will have room for lateral movement.
- Perks. At the end of the day, startups are known for their perks – from free snacks to yoga retreats and paid traineeships. These small but meaningful things provide the sense of being in a team and directly contributing to the bigger project.
Startups are a favourable work environment for anyone seeking a challenge, willing to learn, and ready to share their creativity and wisdom. They offer a great deal and can be rewarding to work for, especially for young people.
Challenges of Working in a Startup – The Bad
While startups are a great fit for a certain personality and work profile, there are some disadvantages to working in one:
- Less job security. If the data doesn’t lie (and it doesn’t), only 50% of startups manage to stay in business for longer than five years, especially in the technological and IT fields. The market and technological advances change rapidly, and not everyone manages to learn to swim as fast, which leads to reduced job security.
- Lower salaries. Startups, especially in their early years, depend heavily on external funding. If such funding doesn’t come, the whole company has to tighten its belt, and who feels that the most? The employees, who are likely to be dissatisfied with having a less-than-reasonable pay.
- Heavy workload. Startups are always running to catch up with the trends, which means that employees have to work hard to keep the company running. Few holidays and vacations, overtime, and stress are bound to happen. However, you should always prioritise your health and establish the necessary work boundaries.
Depending on how old and energetic you are, you may overlook these downsides to working in a startup. After all, your first jobs in the industry may not be as satisfying as some later, but the good news is that you’ll have the energy to do them. In case you’re working in a startup and notice a decline in work conditions, do your best to pick up valuable skills and keep an eye out for something better.
Should You Be Working in a Startup? – The Evil 😱
Here’s the evil part – whether you should work in a startup or not heavily depends on your personal preferences, your career plan, and your emotional and moral satisfaction. Some people gladly bust their backsides in companies but are happy because they feel like they’re making a positive impact. On the other hand, some might feel exploited and seek different opportunities.
Working in a startup is a great way to learn the ropes of any business, know what kind of work environment you prefer, and progress up the rungs in the corporate world. On the other hand, it can be draining and lead to burnout. Finally, my most honest and heartfelt advice to you is: if you feel that your personal and moral integrity no longer align with the company’s goals, you should start looking elsewhere. Work for what you love and what feels like doing the right thing, but always stay true to yourself.
Skills Needed to Work in a Startup
Every startup is different – some focus on education, some on technology (we like both, so we prefer to be an EdTech company 😉), and others again on marketing and sales. For each of these, you’ll need a different skill set. Obviously, you’ll need to have some educational background in the relevant branch to work in a particular startup, but your willingness to learn will be even more appreciated. You’ll also likely need some technical skills as startups continually advance their product.
Apart from relevant knowledge and degrees, there are specific soft skills that’ll get you hired in a startup:
- Resourcefulness. With such a fast-paced environment, there will be some problems and challenges. Bugs, questions, and unexpected situations are known enemies of startups. To deal with them, you have to know where to look for a solution and how to implement it.
- Growth mindset. If you suffer from being offended by any criticism, you cannot grow as a person or as an employee, and startups are all about growth. Be ready to work on yourself when you work in a startup.
- Adaptability. As we’ve said already, you should be able to do a series of different tasks, adapt to new circumstances, and be willing to learn and acquire new skills.
- Curiosity and creativity. When put together, these two skills can bring about monumental changes and revolutionise any department – from software development to sales. Put your talents to good use.
- Interpersonal skills. You don’t have to be a raging extrovert, but you should possess the ability to listen, empathise, and get along with a bunch of different characters and tempers.
In addition, it’s always helpful to have a good eye for detail, a problem-solving mindset, and aspiration for personal advancement.
How do You Find Jobs in Startups?
If all this sounds like your cup of tea, you may be wondering where you can find good jobs in startups. In reality, places like LinkedIn or Indeed are a great place to start. Some clever googling of specific terms (e.g. jobs in EdTech) can lead you to companies you should contact directly. Lastly, you never know what a friend of a friend might be doing – network your way into a startup.
When looking for a job in a startup, you should always ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the company stable and offering a product that will be in demand for a long time?
- How will my engagement be compensated? (Fixed salary, hourly, bonuses, etc.)
- What kind of responsibility level am I looking for?
- Do my values align with those of the company?
- What are my growth and advancement options?
Be ready to compromise on some of your personal criteria to get where you want to be, but always check in with yourself to make sure the startup is (and continues to be) the right place for you.
Startups: All Perks and Clockworks
At the end of the day, life and work in a startup are anything but boring. And if it gets a bit humdrum, you can always ask for a change in responsibility or a job profile.
There are many advantages to working in a startup, like steady growth and personal development, a flexible work environment, and reduced supervision. However, before you jump the gun, you should know its downsides like reduced job security or high workload. It is up to you what you’d be willing to compromise to get where you want to be.
Good luck with your quest!