So, you want to work for a startup.
Whether you’re a fresh-faced graduate, or someone looking for a new challenge, working for a startup can be one of the most unique and rewarding things you’ve ever done.
It’s also not for everybody.
Whilst it’s tempting to imagine yourself shunning the constraints of a traditional 9-5 in favour of lolling around on beanbags, sipping Frappuccinos and ‘creatively collaborating’ with your colleagues, it’s important to realise that startups aren’t all ripped denim jeans and nerf guns. Or at least, they’re not all ripped denim jeans and nerf guns.
Sure, there’s plenty of cool perks, but that’s often weighed alongside gruelling work schedules, constant pressure and unpredictability.
It’s work Jim, but not as we know it!
Startups are all about throwing yourself in at the deep end. But how can you predict whether you’re the type to sink or swim? We’ve put together a list of attributes that might make you a startup superhero …
You’re a doer
I can still remember my first day working at a startup. Catching sight of the ping pong table, the ‘chic’ AstroTurf flooring, the exposed brick walls…
It was everything I’d expected. Only it really wasn’t.
Over the next hour, I was given a crash course in content management systems, pitched my ideas to the company founder and got asked my opinions on anything from branded content to new advertising campaigns.
The ping pong table was purely decorative.
Forget ‘quirky’ interiors, startups are about collective responsibility and hard work. There’s very little room for laziness. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO or the new guy, (or in my case, girl), everyone’s expected to muck in. Of course it’s scary, but part of the fun of working for a startup is the ability to immediately start making meaningful contributions.
You care about what you do
The term ‘passion’ gets bandied around a lot in career discussions. One of the biggest misconceptions about working for a startup is the idea that it’s not supposed to feel like a job. Whilst it’s true that startups often place a greater emphasis on creating an enjoyable working environment, a job is always going to feel like a job unless you care about what you do.
To put it another way: perks are enjoyable, but passion is paramount.
Forget startup Vs. corporate, the question you really need to ask yourself is whether you care about a particular company or its product. If the answer is no, all the free massages in the world aren’t going to make work feel like play.
You’re a Jack of all trades
In order to be successful in a startup you’ve got to be flexible and willing to learn new things. Whilst a corporate job might require you to adhere to a very specific set of tasks, startup roles are often much less defined. Just because you’re a ‘software developer’, doesn’t mean you’ll spend your days writing code.
In fact, you’re just as likely to pass a morning dabbling in graphic design or helping out with SEO.
In a place where manpower is limited, the more skills you have, the more useful you’re ultimately going to be.
Disappointments don’t phase you
If there’s a single quality that all great startup employees possess, it’s optimism – unbridled (and sometimes delusional) optimism.
Disappointments happen in business; it’s all part of the territory. But when you’re working long hours with limited resources, even the littlest obstacle can end up feeling insurmountable. That’s why, when things do go wrong, it’s important to be able to stay upbeat so you can start tackling the problem. There’s zero time for moping or negativity.
You take the initiative
Part of being a successful startup employee is learning to function autonomously. Are you someone who needs a lot of guidance? Or are you capable of taking the initiative?
The best startup employees are usually the low maintenance ones. Like the business world’s answer to Bear Grylls, these guys are constantly looking for ways to simplify processes, boost efficiency and maximise your resources and ultimately survive.
Initiative a valuable commodity in the startup world. If you’ve got it, you better flaunt it.
You know it’s not all about you
There’s no ‘I’ in team. There are however, two in, ‘massive egomaniac’. Sometimes, working in a startup means sacrificing personal glory.
That’s not to suggest that your accomplishments will get overlooked, just that, in an environment where teamwork rules, nobody has time for an egotist. Startups are all about creativity, and creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Exchanging ideas and being open to different viewpoints is what makes them so successful; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you’re someone who needs constant praise, this probably isn’t the job for you.