I had big dreams about using my creative writing degree to be Editor-In-Chief or New Media Guru for some Big Established Company straight out of college, but reality quickly set me straight. While I still have those big dreams, I know that those Big Established Companies require years, sometimes even decades, of experience for my dream position. So I started small and looked into the only demographic literally begging for my skills: startup companies.
Start up companies were my best friend after graduation. While they knew they needed someone with my skill set, they couldn’t afford the salary of even one person with the years of experience Big Established Companies were asking. It’s a win-win really, I boosted my experience while the startup company got an employee to do the job. But, like any job, working with startups has it’s downsides.
I’ve experienced 3 startup companies, which is apparently a bit more than the average 20-something. So let me share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way on what it’s like to work with a startup company.
1. You probably won’t get paid for a while
A lot of startup companies I’ve seen either ask for college students or push back when they hire or even have their employees start. College students can earn college credit instead of a paycheck. If a startup is looking for paid employees, they’ll either put off hiring a candidate or even have employees wait to begin working while they get their funding sorted out. Either way, be prepared for this fact. Look for startups that have been running for at least a few months if starting immediately or having a paycheck right away is important to you.
2. You might be doing a lot of work
If your startup company is growing faster than the founders expected they might not be able to hire extra help the second it’s needed. That means all the extra work that comes with company growth will be split among the few employees they started with. While this is great to put on your resume or talk about in an interview, you need to be prepared to put in more than regular 9-5 hours or meet needs that weren’t on your original job description.
3. You might be doing very little work
Just because a company knows they need someone with your skill set doesn’t always mean they know what to do with you. There might be another aspect of the company that they need to focus on and this distraction can either prevent them from helping you reach your company goals or lead them to delay any approval you need from them. While you should always stay on top of your own productivity and make sure you’re achieving your employee goals, you should also be prepared to explain to your boss what you are doing and why it is the best way to achieve those goals.
4. Things are always changing
That’s just the nature of the beast. Start ups are new and small but founders often have aspirations of competing with Big Established Companies. That means they will often change everything behind the scenes to meet company goals or make customers/clients happy. While it will often help the company, and therefore you, in the end, it’s still a stressful time for all employees. Always be willing to learn new things and keep your communication skills sharp so you can explain your new changes to customers/clients.
5. You will need to network
This is an important piece of advice whether or not you work for a startup company. Today’s job market is much easier to navigate when you have the right people to help you advice your career. Networking is especially important in startups because you represent a company that is still growing. Networking with the right people means you find people who can help your company grow while also giving them something beneficial in return. Being able to provide a win-win situation creates a “business friendship” that makes future career help easier to obtain.
While startup companies can be wonderful for all types of employees, especially those straight out of college, it might not be the right fit for everyone. Start ups require employees to be flexible and have great self-management skills. Each startup I’ve worked with has been different though, so never remove a startup from your job search just because they’re the new kids on the block. While starting out with a startup company might not be the job you’ve always wanted, getting in on the ground floor might give you the opportunity to build your own path to your dream job.
The Library of Virginia. City, crowded office space. 19 August 2008. Online image. Flickr. 31 August 2014. https://flic.kr/p/5qcR53