I often meet with people who want to leave the corporate world to work for a start-up. And as a professional who made the leap from the traditional corporate life to work for a start-up, I can tell you that it’s been an extremely rewarding experience. The job description usually include phrases like “casual, fun office environment” and “room for rapid advancement.” And as you answer questions on their non-traditional job application (“If you were a reality TV show star, which one would you be?”), you imagine yourself balancing on a stability ball in yoga pants and a t-shirt, collaborating with like-minded colleagues. Indeed, working for a start-up can be fun, smart and even life-changing move. I have worked for a start-up in the past and must say that it was one of the best experiences I have had, while also being the most challenging. There are key things that I can share with you, based on my experience, when it comes to working at a start-up.
In a start-up company, you will find an excitement and enthusiasm that you don’t typically find in larger, more established corporations. This is simply because a start-up is something new and fresh. It is a dream that owner is turning into a reality and the employees are all working together as a team in order to make it happen. When building something from scratch, you must have this excitement and passion that you will discover in most start-ups. If you are tired of the structured and staunch corporate environment, you may want to consider the fresh beginnings of a start-up.
THE COMPANY GIVETH, THE COMPANY TAKETH AWAY
Start-ups love to reward employees for their willingness to abandon office formalities like lunch breaks and personal space. When the company is relatively small, the executives might be dole out perks like weekly happy hours, catered lunches, and tickets to local events. But as the company grows, the leadership might realize that they can no longer afford or manage these types of luxuries. A free drink may have once been the only respite in your otherwise hectic day, so when the freebies disappear, it can be disheartening. But fear not: the departure of these gifts usually means the arrival of more practical bonuses, like health insurance and others.
IT’S ALL HANDS ON DECK
You have to be a team player, dive right in, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty, there’s an endless number of clichés to explain that you’ll be required to do, when you work for a start-up. While you may technically have a title and a job description, your everyday activities will likely vary depending on the project. You may have never imagined a day in which you stuff envelopes, pick up pizzas for lunch, answer phones, and present a proposal to the board of directors, all within a matter of hours, but the phrase “This isn’t part of my job description” should never cross your lips. Expect that you’ll be performing a variety of tasks, both mundane and challenging, and be ready to do them. No doubt, start-ups are well stocked with driven, eager employees and those that aren’t willing to be flexible or to put the company first, will be swiftly offloaded.
ABILITY TO EXPRESS IDEAS
When working for a start-up, you will quickly notice that it is welcome and even encourage employees to express their ideas and solutions. I worked for a start-up company for over 4 years and for the majority of my time there, employees were encouraged to use our brains in order to think things through and come up with solutions. There were many times when we were faced with urgent matters that required quick decisions and action, but the owner was on in a meeting. In those instances, he was relying on us to assess and make the right decisions. We were given printouts to hang in our cubicles, reminding ourselves to ask the following questions when faced with a decision: Is it right for the company” is it right for the customer? If we could answer yes to both of these questions, then we had the green light to move forward.
YOU’LL NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH CHANGE
Lastly, unlike seasoned companies that have well-defined processes and procedures and hundreds of employees conditioned to repeat the same behaviors day after day, start-ups are able to make changes quickly. Things like job titles, desk assignments, reporting structures and project plans are changed more frequently than the filter in the office coffee pot. At the start-up I work for, I’ve moved offices three-times under six months, and had a grand total of six different desks in the process. The constant change can be frustrating, especially when you’re just getting acclimated to the place or ways. But to succeed at a start-up, you need to embrace chaos. Start-ups have their pick of motivated young professionals, and they’re certainly not afraid of personnel shake-ups. Showing that you can easily roll with the punches is one way to ensure your success.