The myths and legends surrounding startups are intense and run the gamut from fantastic opportunities to horrible disasters. All jobs and companies carry the potential for great success, along with the possibility that things could not end well, but startups can be a bit riskier. Some people find the element of risk exciting, and they look forward to the challenges, but working at startups is not for everyone. Here is what you need to know if you are debating working at a startup.
Know the Industry
Before joining any business, it is wise to do some research. Learn as much as you can about the company and get to know its product or service. Find out how it works, what value it provides, and how the startup is different from its competitors. Even within the same industry, startups can vary greatly, so try to learn as much as you can about that specific business. Also, research the founders and even the area the startup calls home. There are different laws or regulations for startups from Los Angeles compared to startups from other regions. The more you know about a business, the more informed decisions you can make about your future with that company.
Have an Open Mind
If a startup is your first real job, you have nothing to compare it to, which may come in handy. If you have held other positions with established companies and expect a streamlined environment with defined roles, you may want to prepare yourself. Anything can happen at a startup, and you may be needed to help out on projects outside of your realm of knowledge. The entire experience can be very fluid, but remember that at some point, management will expand the team in response to growth, and you can settle into a more consistent role working on what you know best. Until then, be ready for anything.
Stay In Touch
Communication is always essential, but it is possibly more so in a startup. With people working on various tasks and always under a deadline, it can be easy for some jobs to fall to the wayside. Also, shifting priorities can impact the relevance of specific projects, so what was a top priority during the morning scrum may be much less critical by the afternoon. Clear and consistent communication ensures everyone is kept current with changing developments and priorities and everyone is using their time to the best of their ability. Simply sending an email to let team members know you have fallen behind or found a potential solution to an ongoing issue can be productive and help everyone move forward.
Be In the Moment
Trend projections and anticipating future problems to avoid them are crucial skills, but it is not always necessary to use these skills at a startup. You want to be aware of how today’s decisions will impact the company in the future, but you also need to focus heavily on the here and now. The top priority is getting through the day and solving the issues prohibiting immediate success. Worrying about preventing problems that have not happened yet or may not happen is not the best use of time. At a certain point, it will make sense to switch gears and focus on developing systems and processes for the long term, but for many startups, the goal is to get through the day.
Be Prepared to Scale
You want to be in the moment and not spend too much energy worrying about the future, but you still need to try to do things to the best of your ability the first time. If you start establishing a system, try to make it as efficient and effective as possible to hang in there for regular use. Having a mentality of, ‘I’ll fix it later’ can prove to be an inefficient use of time. Instead of fixing something later, set it up properly now so you can continue to work and be productive.
Find Your Niche
Having a hand in everything will give you a sense of what types of projects you like to work on and which ones are not for you. While you may have gone into the job thinking you knew where you wanted to end up, you may find a new path along the way. Be open to new roles and positions within the company so when the time comes to settle into a more specific job, you will be confident with your choice.
Do What Makes Sense
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what makes the most sense for you. Startups carry the potential for great success, and the earlier you start with a company, the greater the future reward. However, startups can be high risk. If you are not comfortable with the uncertainty that often accompanies life at a startup, it may not be the best fit.