Kate Busby is a writer and blogger for a Barcelona-based startup. In this article, Kate discusses the ways you can benefit from finding a gig at a startup.
Working for a startup can be an ideal job for the breadth of opportunity and flexibility it can offer. You'll work as part of a small team of fast-moving professionals focused on metrics and performance. You'll have more responsibility than at a job where you're just a small cog in a large machine.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg - in this post we explore 10 reasons why working at a startup can of benefit to everyone's career.
1. You’ll get to work with ambitious entrepreneurs
Forget cookie-cutter bosses who like to color inside the lines. If you work for a startup, you’re going to be managed by talented risk-takers who have probably gambled everything they own (several times) in pursuit of fulfilling a dream. This may mean that their management skills are not exactly a forte, but they will teach you more than you could have ever imagined and take you places that blow your mind.
2. Put your linguistic skills to the test
Remember moaning to your classmates about what good French will be when you’ve got a job in the UK or the US? Think again: you may be joining a startup in London or New York, but you’re going to be surrounded by the bright minds of your generation from every country and culture imaginable. And although your business might be conducted in English, being able to speak multiple languages is not just a plus for socializing by the coffee machine. Au contraire. In this day and age, it’s going to raise your salary and multiply your employment opportunities. After all, most startups try to reach a global audience, so they'll need people to manage and cater to their non-English speaking communities.
3. Pretty much everyone has a dynamic lifestyle
Startups are not for everyone. They tend to attract people who hate being bored and are driven by the next big idea on their mind. As a result, there's a chance you'll never rub shoulders with people more dynamic than those employed at a startup. Don’t be too surprised if the regular-looking person sitting at the computer next to you turns out to be a semi-professional ballerina, concert soprano, property developer or violin-maker. If you're not the type to sit still, the startup environment might be right for you.
4. There’ll be a ping pong table and yoga classes
This is not guaranteed of course, but it highlights an essential point: startups are about innovation, daring, and having fun on the roller-coaster ride to – who knows where? As a result, the office atmosphere will be a world away from, let’s say, an investment bank. You won't be dealing with suits and ties and formal clothing, but with serious-yet-enjoyable hard work. And if you happen to join a startup without the said ping pong table, chances are that a with few emails and a bit of money pooling among colleagues, you can make it happen for all to enjoy.
5. You’ll be encouraged to be yourself
Everyone knows that having a job means a certain amount of conformity. Don’t roll into work too late. Don’t dress down. Don’t dress up. We’ve heard them all. The difference with startups is that they are deliberately designed to get the best out of you by allowing you to be your real self. And as the company rules are still work in progress, everything is officially up for being negotiated. So if it turns out you’re a night owl, you may find yourself being granted permission to come in late to the office and stay late. Or work from home. And so on and so forth.
6. You’ll have more responsibility
When one of my former bosses told me within a month of starting my new job that I’d be flying to Doha to negotiate a contract with Qatar’s Ministry of Education, I almost had a heart attack. I was 23, fresh out of university, and the closest thing I’d done to a sales pitch was my interview for the very same startup job. The wealth of opportunity that comes with a startup is unparalleled, but it's not for those unwilling to dive far past their comfort zones. As long as you have the courage to go with the flow and work harder than you’ve ever worked, you’ll quickly end up acquiring the kind of skills that propel you into senior and even managerial roles in more established companies.
7. You’ll learn to be resourceful
Startups are more often than not on a tight budget, meaning that you’ll need to learn how to effectively make things happen using very few resources. There is something pretty exhilarating about the freedom this offers. In a flat management structure, there’s no one to tell you that you can’t do something – you simply rely on your common sense and your imagination to execute your ideas. Learning to build something out of basically nothing is a crucial skill for any workplace.
8. Mistakes are expected
Startups are the perfect test bed for your creativity and ambition. If you end up trying something that doesn’t work out for reasons other than laziness or sloppy work, you'll be forgiven for it and motivated to try again. People are generally more relaxed and open to understanding if you maintain an open and honest attitude about your successes and failures. Thinking big is a highly valued trait of a startup employee. Getting instant results isn’t necessarily a priority.
9. Working at a startup can be the equivalent of doing an MBA
Startup work will teach you what you would learn while doing an MBA, but in the real world, with real clients, and real money. At my current job with Camaloon, I've found that by simply observing, taking notes and learning on the job, I'm effectively acquiring an education in how to run a successful business. And, unlike studying in an institution, a fantastic network of contacts is already in place through working with them every single day.
10. You'll learn to test products and ideas
Not everything you work on will be implemented. This is the nature of startup work. You and your colleagues will be working on a dozen different projects at once, and most of those projects will be scrapped for various reasons, even if your work is solid. Startups act as testing grounds for ideas, and not every idea is viable or a good fit for the direction of the product. Each time a project is scrapped, you'll learn exactly why it wouldn't work given the context of the business, and you'll begin to adapt your ideas to better fit that new understanding.