The arrival of the new year often brings a sense of retrospection and renewal. If you are among the many who will be taking time this week to review your 2014, set new goals, and analyze future opportunities, I hope you spend a few minutes reading through this post.
In it, you will find my top 16 reasons to work for a startup.
This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to be. Instead, it’s compilation of the most memorable learnings I have collected since joining The Mobile Majority.
Do you work for a startup? What reasons would you add to the list? If you’ve worked for a startup but now work for a larger company, what difference do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments section below.
Serious Opportunity for Growth
1.) Goodwill & Positivity
Startup nature is a rollercoaster of emotions and responses. Since many startups are rapidly working to refine their product, their position in the marketplace, their internal processes, or any number of different factors, predictability of your day-to-day duties can change quickly.
One key ingredient to success when building something from the ground up is the ability to stay positive and focused on the ultimate vision, regardless of your current state.
When everyone in the company wants everyone else to succeed, the company, in turn, does well. When the company does well, employees are rewarded thanks to the goodwill in the company.
This emphasis on productivity and rewarding positive outcomes causes the company as a whole to work and compete even harder together to have the best product in the marketplace.
Cliche or not, stay positive and good things will happen.
2.) Relationships & Connections
Oh, the people you’ll meet!
It’s not easy to land a job at a legitimate startup these days. There are a lot of ambitious companies tackling big problems in the technology field (and elsewhere). As a result, there is fierce competition to hire the best talent by those elite companies. As an employee, this means you need to be the cream of the crop – or find another way to get a foot in the door for the chance to prove yourself.
Niche websites (as opposed to a generalized job boards) are a good way to find exactly the type of job or company you’re looking for.
A personal connection with a startup and/or its founders, though, is usually the best way to get an introduction. Founders are human, so if you want to be a part of a growing team, reach out to them and offer to be of help. Why? You must value all the people you meet because you never know who could have a billion dollar idea in the works.
Conversely, that relationships you make could be with a fugitive. Because it’s impossible to tell the difference at the outset, being positive and respectful means even more to your well-being.
Value the people you meet, as passion and creativity comes from interactions with them. Connect and grow with one another. You just might be the one to help them on their journey.
Startups help you define what is important to you and what direction in life you want to go.
This may not be true for everyone, obviously, but I have found the opportunity to grow here at The Mobile Majority has helped me better define what I want to do, both today and into the future.
For example, you will undoubtedly have many roles at a startup. Through these roles, realizations of career goals or life benchmarks become more apparent. You may go into a startup doing ad engineering, and end up more interested or better suited for product marketing.
The possibilities to grow and change are endless, as broad skill sets are needed in the workplace. Over time, your experiences will help you hone strengths and weaknesses and help determine what you eventually want to specialize in.
Imagine the following scenario…
You’re hired at Fortune 500 company. One day, while sitting in your cubicle, you have a brilliant idea. It’s life-changing, Earth-shattering stuff. You think it could change the way your employer does business. All you need to do is bring the concept to the CEO for his approval.
Probably not going to happen.
At smaller companies though – especially startups – everyone has a voice.
Here, each team member’s thoughts help build the broad catalog of knowledge and are always taken seriously. Ideas from the CEO and the intern are both received and discussed. Both could be implemented in the company, mostly because products, processes, and services are constantly being refined as the company evolves and grows.
Everyone also speaks to one another in good ol’ fashioned English. There is no management jargon (except perhaps some tech lingo that helps speed up the communication process). We treat every team member, regardless of their title or tenure, with respect.
Lastly, information about performance, growth, and the status of the company is frequently shared with the entire team. When members are equal and everyone is contributing to the success of the company, transparency helps align the entire team around its goals.
Work Responsibility & Ownership
Independence. Freedom. The chance to be your own boss.
As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Once you have been given the keys to your new car (i.e. your new job), you can drive it how you like… with a few minor restrictions.
At a startup, you have the ability to shape and create your own role from what is given to you. You can innovate the company with original ideas, unique to you. You have the freedom to show how you as an individual can change the landscape of the company, and the specific role(s) you were hired to fulfill. You can be you, responsibly taking ownership of key facets of the company.
5. Real Life
Hand in hand with your newfound independence is the responsibility to get work done. Lots of it.
But with that responsibility comes with the opportunity to watch the impact of your efforts in real-time. Marketing, learning programming languages, writing press releases, or balancing an accounts payable sheet all have an impact on a startup’s bottom line. All of your actions directly impact its progress because there is less fluff – and less room for error.
At your startup, you could be tackling all of the above, as startups require and enable individuals with a broader range of skills to take care of multiple tasks across the board. Gone are the days of grabbing coffee for the CEO; you have real jobs, actual responsibilities which, when handled, proficiently showcase actual worth and garner genuine appreciation.
General impressions and internal politics play a large part in determining the success of individuals at large organizations. On top of that, gossip can spread faster than the petals of a dandelion in the wind.
However, at a startup, team members are judged on their performance – good and bad – once results have been produced. Inconsequential factors like how you dress, who you hang out with, who you’re friendly with, and even (to a certain degree) what time you work matter far less.
Wear what you want, be yourself, bring your own style to the team. Contribute to the success of the company, and you will be recognized and rewarded.
Working at a startup means there are often no work hours.
Said differently, working at a startup is an around the clock, 24/7 job.
Many stories in the tech industry have been written about working 18 hour days to surpass the competition. But often times, working smarter is a better strategy than working harder and longer.
Even though there may not be set “office hours”, you still have to manage your time efficiently and succinctly. A task could come up out of nowhere that has priority over your existing workload. This means that what you were previously paying attention to unavoidably heads to the back burner.
Do your work well, and do it in a timely manner (don’t procrastinate) because you never know what else might be right around the corner.
I can’t talk enough about the culture at The Mobile Majority. The phrase work hard, play hard always comes to mind, but it does not do the aura and atmosphere justice.
Startups can meet employees’ diversity, learning habits, and flexibility, while showcase strong moral values and relatable mission statements.
Culture starts with the people representing the philosophy, and the people who work for startups provide the glue for the thrilling and emotional journey of ups and downs.
Our culture portrays hard work, intelligence, and innovation. Culture is a strategic stepping-stone to a stronger company, and is just as important as the product, team, vision behind the organization itself.
Consequently, many startups take culture very seriously to improve the work environment. Some companies even have culture committees to ensure a solid foundation.
Traditions make up a large portion of a company’s culture. These practices could include, but are not limited to (get your creative juices flowing):
- company outings,
- trying out a job or task in a different team,
- tropical Thursday attire,
- dress up Fridays,
- food trucks,
… and the list goes on and on.
Tradition, though, is about building a consistent behavior. Having a concrete basis of traditions cannot amend a broken culture, but it is a start to bettering that culture. Employees will be happier and culture will take steps to being built with a really good story of tradition as groundwork.
10. Like-Minded Individuals
Everyone at a startup is there to be a part of something bigger than themselves. At The Mobile Majority, we are all working towards the same goal. Like minded doesn’t mean the same; it means that the overall atmosphere and responsibilities are attributed to the viewpoint of rising in the ranks and getting the company to new heights.
Everyone wants this. Consequently, working together towards the goal is emulated more in startups than in corporate America where people can be selfish and manipulative to reach goals that pertain solely to them individually.
Every person in a small(er) organization is a valued member of the team. Since there isn’t room on the roster for waste, each person is responsible and accountable for making a startup “go.”
A big component of being a valued member of the team is knowing and understanding what is going on within the organization. Insights, goals, and daily happenings within the company and, in our case, the mobile ecosystem are transparent and clear.
This is also true when it comes to interviews and the hiring process. Big corporations can take months to let you know that you got the job, or conversely, never let you know that you weren’t the right candidate.
Startups have the ability to be upfront and honest quickly. If a candidate gels with the existing team and showcases a strong knowledge and passion for the position, an offer could be on the table before the end of the day.
Gratifying Experiential Learning
12. Entrepreneurial Attitude
“Founders wanted.” You’ll see this phrase across various sections of our website and recruiting materials because it is fundamental to the types of team members we look to hire.
Obviously, we aren’t looking for founders in the traditional sense, but this entrepreneurial spirit can be shown in various ways. The product imagined has a low cost, yet a high impact. Employees go the extra mile to get things done. There is expert analysis by coworkers and bosses to increase the company’s trajectory. There is constructive criticism that makes every employee a better team member (and person in general).
Entrepreneurs want to create a business from the ground up, and to do so we hire people that have the disposition that goes along with that: taking risks, working hard, and enterprising to reach company goals.
13. Risk Taking
This is probably the biggest experiential learning process that is shown by successful entrepreneurs. Employees of startups must learn to take calculated risks to challenge the status quo. These risks could come in the form of financial, strategic, operational, product development, publicity and more.
Conceptualizing fantasies and realizing them into billion dollar don’t just magically happen. The practice takes a lot of planing and a few risks along the way. Be prepared to learn by taking those risks, as those uncharted experiences guide us along the path of what not to do and what to do the next time.
Another huge impact startups have on you is learning how to manage money. Time equals money in most circumstances, and as a startup, money is in most cases scarce.
Therefore, time becomes more important than you think. Startups, even when venture backed ones, don’t have unlimited budgets, so when deciding where and what to spend money, employees have to be very smart.
16. Environments Conducive to Learning
Creative gains and positive outcomes occur when classes, coworkers, traveling, and experiences coincide and the people involved are willing to learn from those experiences.
The next step is taking what is learned and putting it into practice. In the startup environment, there are a lot of hats to be worn, lots of roles to be had, and tasks to be accomplished. Taking on these tasks – regardless of whether they fail or succeed – while collaborating with others is conducive to learning and gaining more knowledge. It also reveals what is learned and how best to approach the material in the future.
S.W.A.G. lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Let me make that even clearer: startups aren’t for everyone.
Even though there are many advantages to joining a startup, there are also some potential negative factors that might keep certain types of people from joining a newly-founded company. Stability and resources come to mind.
If you are considering your employment options, be sure to do your research on companies that you are applying to, as there are many aspects that differentiate companies.
That said, working at a startup has major benefits, especially when you find the right one. It is my belief that everyone should experience a startup and experience its culture at least once in their professional career. The opportunity to grow, own your work, experience a high-energy culture, and immerse yourself in a learning environment won’t happen anywhere else.