Working at a start-up may seem like an exciting career move. It’s hard to match the almost family-like feel that comes with a small, tight-knit group of employees all pushing themselves to build a company from the ground up. It’s also hard to match the breadth of work experience many of these employees gain on the job.
Underlying all of this is the hope that the business will achieve extraordinary success- whether from a buy-out to anther company or from it’s own internal growth- and will give your career (as well as your bank account) a nice big boost.
Plus, these days there are plenty of start-up companies to choose from, and just as many companies dedicated to helping passionate entrepreneurs find them. There are even platforms to help entrepreneurs work for a start-up in a different country. This is due to the fact that a number of international cities have become entrepreneurial hubs, while some of the less popular locations offer a cheaper and quieter work experience. So, you can search a database of start-up internships in Tel Aviv and Santiago at whim, or you can learn how to get an entrepreneur visa in Singapore. The sky is the limit.
What to Know Before Joining a Start-up
But the start-up experience is far removed from that of an established company. It is a kind of myopic bubble, and those who are inside of it rarely come up for air. Here are five things you should keep in mind:
1. Forget about routine. Seasoned businesses and organizations have well-defined structures, modes of advancement, and work systems. No so the start-up, where flexibility, adaptability and even a bit of chaos here and there reign supreme. One day you will be working on one thing, another day something else. And then there are the days when an unexpected emergency crops up and all other work will be dropped in order to deal with it. The more you accept this fact and go with the flow, the happier and more productive you’ll be.
2. It’s not all about you. If you are only joining a start-up because you think it will look good on your resume, then try another career move. Start-up companies rely heavily on their initial employees, and they expect them to pick up the slack where ever and whenever it is needed. If you feel it will be beneath your dignity to sweep the floors, answer the phone, clean toilets, or get some takeout food for the office then this is not the place for you.
3. Work schedules at a start-up are not balanced. Expect to be putting in some long hours as everyone pushes to get the new product or service to the market, or handle the flood of customer requests and interactions after that happens. If you are looking for a flexible work schedule, then head somewhere else.
4. Be prepared to do a lot of work for little to no money. In most cases, start-ups will pay less than more established companies. Even if your start-up has a lot of money invested into it, budgets tend to be tighter at the beginning, and your current benefits may be small or even non-existent. The start-up may have stock options, but they are only as good as the success of the company- and that success may take some time. Plus, there is the real chance that the start-up may fail, taking all of your uncompensated hard work with it. Be prepared that this may happen.
5. Do your due diligence. And that brings us into the last point. It is up to you to carefully assess the risk associated with working for a start-up. New business ideas may look good on paper, but they may be very hard to actualize in a profitable way in the real world. There is also the issue of the personalities and experience of the people who are running this nascent business. Do they really have what it takes to build a profitable organization?
Working for a start-ups can be a great opportunity for those who want to learn and make connections. But it is not an experience for the faint at heart nor for those who would like a bit of stability. You need to carefully consider your situation to decide whether or not it is a career move you should be making.
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