If you don’t fancy running around trying to get into assessment centres (who does?), working at a startup after university is a great idea. It definitely was for me. Life at Debut has certainly given me considerable joy but, even so, the expectations I had for working in a startup and the reality were a little different to what I expected. Here are the things I learnt, and the things you should know before you join a startup yourself.
They’re still working out the kinks
At the root of most startups is the idea your CEO spent hours honing in their bedroom or back garden. Fortunately for you, they managed to bring it to life. The company that you are a part of is the realisation of a dream for them, and as you strive to make it happen, it’ll become your dream too.
Startups are very product-orientated for the most part, meaning it may take them longer to address issues and like structure and human resources at first. As time goes on however, things will become more balanced. As long as you have the patience for these occasional blips, you’ll be rewarded.
The emphasis of your work may change
In times when I need careers advice, I turn to one of my all-time favourite movies – The Wolf of Wall Street. Bizarre as that may seem, there are plenty of valid lessons you can take from it.For instance, Matthew McConaughey’s character provided this little gem: ‘Nobody knows if the market is gonna go up, down, sideways or in circles.’
The same is pretty much true of a startup. The emphasis of the business might change according to its environment, leading to knock-on effects for everyone working there. But hey, you’ll learn how to go with the flow, and become more adaptable.
You may work a lot more
In the interest of full disclosure, be prepared to spend the odd amount of extra time at the office here and there. Even if your company comprises of 15 people, you will likely be doing 150 people’s jobs between you. Longer hours are pretty much the norm.
Startup environments are small enough that your own personal workload has an effect how the company does as a whole. Not only that, but you might feel the need to keep the pace with your go-getter co-workers too. But if you’re truly serious about reining in your work-life balance, you can definitely make it work.
It’s more than just your job description
In a company that lacks a rigid structure and has less employees than a rugby team, you may be surprised to learn that – yes – you will be called outside your remit from time to time.
Our marketing team handles all our content, social and advertising during the day, while moonlighting as a customer service team, event planners and occasionally, dog-sitters. Don’t be too intimidated though. There’s plenty of things to learn, and plenty of friendly faces to learn from. Which means the environment is often fun and stimulating for someone new to the world of work.
The culture is different
Startups tend to attract idealists – bosses who try not to boss you too much, ragers against social injustice etc. In a small company, those idealists have some real impact. They create the company culture, which means the culture can and will change as the personnel does.
In an established firm, you’re stepping into a place with standards, practices and preconceived norms. With a startup, there’s still a lot of virgin ground to cover where certain interactions and processes are concerned. What that does mean, however, is you get a lot more say in the way things are run.
You’ll gain a lot of ground quickly
Things move at breakneck speed at a startup, and you may find the same thing for your career. I came into Debut as an intern and got a permanent position three months later. In a bigger company, it may have taken me six, or even not happened at all. There are people I know who have become managers a year or two after graduating.
Of course, a smaller company means more visibility so when you do well, other people can and will notice. If you want to work for a startup, being vigilant about your own growth. Once you do that, and you bear all these things in mind, there are plenty of benefits you can reap.