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Joining a Startup: 9 Things You Need to Know

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February 12, 2021

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For those prepared for hard work and are up for a challenge, there are few things as exhilarating as joining a startup

It can be like jumping on a careening, out-of-control rollercoaster—an intoxicating thrill ride where you’ll learn to take risks, hone your entrepreneurial skills to a razor-sharp edge, and embrace uncertainty.

In this article, you’ll learn why you need to relinquish your need for job titles, the importance of asking targeted questions, how working for a startup can be the perfect springboard to an entrepreneurial career, and so much more!

What kind of people do startups attract?

A startup’s most vexing challenge is getting the team right. 

Not everybody is right for a startup. It takes an individual who's not afraid of risk and has an entrepreneur living inside of him who's just dying to be unleashed upon the universe.

Bigger organizations attract talent whose primary interest is getting top-dollar salaries and mega benefits. In contrast, startups attract those who are intensely committed to the organization's mission.

These companies expect you to become emotionally invested in the work you do.   

Many people won’t be able to function in the loosely structured world of the startup, especially when it’s months or even years away from producing a physical product.

The kind of people who gravitate toward startups want to build something from the ground up, not those who just want to jump on board when everything is done.

The sense of adventure is greater than at a conventional company because your efforts are more directly linked to the mission's success. This kind of environment instills solidarity of purpose that instills a sense of belonging in every organization member.

1.      You thrive in controlled chaos 

For some, the idea of ditching their corporate job for the freedom, rich creative environment, and the controlled chaos of a startup can sound downright liberating. If this describes you to a “T,” you’ll probably love working for a company like this.

In this decidedly unconventional world where the typical corporate rules no longer hold sway, you won’t always know what to expect.

2.      You need to be dedicated to the nth degree

 Working for a startup means you’ll have to dramatically change how you think about your workday. You’ll be putting in longer hours, and the company you put all your time and effort into could crash and burn in a nanosecond.

But if you accept your role in the company for what it is, working for a startup could be the most incredible experience of your life and a fantastic stepping stone to the next chapter of your career.

3.      Don’t trade security for uncertainty until you do your research

Be meticulous about doing your homework.

If you need some reassurances that you’re not making the biggest mistake of your life by trading your respectable corporate gig for the unpredictability of a startup, research the one you’re thinking about joining.

Startups can shut down at the drop of a hat, so they're inherently risky. You might not even know it's in danger until it's too late. That's why you need to learn everything you can about the company's past financial performance and where it intends to go.

That way, you can make sure it's not a fly-by-night operation or that the CEO is full of hare-brained schemes that won't amount to anything. Check out Crunchbase or Pitchbook to see how much cash it’s raised and who the investors are.

If you want a taste of what their corporate culture is like, check out Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Read what the media mavens have to say about the organization and its investors. To get information as it comes in, set up a Google alert.

Vet the CEO of the company to make sure your trust in him is warranted. If this is his first rodeo, cut him a little slack. However, make sure he has a solid track record and a list of ringing endorsements from peers and supervisors about his ability to lead a company.

The startup CEO must have impeccable leadership abilities and the prowess to inspire others with a compelling vision. This is the gasoline that powers the organization’s engine, and without it, the company will be doomed to fail. 

You also want someone who will check his ego at the door. In a small organization like a startup, being a narcissist will only set the stage for demoralizing interpersonal conflicts that could tear the company apart.

4.      Ask targeted questions

Ask yourself the following questions to give you a better understanding of the company’s potential:

  • Is the company’s industry likely to grow?
  • Is the company prepared to take advantage of that growth?
  • Can I grow personally and professionally?

You’ll need to ask questions of the startup team too.  Ask targeted questions without even the slightest whiff of vagueness. That way, you’ll get valuable information that’ll make your choice whether to jump ship or not that much easier.

Make sure you ask how vital company culture is to the company. With all you’re risking by working at a startup, you won’t want to waste your time in a workplace that’s not in alignment with your most deeply held values.

5.      Seize the opportunity to make your mark

 By joining a startup in its formative years, you’ll get an opportunity to shape what the company eventually becomes.

You’ll be part of a small yet passionate team of innovators who care deeply about their mission and are ecstatic to see the company attain stratospheric success.  There’s nothing more exciting than watching as your ideas are transformed into glorious reality by people who share your love for the organization.

This is a feeling that’s hard to come by when you’re working in a traditional office environment.

6.      Relinquish your need for job titles  

When you move from a massive corporation to a tiny little startup, you might be giving up the safety and security of a precisely delineated job title.

However, what you’ll gain pales in comparison to what you’ll lose.

Relinquish your need for regimen and routine and embrace the excitement that comes with uncertainty. Be flexible and revel in the innumerable opportunities for learning that come with your new mission.

You’ll learn ten times more than you ever did at your corporate job. Of course, you’ll learn how to build a business from scratch, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Learning happens faster in a collaborative environment where everyone is imbued with a sense of purpose.

Because startups have smaller teams than your typical average corporation, you'll have to wear more than one hat. This means that an "all hands on deck" mentality will be the order of the day.

Loosely defined roles mean that people are willing to risk coloring outside the lines when a problem demands to be solved. Unlike the aggressively linear nature of the modern-day corporate universe, you won’t be able to outsource your problems to another department.

This means you’ll have to dive in and get your hands dirty.

With job titles, responsibilities, and roles always in flux, nobody will get too complacent. That's a good thing because complacency kills the entrepreneurial spirit almost faster than anything else.

7.      You’ll learn entrepreneurial skills

If you always have had a burning desire to become an entrepreneur but were too scared to do it on your own, joining a startup might be a reasonably safe way of dipping your toe into the water.

Besides, startups are like giant sandboxes where out-of-the-box creativity, innovation, and imagination flourish. What better environment in which to sharpen your entrepreneurial skills?

Your team will work as one unified whole, continually reinventing itself while setting fire to conventional rules. This will hone your problem-solving abilities by helping you to see beyond ordinary ways of looking at things.

During your time at a startup, you'll work closely with the organization’s founders.

This will provide you with an up-close look at entrepreneurship in action, and you’ll receive a world-class education in the particulars of scaling a business.

8.      You’ll be impactful

 Because a startup is as lean as can be, you won't be lost in a sea of mediocrity.

This is fantastic because you won’t have to punch through endless hierarchical layers to make a splash. This should help you feel valued and appreciated.

You’ll stand out, just like every other incandescent superstar that makes up the organization. As your hard work and collaborations with others start to pay off, you’ll feel immense satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

This will help you to remain energized, so you can continue to make meaningful contributions to the company.

Final thoughts

It takes a particular type of person to work at a startup.

That’s why when you enlist Hunt Club to find your next great hire, we’ll tap into the power of our extensive network of referrals to find those individuals uniquely qualified to work for your company.  

We have over 10,000 subject matter experts in our exhaustive database.

These are industry leaders who have a proven track record of connecting their peers to rewarding positions at top organizations like yours.

Call us today and let us do the recruiting for you!

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