How startup experience can accelerate your professional growth

My experience in the company

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Have you ever considered working for a startup business? I’d like to make a case for doing so, especially if you’re a young professional. Sure, there’s a potential downside to any career path, but the upside in this scenario can be very appealing. To protect yourself, conduct careful research so you can ask questions during the interview to assess an organization’s viability and whether a job opportunity suits you. Just as an idea, you might want to ask if you will be working directly under the owners or under managers. The owner might be a great entrepreneur, but that does not always translate to being a great business manager. You might also want to know about the benefits package, vacation, sick pay, etc. Does it matter to you that you might need to wear several different hats, or work odd hours? At many small business endeavors every employee tends to have multiple diverse responsibilities. Will you get paid in a regular, timely manner? Do you have to come into the office, or can you work from home? Is there a dedicated human resources person or department? Does the company already have a successful product or service in the market, or does the company’s success depend on an offering that is still in development? Are there opportunities for advancement? Are there proven success stories among the current employees? There are many other questions you can ask, depending on your situation and preferences, but make sure you are ready to analyze the ups and downs.

Working for a startup company can accelerate your career

My experience working at startup companies, my discussions with friends who have worked at other startups, and my researching the issue have lead me to some definite conclusions.

Startups provide opportunities

Having spent many years working for established corporate franchises as well as three startup companies, I genuinely prefer the latter. Why? Startups have a flatter, more open organizational structure that fosters creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and excitement.

Most start-ups require that employees be flexible, fast learners who can quickly adapt to the challenges of changing responsibilities. By comparison, larger, established organizations with a more traditional methodology tend to lay out detailed job descriptions, with complex reporting relationships and defined lines of authority. Entire days can be spent in meetings and reading and writing reports, some of which may or may never be read by someone else. Some folks work better in such environments. They’re just a different way of doing things. And some people like to have such defined paths laid out in front of them. In fact, some people may even excel through such parameters and regimented obligations. However, if you’re like me and enjoy constantly taking on new and diverse challenges, a start-up can provide you with an excellent opportunity to gain a rich breadth of experience that can help accelerate your career. Additionally, if you are in a highly technical field or like to freelance, sometimes a startup can be an opportunity to try working for a company without full commitment.

I’ve discovered that by and large, working in a startup is a voyage of self-discovery. By wearing many hats, taking on many responsibilities and working with people from different areas of work, you quickly gain invaluable insight into where your real talents lie. Nothing makes me happier than mastering new responsibilities and meeting unforeseen challenges. In other words, getting out of your defined comfort zone.

Getting out of your comfort zone is amazing!

At our startup, if you say “I’m not good at A,” or “I’ve always been afraid to do B,” you can be sure you’ll be encouraged to try out A or B. I once mentioned that I sometimes get anxiety talking in front of people. One month after that I was presenting to 150 students on the topic of “How to craft your resume.” I’ve been representing Enhancv on career fairs, career events, etc. ever since.

Tatiana Rehmova, Growth EnhancerEnhancv

Collaborating with people passionate about work

It could be said that start-ups aren’t for slackers. Start-up employees often require greater motivation and self-discipline than is the case for some of their counterparts in traditional corporate environments. Successful startup employees are typically highly dedicated and focused, getting up early, having the energy to tackle diverse challenges on a daily basis, and sometimes working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week when clients need them. When you work so many hours in a highly focused environment and share a strong team identity with others with similar dedication and bravado, you also experience a profound sense of shared accomplishment when you overcome obstacles to achieve successful outcomes and, according to Julia McCoy, accelerate personal skills.

While working long hours in an intense, fast-paced environment can and does certainly have its benefits to your professional growth and skill set (among many other benefits), employees need to be encouraged to do their best to manage their time effectively so that they have enough energy and daylight left over for a productive personal and recreational life. That kind of work/life balance is critical to avoiding burnout. And avoiding burnout is one important factor to long-term success. In work, in life or in anything else.

Accelerate your skillset…

Working for a startup is a fantastic way to accelerate your personal skill sets and contribute to a new company’s growth. True, It’s hard work: startups normally lack the intensive, keenly-mapped-out team member roles that a bigger corporation might have, but the beauty is that everyone works hard towards the same goal to get it done. Also, you’re often more free at a startup to go after what works creatively, in your way, to achieve the best results: and if you apply yourself, growth in both your personal skill sets and career knowledge is bound to happen that way.

Julia McCoy, CreatorThe Practical Content Strategy Certification Center

Strong interpersonal skills and work ethic are indispensable.

A start-up environment is usually fast-paced and constantly changing. Among other things, it demands both adaptability and positivity. Standard, dull routines and checklists aren’t typically on the agenda.

Recent research shows that hiring managers tend to hire candidates who are quick learners with excellent interpersonal and communication skills, commonly referred to as “soft skills.” No matter how technically skilled a candidate may be, if they lack these attributes, they’ll often be passed over. The person getting the job is usually someone with exceptional energy and a sophisticated sense of how to bring out the best in others. This brings me to the closing quote regarding the level of responsibility required when working at a startup.

The Level of Responsibility

The main advantage of working for a startup is the level of standard of accountability and various projects to work on. People can work on a lot of different things in a startup and immediately, “climb the ladder” and assume a much higher level of responsibility than working for a large company out of the gate.

Dave Nevogt, Co-FounderHubstaff

Describe your startup experience

Everyone has a slightly different account of their experiences working for startups. My experiences have been nothing short of amazing, especially with regard to my early days at this company. OWDT is a web design company which has a wealth of experience creating amazing, award-winning websites and online marketing campaigns. But it was not always that way. A small group of highly-talented designers and engineers went through growing pains, but learned a lot, refined its processes and became a global leader in website development, online marketing, design and search engine optimization. It has been truly a great startup success story.