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Work for Startups?
A phrase the older generation just doesn’t seem to get.
According to a famous researcher Carol Deck, people can be categorised into two mindsets, the fixed mindset vs. the growth mindset. If I were to take a wild guess, I’d say the Baby Boomers fell on average within the fixed mindset, and Millennials fall within the growth mindset. You can read where you fall here.
If you fall within the growth mindset, working for a startup may be the next best thing you do for your career.
I’ve had the pleasure (mixed with displeasure) to work for startups right after graduating from my MBA.
Even though it has been a tougher than usual journey when compared a typical or conventional corporate ladder, I picked up a ton of things I believe you only can pick up when you work for startups.
What skills are these?
#1 You are able to create structure out of chaos.
Any one can create structure out of structure.
If you are told exactly what to do, the framework you need to apply and the five steps you should follow to find the result, you don’t need to think for yourself much do you?
It may be a simple comparison, but that’s exactly what working for a corporate feels like.
Working for a startup on the other hand gives you the unique ability to CREATE structure where none was.
Most startups you may work at would be a few years old at max., and they definitely lack the resources to have fixed working patterns in place, which also makes them innovate and pivot faster than a corporate can.
Finding structure may mean setting up an automated CRM system from scratch, building an accounting model specific to the type of business, creating unique advertising that no one else has ever done before.
Doesn’t that sound like a truly incredible skill-set to have?
#2 You are able to work with uncertainty aka RISK.
At a late stage startup, this may not be the case.
But funding at startups can be a funny process. Even though you don’t need to worry about paying people (that’s the cofounder’s job), you do however need to deal with the uncertainty that you may or may not be paid on time each month.
This is especially true for early stage startups which are bootstrapped or working with limited cash in the bank.
What this does is, that it makes you understand and appreciate yourself even more.
We, as human beings love comfort and certainty. Putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone almost always leads to exceptional growth, and that’s what you will inevitably learn working at a startup.
The uncertainty may also have to do with last minute plan changes, business model pivots or overnight strategy changes.
Eventually, you’ll just roll your eyes when you hear of a change, and find a way to growth hack anyway.
How many people do you know who work for a corporate that have this skill? A handful, I’d say.
#3 You understand the value of passion and what it takes to grow.
Being at the beginning stage of a company can be a very emotional and intimate process.
You see the passion that the founders and the core leadership has for the startup and it WILL start to rub off on you.
At least until the company grows to about 500, this passion will be the sole reason for all those late nights and weekends you spend brainstorming.
Some of your colleagues will become your best friends, because this passion bonds you together in a unique way.
Something that rarely happens when you work at a company where thousands others have the same idea or work load as you.
#4 You will feel the weight of responsibility pretty early on.
No matter how small your job when you work for startups is, you will undoubtedly begin to feel pretty responsible pretty fast.
Why? Because you probably will have no support system at all especially in the beginning to ask questions or learn from.
You’ll be given a budget, tasks and thrown on the deep end of the pond to figure out a plan.
This not only makes working for startups challenging and exhilarating but it makes you unable to shrug responsibility any more.
When you’re spending your time chasing insane targets with a delivery time of 1 month, you pull yourself together, and run as fast as you can, and as smart as you can.
The earlier in your career you decide to work for startups, the earlier you will understand responsibility and accountability.
That’s because the entire company hangs on each individual that is sweating it out, and work cannot be easily allotted or delegated to the hundreds of others in the same team.
#5 You will go through a mini MBA
If you didn’t have an MBA before you joined a startup , rest assured you’ll go through a mini version working for one.
This is also why post MBA graduates are exceptionally better at handling the stress that comes with working for or launching a startup.
In my time working for startups I not only got my head into business acquisition (my expertise), but I was also got into finance, HR and operations. This is something that would almost never happen at a large scale corporate firm.
When I spoke to the Operations head, he’d make me understand various metrics and how it effected our business. If I sat down with Finance, we’d work on how the existing sales or acquisition strategy may not be the best given the forecasts and cash flows.
When I’d work with HR on hiring people, I’d also have to make my own hiring case study, design my own tests and work within the legal regulations to be sure I was being fair and transparent in the entire process.
These cross-functional skills cannot be pegged at a price. It will most certainly will help you in your career in the long-run, no matter which organisation you end up at.
Now, if you’d like to know if you are suited to work for startups, go ahead and check out this Harvard Business article.