As a follow up on what we discussed last time in Part 1, in this article, we’ll be discussing more challenges to watch out for when considering a job at a startup. To get the full picture, please read Part 1, but since your lazy ass won't do it, here is a recap :
- A lot of work : a startup employees have a very fine line between work and personal life. It is implicitly expected from them to sacrifice few weekends and sleepless nights due to overwhelming pace and volume of work.
- Not paid enough : even though startup employees work harder than most profiles in the market, they are usually not paid nearly enough. Startup founders tend to be very frugal and cheap since startups aren’t profitable in most cases.
- Existential crisis : questioning your decision of joining a startup once every few months is a normal thing. It’s a small and fast changing environment where the only thing that keeps you going is the vision. Financial problems might shake up the vision for a bit which can lead to an existential crisis for the startup. ( am I a startup that has to build something great ? or am I a business that needs to make money now doing anything ? )
Now that we had a quick recap let’s dive into the remaining challenges to be aware of when working for a startup. As for the first part, I will speak from my personal experience working at a startup for more than 2 years.
Dangerously small and close
The startup work environment is very small, especially in early stages. As a result, you’ll be impacted by anything that happens around you. If your manager is having a bad time and decides that micromanaging is a good idea, you’ll feel it almost instantly. You’ll find yourself as well having so much impact and power over how another person’s mood. It’s very stressful. On the other hand, if you worked at a bigger company, you can always hide behind the layers above you and established processes which are designed to keep you stable and focused.
For people who say that you can always go in “professional mode”, and do what your contract says and get out. Trust me it’s hard to implement. Doing nothing more than what you are responsible for is something that might work in a big company, not a startup. You’ll be dangerously at a close distance to your coworkers that you might easily offend someone or lose their trust if you refuse to do anything.
You’ll start being pulled into the illusion of being kind of a family and do more than what you are asked for out of good intentions, but in reality when things go sideways, you’ll be left alone and some people you relied on will prioritize their interests over yours.
After working at a startup for a while, you’ll start building a profile that fits startups and probably fits one particular type of startups. This is the result of working in a small team that’s committed to do whatever it takes to achieve a specific vision. You’ll end up wearing multiple hats and doing things you never learned how to do. You’ll hardly find the time to specialize in anything. You’ll also get the habit of becoming a hacker, and by a hacker I mean finding shortcuts and bending certain tools to fit your needs.
All these characteristics might not be sought after in the corporate world, unfortunately such experience might even be looked down upon by big companies who can’t see the depth and meaning in your resume. We can argue against this all day, but it is what it is. Working at a startup might not make you attractive for certain companies.
You might also get hooked in the startup world, like I was. You might start enjoying the adventurous side of startups and start to seriously think about building your own. You’ll reach out to your friends and start brainstorming with them. This shift of mindset will make you look at employment as a temporary thing and you might even consider never working for anyone again or at least work for startups you are interested in.
I think we mentioned the main challenges when it comes to working at a startup. I tried to be really honest about the things you must watch out for when considering joining a startup, especially when you are early in your career. I focused on the dark side since many people wouldn’t talk about it publicly, which can lead to the abundance of misinformation and even potential career disasters.
In my opinion, a startup is a place for people who want to be on an adventure and reach their full potential, after two years you’ll feel like graduating. The bright side is far more interesting than the dark one, and I invite every early graduate to join a startup a try it out to make their own opinions and take full responsibility for their decisions.
I hope this article added value to you, please share it with people who can benefit from it. Thank you for your time.