Office birthday lunches, midday meditation workshops, a kitchen fully stocked with free snacks, and holiday company cruises to the Bahamas- “Is this how all workplaces are?” I wondered to myself when I joined a startup fresh out of college.
The answer is no, this is not how the average company operates, but this environment is fairly typical if you work at a tech startup where the CEO is 29 years old and your colleagues are building a product that disrupts the entire industry.
In the five years since I graduated college, I have worked at two startups. I was employee #3 on the agency team at BMI Elite, a digital marketing company that participated in the Google Glass beta program, and was featured on Yahoo, MSN and Huffington Post before being acquired by a larger agency. Currently I am the Community Manager at Social Voucher, a mobile application development startup that’s about to launch Stocket, a disruptive app that combines gaming, e-commerce and augmented reality.
I’ve witnessed both companies grow rapidly, and constantly search for good people to join our team. Countless randoms, many of whom I haven’t seen since middle school, send me emails and Facebook messages hoping to get hooked up with a job. They ask if my job is as fun as it seems and I tell them all the same thing.
Working at a startup has its perks, and while it can be exhilarating, there is also a lot of hard work that’s put in. We definitely work hard to play hard around here. In the last five years I’ve seen people thrive in this environment and do really well for themselves, and I’ve seen others, some who have years of experience, completely crack under the pressure.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll fit in at a startup company, here are a few things to consider.
Are you good at multi-tasking under lots of pressure?
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll wear just one hat at a startup company. I think this is the main reason why many people don’t work out. They get hired for a certain position and are unhappy when they’re expected to do things beyond their job description. My official job title at BMI was a search marketing project manager, but I also served as the unofficial office decorator, copywriter, public relations contact, executive assistant, receptionist, blogger, events coordinator, t-shirt designer and the executive producer of my boss’ radio show.
“That’s not my job,” is a response that doesn’t go over well at a startup, as they usually only have between 10 to 100 employees. That being said, everyone must carry their own weight in their respective positions and then some. I’m not alone- we all wear multiple hats and don’t really get paid more for doing more. But on the plus-side, I’ve learned many valuable lessons and skills that I could always put on the resume, and I believe hard work is recognized and rewarded.
Do you easily adapt to change?
Plans tend to change rapidly in startup companies. The Social Voucher that I work at today is completely different than the Social Voucher that existed on this day two years ago. In two years we’ve completely shifted the direction of the app we’re building, acquired an augmented reality company, moved offices twice, and seen about 50 people come and go.
If routines bore you and you like the excitement that comes with change, you may really enjoy working for a startup. If you prefer predictability, working at a startup will likely just increase your stress to new levels.
Are you okay with working crazy hours?
If you like showing up to work at 9 a.m. and leaving right as the clock strikes 5 p.m. every day, a startup is not the place for you. Regular hours- what’s that?
In order to accomplish everything that we need to do, many of us often come in early, work through lunch or happy hour, and sometimes show up to the office on weekends. I think this crazy schedule has a lot to do with why most of our employees are young, unmarried and have no kids.
Do you believe in the company?
This is major, as it’s really hard to put up with the multi-tasking, long hours and pressure of working at a startup if you don’t believe in the company and its product(s).
Before joining a startup, I recommend doing your research to get a clear idea of its products, leaders, values, goals and long-term vision. What do they do to stand out among their competition? Startups emerge and die every day, so use your best judgment when trying to determine if your position could be long-term.
When working at a startup company, you never really know what’s going to happen. The world is ever-changing and even the most solid companies are at risk. However, some startups thrive and the rewards become worth the risks- think huge financial returns, invaluable experience, getting to work with incredibly smart people and of course the excitement that comes with it all.
If you’re up for the challenge, working for a startup can be a life-changing experience. Just make sure you’re prepared to handle it first.