Like some of you may know, I have been deeply involved in running a fast growing startup in the influencer merchandising space for close to 3 years now. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a bunch of people. Many came. Some stayed, some left.
There are a few things I’ve learnt along the way after interacting with 100’s of Startup candidates and a handful of people who either worked with me or at I met at some other startup. And I think some of these learnings are worth sharing and applying.
Here you go!
1. Equity matters: The possibility of owning equity is the single biggest differentiator between an ordinary job and a startup job. I have met very few people who actually understand the difference and the impact it can have on your career. One successful exit, and you’ve shaved years otherwise spent in a cubicle at some corporate job. So, it is a waste of your time and the opportunity at hand if you aren’t working towards owning equity at the startup you work for.
2. Learn to Earn: A startup by definition is a place where job roles expand or change at lightening speed. Sometimes fast enough for most people to easily become irrelevant and replaceable. Primary reason being, there is no effort put into learning and growing skills. The more you seek out learning while at a startup, the more are your chances of earning.
3. Discipline: Across startups, due to the very nature of it – discipline is extremely rare and hard to find. But the good news is that rare is always valuable. Find a way to be disciplined about everything you possibly can and you will set yourself apart.
4. Be a problem solver not a problem Identifier: When a startup is formed and is growing, most times there is no absolute sense of direction. Along with a bunch of other things, It is ever changing. Situations of high growth usually come along with lack of clarity, new people and broken communication systems resulting in a lot of problems. Most of which are solvable by a proactive approach. I have come across a lot of complainers who always have a never ending list of things that need solving. And most times, this rant is being shared with the ones who have invented these problems in the first place. ( Founders or very early employees.) They know what’s wrong. Go fix something if you can, or just don’t complain and earn the badge of a problem identifier. It’s so easy to find fault, especially at a startup and there is no value in doing so.
5. Seek Criticism: I don’t know of many startups that have formal performance management systems in place right from the outset. It’s a great practice to be persistent and regular in seeking feedback on the work you do. The ability of seeking out criticism in order to grow is again rare, and will make you a very valuable startup employee.
6. Demonstrate Hunger: Most people think, startups are about what we read in the news. Glamour, fund raises and lots of money. (99% of what we read is paid PR, more on that later.) There are very few who talk about the harsh realities and what goes on behind the curtains. To make a startup work, 100% of the time, there are a few people sacrificing a whole lot, just to keep things from falling apart. If your personality and work style doesn’t contain the much needed dose of positive aggression and hunger for growth, chances of you thriving in a startup environment are almost nil. As startups become popular, the quality of workforce that is joining is only improving. This puts most of the non-hungry employees at the risk of being replaced, which is never a good place to be.
7. Control your own destiny: At least, to a far greater degree than you could at a regular job, you have the ability to control how your career shapes up while working at a startup. Make sure you utilise the freedom and access to people, different departments and roles to ensure you find all the best places within the company where you can add the most value. If your value addition isn’t moving a company forward, it is quite definitely moving it backward, thereby impacting your destiny along with everyone else’s at the startup.