Due to the boom of entrepreneurship, the number of startup companies around the world is soaring. More and more young job seekers are considering working at startups because of their flexibility and growth opportunity.

While every startup is unique and different, there is no standard guideline to judge whether you are suitable to join one or not. Here are 4 important questions you need to ask yourself and ponder on before making the decision of working at a startup.

work at startups

1. What is working at startups like?

An industrial-style office, cool sticky-note meetings, a confident "pitch" – these are what most people think of startup businesses. While these indeed form part of their daily routine, startups are much more than that.

If you plan to work at a startup, you must first understand the difference between a “startup” company and a “new” company.

The difference between startup companies and general businesses lies in their distinct "business models". Innovative business practices allow startups to play a breakthrough role in the market. A breakthrough demands conviction, which requires strong willpower at any given time, to persuade existing markets to carry out reforms.

For example

In the early days of Airbnb, how is it possible to convince homeowners to rent out vacant houses to tourists who they don't even know?
Innovative but challenging ideas are common in startup companies.

Working for a startup is nowhere near working for a general newly-established enterprise that relies on regular business practices to make profit. An emerging, innovative business structure allows different departments of a startup company to experience diverse management tasks. However, innovation is prone to local jurisdiction constraints.

For example

Ride-hailing company Uber is a platform to match various resources with market needs.
The market challenges and legal regulations of taxi industry pushed Uber to collaborate with car dealers to operate legally.

A startup company presents several challenges and endless stakeholder issues that you’ve never thought of. Before joining one, are you prepared to solve these problems?

2. Why should I join a startup?

  • Develop the ability of problem solving

Due to scarcity of time and capital, startup companies tend to compel workers to always get to the root cause of a problem. The reason why a company often fails to roll out digital transformation is mostly because staffs in the organization are resistant to change.

For example - Adoption of enterprise communication software

Adopting enterprise communication software greatly improves work efficiency, but before addressing the concern on enterprise communication, "organizational habit" is the first problem to overcome. 

Before helping the company speed up its communication, getting employees to cope with the difficult transition period of digital transformation should be the priority.

There are all sorts of possibilities in the circumstances behind each problem. Only by delving into the real issue and finding the right direction can there be a way for startups to keep moving forward.

  • Integrate resources to create opportunities

Lack of resources is the biggest difference between startups and established enterprises. Integration of resources in established companies refers to the need of consolidating complex data, while in startups, it is more like enhancing efficiency and effectiveness through proper resource allocation.

For example - Marketing activities

  • Established enterprise
    Cross-departmental agreements and historical data might be required for future decisions.
  • Startup company
    It is required to set the direction and adopt your own approach to convert data into meaningful resources.
  • No way to go but forward

In an established enterprise, non-managerial staff would only face sales pressure. However, while working for a startup, your sales performance is not only a concern about the company’s growth but also a matter of life or death for its product/service.

Without today's purchase order, there won’t be money to pay for your salary next month. The reality of walking on thin ice is typical among startups, but this force makes people grow. It just depends on how new hires adapt to this kind of stress.

startup jobs

3. How to select a suitable startup to join?

After understanding the challenges faced by startups, the next step is to think about how to choose the right company for you. If you don't know or are unfamiliar with the process of looking for one, you can begin with the "people" within it, the "things" you’re expected to do, the "time" it has been in operation, the "stage" of its maturity and the "product" it sells.

  • Investors (people)

A good startup company would usually be invested by well-known venture capitalists. Investors’ credibility can be regarded as a basis for choosing a company. If the startup is not backed by a reputable investor, you can try to adopt other criteria.

  • Founders (people)

Since startups tend to have a relatively flat organizational structure, the founder's leadership style gets to affect the operating model. Before joining a startup company, learn about the founder's academic background and experiences from news materials to get a deeper understanding of the startup culture.

As a job seeker, you must recognize the importance of fitting in with company culture in order to work efficiently.

  • Job responsibilities (things)

First understand whether you prefer project-based work and whether you possess the ability of multitasking.

At startups, each person should be a prime force for the company, ready at all times to deal with unforeseen events. If you expect an organizational environment with clear-cut job descriptions, startups might not be your best choice.

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  • Business Model (stage)

Business model of a startup company plays a role in its success or failure. Try to understand whether the startup you desire to work for has a mature business model or not.

Interview can be your access to information. Through conversation with current employees and analysis of the company's present situation / predicaments, you will be able to know the stage of enterprise maturity.

  • Establishment Date (time)

Business longevity can prove its market value. You can understand a company's growth profile through its development timeline.

Generally speaking, a startup that is able to sustain operations for more than 3 years indicates certain strengths.

  • Market Size (product)

Understand the market opportunities for the product, and choose a market with growth potential for your career development.

  • Product / Service (product)

Only with passion, enthusiasm and understanding for the product/service can you disseminate its core idea to clients and customers. Choose the startup with products that you are interested in or familiar with, so that you have passion to work on them.

startup career

4. What are the qualities required to join a startup?

  • Spontaneous organizational capacity

Employees working at startups is not usually confined to specific job duties, so learning to organize diverse information spontaneously is an ability required. Being confused, delving into issues and solving them, finding consensus – this will be a cycle of self-discovery.

Pulling yourself together and building self-confidence should be a duty while working at a startup company.

  • Proactive problem solving

In a startup company, there is no idle time, even when there is no task assigned to you. The ability to actively dig into problems and constantly searching for solutions are essential at startups.

  • Open to changes and believes in changes

You must accept that the company’s products and your job responsibilities will change regularly while working at a startup. In addition, you must also believe that these transformations can make positive impact on the society.

Try your best to get down to the 4 questions mentioned above in the article, and hopefully you will find a startup job that accelerates you career!

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