What to Do When You Work for a Startup and Don’t Know What a Startup Is

If you are on the hunt for a new job, you might find yourself applying for jobs at numerous companies. This is a popular job-searching method that, when executed correctly, can land people some great opportunities at companies they might not have considered working for before. This is true of people who found themselves out of work for the first time in a long time, or for older workers who are making transitions in their lives from one industry to another.

For some of these people, they are going to find themselves face-to-face with the startup community, and they aren’t going to have a clue what it’s all about. If you have found yourself applying for companies that refer to themselves as a startup and you aren’t sure what that is or how you might be able to help them, check out this list of what to do when you work for a startup and don’t know what a startup is.

Learn About the Product

What’s interesting about startups is that they often maintain a great deal of secrecy when they are first starting out. That’s because there is so much competition in many of the industries in which startups work. They keep their lips sealed about their products to the mainstream public, and that can make it hard for job seekers to research them and their products. But it is vital to your success on the job hunt and after you get hired to understand what exactly the startup does.

Funny enough, many startups aren’t even sure of what they do until they get some experience under their belt; this is especially true of tech startups who will pivot (also known as changing their mind) several times before they land on a product they like and can make them some money. So be patient with the startup you end up working for and learn as you go.

Be Flexible

One of the most important things about working for a startup is the need to be flexible. Today your job might be quality assurance and tomorrow you might be painting a wall. Startups operate differently than other types of companies, and because of this, you need to be able to wear many hats.

Everyone at a startup wears many hats in the beginning, so if you have a multitude of skills, you’ll want to express that during interviews to let companies know you can help out in all sorts of ways. But you better mean it and want to do multiple things because it’s all hands on deck when you work for a startup. It might not be until year 2 or 3 that you actually have a defined role and understand processes and procedures associated with your job. So be open to learning and be flexible whenever you can.

The Money Will Come…Eventually

If you are someone who is experiencing a transition in your career and you think that you will be able to make a lateral move from one company to another, think again. Anyone starting over in this economy has to work twice as hard as those that are already in it in order to make the kind of money they were making before. If you find yourself working for a startup be prepared to take less money now, in favor of more job autonomy, flexible working hours, and the chance to be a part of something big.

With time though, you can expect to make more money – possibly more than you were ever making if your startup does well. The beauty of startups is that they tend to have good cash flow in the beginning and as long as the funding or investment keeps flowing, and eventually profits are turning, there will be a lot of opportunities for you to be rewarded for your hard work.

Age is Just a Number

Older workers might be deterred from applying to companies run by younger people, but the startup world is ripe with opportunity, and even startups don’t know what they need until they get rolling with their company. There is a need for workers at every skill level and experience – that means that older workers who want a chance to learn a new skill or practice a seasoned one can find work in the startup world.

Where a more established industry, such as manufacturing or commerce might pass over an older worker in favor of fresh blood – which tends to be cheaper as well – startups recognize the wealth of knowledge and experience that older workers can bring and often hire more experienced people to teach and mentor them into paths of success.

Whether or not you ever thought of yourself as someone who would work for a startup, don’t rule it out as a very viable option as you conduct your job search. And if you are working for a company that offers flexible hours, decent pay, lots of autonomy, and the chance to learn new skills, you are probably working for a startup already. Congrats and welcome to the coolest way to work: startup life.




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