Working for a Startup: Survival Guide

Looking through the rose-colored glasses of someone outside of the tech field, getting a job at a startup may seem like an absolute dream come true. Think about it: unlimited creativity, free lunches, foosball, flexible hours — what’s not to like?

Dreams vs. Reality

Needless to say, a lot of people’s idea of a startup is rather skewed. We’ve all heard amazing success stories about ambitious 20 year olds who turned billionaires almost overnight. So naturally, when we hear startup, we instantly picture a modern office space, game rooms and people riding scooters in the hallways.

Succeeding at a Startup Job

So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and decided to give the startup life a try. Hopefully by now you’re well aware of the risks and difficulties that lie ahead, so the following tips will focus on helping you not just survive the startup rollercoaster, but to excel and succeed at your new position.

  1. Don’t focus on money. People who join a startup company are usually the ones who believe in the product they’re building. They don’t mind putting in extra hours, or working on the weekend because they’re passionate and excited about what they’re doing. Not someone whose first quest question at an interview is about his or her pay rates and hours per week.
  2. Be willing to sacrifice. Landing an executive spot means having the ability to put the needs of your team in front of your own. Whether it’s taking a lower salary, sharing an office with another employee or doing tasks that you find to be beneath you. Every other member of the management team has made similar sacrifices at one point or another, and you should be ready too, should the situation demand it.
  3. Deliver results. Passion and commitment are great, but at the end of the day it’s all about the results. And there’s nothing CEOs and managers dislike more than an employee with average performance and no results asking for a raise. Don’t be that employee. If you’re aiming to climb the company ladder, have a plan with specific metrics and performance goals, so when (and only when) you hit those goals, you can share it with your CEO and ask if they’d be open to offering you a promotion.
  4. Think ahead. The best CEOs have the ability to grasp the big-picture state of their business, and are always looking to see the long-term effects of their decisions on the company’s overall direction. So if you’d like to stand out as an employee, you’ll need to learn to think ahead: what’s the current state of the company and its goals, where is it going to be tomorrow, and that’s the direction of the market that your company’s in.
  5. Demonstrate initiative. If you want to excel at your position and get recognized for your hard work and contribution to the success of the company, simply doing what you’re told to do is not enough. Ambition is much more likely to impress, so show initiative and identify what needs to be done and do it before being told.

The Big Leap

Most people who say they’d like to work at a startup have no idea what they’re talking about. What they actually mean most of the time is that they would really like to work for Google.

Your ultimate guide to productivity and time management