What I’ve Learned Working for a Startup

There’s little in life that can be more disappointing than realizing that your present job is a dead-end dud with more office politics than a soap opera. It ranks right up there with finding out that your field of study is so competitive that getting hired is about as likely as winning the Powerball. Employers typically want you to have some experience to go along with that expensive piece of paper you just earned. One great way to get it is by working for a startup company.

A Few Major Differences

Often times, an established business can be a difficult place to get your foot in the door. The employment pool is typically rich with talented and experienced people who know other talented and experienced people. Even in the case of an entry level position at such a company, there is often someone working there who knows a college student or a young professional that’s looking for a job (think someone’s mom, dad, grandparent, or friend). That person might get interviewed, and even offered the job, because of a known connection.  That’s not too hard to believe since more than 70 percent of people land jobs through networking, according to U.S. News & World Report.

While established businesses are often able to offer higher salaries and better benefits than some startup companies, there could be fewer opportunities to really explore other facets in your chosen industry. You risk getting pigeon-holed into one area or department. While there may be opportunities to transfer to another department down the road, you may end up starting at the bottom rung of the ladder all over again.

When you consider the opportunity to work for a startup, that could mean a smaller workforce overall (and fewer office politics). In turn, you could get the chance to wear many hats and really find your niche within the company. If there is a new responsibility or task you want to try out because it looks interesting or exciting,  let your supervisor know. Your professional wishes could come true.

Useful Experiences Gained from Startups

I had this happen with a startup film production company in my hometown. I came onboard as the music composer for a proposed TV series, but I also have an interest in media and public relations, and I’ve done some research in those areas. So when I saw the need, I mentioned my interest to the creative director and he was quite happy to delegate more of those tasks to me since he had plenty of other things to do. The extra responsibility didn’t come with a raise, but I didn’t really have a great deal of experience, either. I saw the opportunity as a way to get paid to learn and receive some hands-on experience.

In a startup, you also get to help with the development of systems and processes. For example, since no one has held my position as a composer before in the startup I currently work for, I have been able to collaborate with the creative director about the most effective work flow, instrument choices, music work station tools (such as a soundboard), computer hardware and software.

The Best Part

As someone who enjoys the building and creative processes and learning new things, my favorite part of all of this is still a work in progress. Having an entrepreneurial spirit (along with a sense of adventure) helps when working for a startup. But if you have a customer service-focused  mindset toward your supervisor and coworkers, you can carve out a fairly secure and satisfying career in a growing company that may one day become an industry leader.

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