Should You Join a Startup?

Should You Join a Startup?

Should You Join a Startup?

Maybe you're looking at possible startup jobs right now, or plan to be soon. If you end up getting serious about the possibility, it will be absolutely essential that you spend time with real people who've worked in real startups. It's the only way to get a true sense of what's out there.

But in the meantime, it's fine to get a sense of some of the basics. Here are four things to get you started.

Fewer Resources and More Resourcefulness

Startups operate on some combination of revenue and investor dollars — early startups usually run completely on investor funding. Until a startup is really self-sufficient, leadership will be wracking their brains to make every dollar last as long as possible. That means you usually have to make do with fewer resources than people have in more established companies.

The upside

Over time you learn to become extremely resourceful at doing more with less. That can make you more resilient, more creative, more productive — and more comfortable in challenging situations.

What to watch out for.

For many people, medical costs may be a serious area of risk. Also, there's nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable in your job — physically and financially. Everyone's needs are different. As with any job, you'll need to make sure that you'll have the benefits and other resources you need.

Greater Demands and More Opportunities

When things absolutely need to happen immediately, there may not be enough people available to do them. Everyone needs to be able to step up, time and again, sometimes for months at a stretch. This will demand more of you, and more of your time, than most other kinds of jobs.

The upside.

Being a part of a high-functioning team having adventures together can be very exciting. You discover powers in yourself that you might not find in more comfortable circumstances. This can be a huge confidence builder. It can also be a powerful bonding experience. People will have your back, and you'll have theirs — lifelong friendships are made in startups.

What to watch out for.

You should think of your startup job as a joint enterprise requiring the support of friends and family. It will be on you to make sure that you can work with them to adjust your commitments. You also need to make ways to rest and recharge — that won't be something you can take for granted. Finally, you should know this about startup environments: when there's trust it can be amazing, but when trust is lacking, it can be terrible.

Predictably Unpredictable

Startups by their nature are vulnerable to unexpected internal and external changes. That could mean scary shocks or it could mean unexpected windfalls and opportunities.

The upside.

Unicorns by definition are rare. Nevertheless it's hard to resist the familiar stories of tiny companies that surprise everyone and hit big. But what's not rare are the many moments of smaller success that surprise and encourage startup adventurers every day. If you're a startup sort of person, those moments can nourish your motivation through many periods of doubt and frustration.

What to watch out for.

Unfortunately it's much easier to kill a young startup than it is to create a Facebook. If your main reason for joining a startup is fast wealth, you'll most likely be disappointed. Even if you're on board for other reasons, you'll need to have fallback planning in place.

Equity Compensation

Because cash must be conserved in young startups, some compensation often takes the form of company equity. This is usually stock awarded to you at various times as options. You have to wait for some set period after the award before you can actually own that stock.

The upside.

Holding stock in the company means that you're an owner, like the investors. Your contribution to the success of the company has an impact on how much you make. If the company does well, your stake will be worth more; in some cases it can be a lot more.

What to watch out for.

Of course, the company may not do well, in which case your stake will be worth less; possibly as little as zero. Some few people hit the jackpot in the first few years, but most realize their gains only after a number of years, and possibly over a number of different startups. If you stick with it because you love the work, the money will come later.

It's an Adventure

Adventure isn't a bad word to associate with working in a startup. It's not so much a job as it is a way of life, one with lots of ups and downs. Talk to some people who work for startups, and watch your reactions. If you feel enthusiasm for what they do and how they do it, that's the surest sign that you should take a deeper look.

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