Working for a startup is not easy

startup gig

As the world changes and we place more value on our time, personal experiences and our ability to now have ‘gigs’ instead of jobs, many corporate employees who have exited 9 to 5 work, found some exciting startup or charity to work for, or even just want to impart some of their hard-earned knowledge, suddenly find themselves in very unfamiliar territory.

Working for a small startup organisation can be quite different from working in a well-established corporate environment. Here are some potential challenges a corporate employee might encounter when transitioning to a startup:

  • Limited resources: Startups often have limited financial resources, which can lead to constraints in terms of infrastructure, equipment, and personnel. This may require employees to take on multiple roles and be more resourceful to get the job done.
  • Ambiguity and uncertainty: Startups are usually in a constant state of change and growth, which can create ambiguity and uncertainty. Employees must be comfortable with making decisions with limited information and adapting to shifting priorities.
  • Flat hierarchy: Startups often have a flatter organisational structure compared to corporations. This means employees may have to work more closely with their colleagues, take on more responsibilities, and navigate ambiguous reporting lines.
  • Fast-paced environment: The pace of work in a startup can be much faster than in a corporate setting. Employees must be agile and able to handle rapid changes in direction, tight deadlines, and high-pressure situations.
  • Less formal structure: Startups may have less formalised processes and policies compared to corporations. Employees might need to adjust to a more informal environment and be proactive in establishing their own routines and best practices.
  • Job security: Startups are inherently riskier than established corporations and may have a higher likelihood of failure. Employees must be prepared for the possibility of job loss or abrupt changes in the company’s direction.
  • Work-life balance: Employees at startups may experience longer working hours and increased expectations for availability outside of typical working hours, which could negatively impact work-life balance.
  • Compensation and benefits: Startups may offer less competitive compensation and benefits packages compared to large corporations. Employees might need to consider factors such as equity, growth potential, and job satisfaction when evaluating the total value of their compensation.
  • Lack of well-defined roles: In a startup, roles and responsibilities can be fluid, and employees may be expected to contribute in areas outside their expertise. This can be both challenging and rewarding, depending on the individual’s adaptability and willingness to learn.
  • Limited professional development opportunities: Startups may not have the resources to offer comprehensive professional development programmes like those found in larger corporations. Employees might need to take charge of their career growth and seek external opportunities for learning and development.

Whilst some of these may be real challenges for a die-hard corporate mindset there are many things we can do to adapt to our newfound passion for startups. Here are some tips for a corporate employee to adapt rapidly to a startup environment and share their corporate knowledge constructively:

  • Embrace change and be flexible: Be open to new experiences, adapt to new situations quickly, and be willing to take on new roles and responsibilities. Flexibility and a growth mindset will help you thrive in a startup environment.
  • Foster open communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your colleagues, and share your experiences and knowledge from the corporate world. Be receptive to the perspectives of others and engage in active listening to build strong relationships.
  • Be proactive and take initiative: In a startup, you often have to create opportunities for growth and success. Take the initiative to solve problems, improve processes, and contribute to the overall success of the company.
  • Collaborate and build trust: Work closely with your colleagues to create a supportive and collaborative environment. Share your corporate knowledge while respecting the unique perspectives and experiences of your startup teammates. Building trust is key to successful collaboration.
  • Be humble and open to learning: Recognise that you may not have all the answers and be open to learning from your colleagues. Acknowledge the value of diverse experiences and expertise, and be willing to adapt your approach based on new insights.
  • Prioritise and manage time effectively: Startups often require working on multiple projects simultaneously. Learn to prioritise tasks, delegate when necessary, and manage your time effectively to ensure you can contribute to the startup’s success without sacrificing work-life balance.
  • Offer mentorship and guidance: Share your corporate knowledge and skills with your colleagues by offering mentorship and guidance. This not only benefits the startup but also helps you establish yourself as a valuable team member and leader.
  • Adapt corporate strategies to the startup context: When sharing your corporate knowledge, consider how it can be adapted to suit the startup environment. Be mindful of the unique challenges and opportunities of a startup, and tailor your approach accordingly.
  • Develop a growth mindset: Embrace continuous learning and improvement, both for yourself and the startup. Be open to new ideas, and be prepared to iterate and refine your strategies as the startup grows and evolves.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures: Recognise and celebrate the achievements of your team, and use failures as opportunities for learning and growth. By fostering a positive and supportive environment, you can help the startup thrive and contribute to its long-term success.

If you have recently changed jobs and are finding it difficult to get your startup to ‘grow up’, drop us a line and we can discuss some tactics for you and the organisation to improve and mature in a positive way.