Career Advice

Do You Have What It Takes To Work At A Startup?

Working for a startup isn’t for everyone, nor is the process of finding and getting a job with a burgeoning company. But before you even begin your job search you’ll need to make sure you fit the start-up bill. That means having a certain attitude and entrepreneurial spirit that may not be needed at an established company.

“Just like it takes a certain mindset to launch your own business, often it takes a particular mindset to succeed in a startup company,” says Kathy Ver Eecke who writes the Working for Wonka – Surviving a Startup blog. “Startups are looking for people that are as passionate about the business as they are about having a job.”

Don’t expect to get hired for top dollars when joining a start-up. Often times these companies are working with shoe string budgets and have little available for salaries. What they do have is stock options and the whole idea that the hard work will pay off in the long run. After all, history is paved with examples of startup success stories from eBay to Google that transformed average people into millionaires seemingly overnight.

Job seekers that should consider working for a startup also need to possess determination, passion and a real drive to want to make a difference in the organization and potentially the industry or community, says Steve Roberson, CEO and co-founder of StartUpHire. “Startups are best for folks that are comfortable with a degree of flexibility and autonomy,” he says. That’s because with startups, often the job title and function isn’t set in stone and is driven by what needs have to be filled.  If you career goals are focused solely on working as the company’s accountant, then a startup where you would be required to do more than just manage the books may not be right for you.

Risk averse need not apply. For every successful startup, there’s hundreds that have crashed and burned, which means you may not ever realize that big pay-off even if you worked hard for the startup company.  Still, even if the one you end up working for doesn’t succeed, Roberson says having that experience on your resume is becoming more valuable than ever before. “Large companies have respect for startup experience,” says Roberson.

How To Find A StartUp Job

If you meet the criteria for working in a startup the next step is to find a job. Instead of doing a typical job search of open positions, Ver Eecke suggests you search for startup companies that are providing a product or service that you also feel passionate about.

“If somebody sees a company they are interested in and the company appears to be growing, know they are hiring whether they post a job or not,” says Ver Eecke. “Contact them and tell them what you can do for them.”

While cold calling a start-up may seem futile, Ver Eecke says one of the biggest problems startup companies have is they know they need help, but don’t have the time to write a job description let alone post an ad. “Knock on their door, tell them you love the company and tell them exactly why you need to work there,” she says, noting that cold calling isn’t only OK, but shows you have passion and drive for that business.

For people with certain types of skills like programming and engineering, getting a job at a startup is easier since those are in-demand skills. If you don’t possess those types of skills, you can still land a job at a startup. Roberson says to target the early stage startups rather than the more established ones.

If cold calling isn’t for you, there are job search websites that cater specifically to startup companies like StarUpHire. In startup heavy regions like California and Washington D.C., and even in other parts of the country, more and more startup groups are emerging and holding networking events, which is an ideal way to get familiar with the different companies out there. Attending networking events, seminars and conferences is also a way to meet people in the different industries and make contacts. Even volunteering at the events could be a way to get your foot in the door.

“It’s easier for people to hire people they know,” says Roberson. “Getting out there is a good way to get exposure.”