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This article is written by Yasar Arafath, pursuing a Diploma in Business Laws for In House Counsels from LawSikho.

Introduction

Working in a start-up is attractive and sometimes magnetically so. Joining a start-up can be a fun, smart, and even life-changing move. While not every start-ups have the budget or ambience of big tech companies, and not every organisation are run by a visionary person who will put organisation on the fast-track like Facebook, Google and startups will offer a unique opportunity to learn the pros and cons, ins and outs of an organization building from the ground to up.

The job descriptions of startups usually include phrases like “fun office environment” and “room for rapid development.”. When you’re thinking about starting a career or perhaps getting your first real job after graduation, you would be looking at different types of organizations.  Where startups are appealing for opportunity and the excitement, but the question is will you thrive in a less-structured and fast-paced organization? Before joining the startups, you need to evaluate the work culture.

Experts opinion

There was a time where joining the startup was viewed as risky and even foolish, because there was no idea on how long the company was going to be around. But in an age where Google and Facebook were founded and emerged as the biggest companies in the history of the world, those days of thinking are over. 

“Startups are no longer niche; they have gone mainstream,” says Daniel Gulati, coauthor of Passion & Purpose

Working for a startup now has a certain amount of cachet and it appeals to be a real and compelling opportunity,” not all startups are created equal, however, one needs to be cautious, says Len Schlesinger, professor at Harvard Business School and coauthor of Just Start.

“When you’re enthusiastic about the startup opportunity, you generally overstate its appeal and vastly undervalue its risk, one needs to weigh the startup opportunity with “passion and excitement” that you feel about the prospective opportunity against the time and money” it consumes. 

Questions to ask before you join a startup

Making the decision to whether to join a startup or not isn’t always easy. In general that 90 percent of startups fail, which poses a question: “Am I prepared to take the risk?” After all, when you accept a job offer with startups, you’re taking a risk and making a bet on a company that might not be around in 5 or 10 years. But that risk can be paid off. 

Just 20 years ago, taking a job at Netflix Facebook, Apple, and Amazon would have raised eyebrows but which are billion-dollar brands today. Firm into opportunities to join the next Netflix are rare, but these examples set as a reminder that saying “yes” to join a startup which can change the trajectory of your career. You will never know when a company could take off. It is worth taking a risk.

Before taking a  decision you need to have clarity on a variety of questions. While some questions need to be asked yourself and the others you should pose during the interview process. 

Here are the questions you should ask yourself before you make a decision to join a startup:

1. Can I afford it

You have to accept the hard truth that “You might not always get paid on time” and it all depends on the performance of the company and time you join them.

Geoff Donaker, the former CEO at Yelp, says one should be prepared to survive a 3 to 6 months period with no salary.  Where one can survive this period with the savings in place which could make the overall startup experience a little less stressful.

2. Will there be learning

While you are ready to take the risk make sure that the risk you take is paid off well not only financially but also professionally. In a startup environment you need to wear multiple hats and which can be rewarding as it often translates into having more autonomy over what you learn. The question you should ask yourself is will these skills  advance your career and put you at a better position in your next job? If so, now it might be the right time to join the team.

3. Know about the founders and do you believe in their vision

Before you join a startup having a clear understanding of the founders and their backgrounds are very crucial. Is this their first company/startup? Are they very new to the industry? How do they approach innovation? What is their vision?  Answers to these questions will determine how they will run the organization. 

For example, if it’s their first startup, you need to be confident whether they can strategically and successfully guide the company through uncertainty?

You will be likely to spend more time with them than your friends and family, you are entrusting them with the next stage of your career. You need to have trust and belief on their vision. If your values don’t align with the company, consider it an early warning sign.

4. Know the Industry you want to head

Analyzing the industry you want to head will answer your concern about job security. Examine the future growth of your industry and examine the startup where you are joining is tackling big challenges or seizing the opportunities in the industry.

Here are the questions you should ask during a startup job interview:

Consider which questions you have to ask during the interview process for a better understanding about the company. Below are questions you can ask during an interview to determine if your decision to join startup is right for you:

  • What are the company’s values

If the company’s values and vision can’t be clearly enunciated, it’s likely there’s no roadmap in place, which acts as an added risk. Usually in startups employees are expected to work more than standard working hours. When you commit to those hours, you have to make sure that what you’re driving toward and what are the guiding principles that every employee should ideally share.

  • What is the hiring plan for this role

This is an important question particularly when you’re in a new position. Before you accept a startup job offer, have clarity on how the company envisions your role, how your responsibilities might evolve, where the priorities are, and the ways in which you can meaningfully contribute.

Details mentioned in the job description might not necessarily be the reality, and you don’t want to take the risk of accepting a job offer only to realize the scope of the job isn’t fully defined and there’s no room for growth in the company.

  • What is the team structure and how they collaborate

This question will give you an understanding of the role you’ll play in the organization and how you might collaborate with others outside your department. A company that operates in a restricted environment can be problematic; there are bound to be inefficiencies and miscommunications within the teams. When you’re interested in learning more about the company culture ask whether teams are encouraged to share ideas and collaborate.

  • What are the company capital and future funding plans

Knowing the company’s finances, says a lot about how the company sustains in the business. Startups with better finances will have a greater job security. You should ask about future funding plans. Whether the company is trying to raise capital? If so, which investors are the founders looking to work with? Some hiring managers might not want to reveal this.

  • Whether anyone already left the company? If so, why

Asking this type of question might be awkward, but answer to this question will indicate any systemic issues in the company and helps you understand the company culture and the skills or traits the founders  is looking in employees. It might also uncover the truth about the company’s sustainability. 

Here’s why you need to start your career in a startup

You’re just out of college with a degree in hand and you’ve decided to join a startup. Your friends or peers have joined MNCs and well-known organizations. Your choice will be questioned by your friends and family which will leave you confused and unsure. You will doubt your decision on joining a startup. Should you start your career in a Startup?

The initial years of career are important, formative, and exciting. Most of the individuals know ‘what’ they want to do and what they want to become a few years down the line, but do not know ‘how’ they should start to reach there.

The initial four or five years is a time filled with discovery of one’s professional self, of taking risks, and even making mistakes. With the excess of options available in the market, freshers are often confused between deciding to take the corporate route or join startups.

Reasons to join Start-ups:

Joining Start-up will help:

1) Big leap

More than 1/3rd individuals took a big leap by taking on big roles, even the roles were outside of their domain or expertise. Big breaks don’t just land on one’s lap. Quite often individuals have to chase them. Some ways are to join a startup for big challenging roles, convey your boss that you are willing to tackle the complex problems and ask your bosses for challenging opportunities.

2) Moving into a big mess

More than 30% of individuals deliberately took on challenges and went through the mess. While these situations help individuals show their performance capabilities and leadership.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

On job learning in startups

1) More responsibilities and more learning

Generally, startups have smaller teams, which means you are entrusted with more responsibilities as a team member. By doing so one can learn more than just one skill. It is a good opportunity for anyone who is just out of school and wants to explore his/her strong points, and to carve a niche in specific skill sets.

2) More opportunities

As startups have smaller teams, every team member has several roles to perform. There are no fixed roles in a team, while startups provide the flexibility to seize opportunities and take up challenging jobs to prove oneself.

3) Learning 

Entrepreneurs are the visionaries who sense a problem and come up with an original and innovative solution to tackle the same. Founders in startups have a different approach of work when compared to those who have never started their own companies. And there’s a lot of learning from founders while you work along with them.

Enhance your skills

1) Decision making

For some people decision-making could come naturally but for others, it’s a hard row to pick up. To align with opportunities startups need to be agile, fast and flexible to the changes in the market and need to adjust themselves with opportunities. All these can be achieved on the competency of taking decisions. 

2) Dealing with failure

In general, nine out of ten startups fail, however failure doesn’t mean the end of the startup or the project. Which means you need to change the strategy and transform your ways to make them better.

“Failures are the stepping stones of success” is the USP for most successful companies. So, when you join a startup, there are higher chances of the startup or the product to fail than its chances of success.

3) Multi-tasking

Startups work with smaller teams as they are cash-crunched and cannot afford having large teams. This results in every member of the team ending up playing multiple roles and multitasking. You will be handling your own share of work and along pitch in to help your colleagues. It will teach you how to handle the workload of different types and how to juggle between multiple roles.

4) Self-learning

Capital restricts startups from hiring top talented professionals of different kinds, unlike large corporate offices. Mostly employees in a startup are people who are starting out and do not have an experience to share. This results in self-toning your skill set.

Conclusion

Working for a startup means that you and your small team are the only responsible people for your success. While some may crawl into a corner and hope that someone will spoon feed their paycheck. But for others it acts as a greatest motivation. When you stop relying on others for spoon feeding, you will undoubtedly surface your skills and a determination that you didn’t know you had. At a startup, the wish to be self-sustainable is expanded and multiplied, triggering the do-or-die attitude which is often the difference between success and failure. No matter where you end up after your stint at a startup, and especially when you have an idea to create a company on your own, you need to be self-sustainable, and the skills you picked up during your stint in startup make that possible and will power everything that you do. A careful evaluation needs to be done before you make a decision to join a startup, the decision should boost your career but not hamper it. 

References

  1. https://hbr.org/2016/05/how-to-know-if-joining-a-startup-is-right-for-you
  2. https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-things-you-should-know-before-working-at-a-startup
  3. https://www.monsterindia.com/career-advice/8-signs-that-show-you-ll-be-a-success-in-a-startup-job-6701.html
  4. https://angel.co/blog/30-questions-to-ask-before-joining-a-startup
  5. https://digest.myhq.in/why-join-a-startup-early-career/
  6. https://www.inc.com/quora/if-you-truly-want-the-best-career-path-you-should-be-working-at-startups-and-sma.html
  7. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/pros-and-cons-of-working-for-a-startup-company
  8. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/startup-interview-questions
  9. https://www.fastcompany.com/1824235/8-reasons-choose-startup-over-corporate-job

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