Rethinking your decision to join a startup? Here's what you need to know

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"SuperOps.ai? I haven't heard of it. Wouldn't it be better to join a big MNC like TCS, CTS, or Wipro?" "Are you sure you'll get your salary on time?" "What if the investors pull the plug and the company shuts shop? Do you have a backup plan?" "You have a family to take care of. Are you sure you want to take up a high-risk opportunity?"

Risk vs. reward

Starting a new job, no matter how big a company is, is pretty much like starting from scratch. You have a reputation to build or keep up, learn new processes, meet and work with new people, etc.

When it's a startup, the uncertainty becomes multifold. Let's face it — 9 out of 10 startups fail. While you're hard at work charting out a career path at a startup, anything can break — the startup might fail, the investor might pull the plug, budgets might be cut short.

It's only natural to consider the uncertainty of losing one's job. And no one likes uncertainty. This may explain why the average age of employees working for any startup lies somewhere between 25-34 — beyond which having a 'secure job' takes priority with contributing factors such as marriage, kids, age, investments, etc., as you hit a saturation point in your career.

How many times have you turned down an offer from a startup with the salary package being your only concern? At least once, if not many. To solve this, some startups are increasingly adopting employee stock options and here's what you should know about ESOPs, the new compensation structure for hiring and retaining great talent.

There's always a reward associated with every calculated risk one takes. So, it wouldn't be bad to give a shot at the opportunity, given that you make an informed decision.

The flip side to a high-risk opportunity is the reward. You do not have to jump at every startup offer that comes your way but weigh in the benefits of joining the startup.

Vocation vs. vacation

Startups are usually small teams with people who are passionate about seeing their product launched. This usually entails long, odd hours at work because it's usually a small team. Pop culture would have us believe that startups are all about pizzas for lunch, foosball games, casual wardrobes. But in reality, working at a startup requires a kind of dedication you may not see or experience at a large organization.

You may ask, "Will my personal life go for a toss?" Definitely not. Startups, in general, have a very lean approach to recruitment. You are responsible for the work which five others shared in your previous firm. It is about increasing efficiency with the key people who build the foundations of the company. The roles may not seem too well defined but, the trust vested in you is enormous.

As I said earlier, when people are passionate about what they are building, they spend more time building it to perfection. This could be late nights during weekdays or working during your weekends off. The flip side to this is the flexible work hours, leave policy, holidays, etc. So you will be able to balance work and life without any hassle.

Theory vs. Action

It's one thing to be drowning in books, writing exams, and getting certified, but it's a whole other thing to be getting your hands dirty, executing ideas, and learning new things on the go. You know the know-how of various processes and systems but, how to implement them and build it from scratch? Unfortunately, B-schools don't teach you how to thrive in the real world.

Working for a startup teaches you:

Ownership

When you work for a startup, you will learn the power of accountability for your tasks and actions. When you own the role, you contribute meaningfully to the growth because self-learning is the only way to do it with people to guide you.

Trust

With less workforce, no one micromanages you because their hands are already full with work. So, you learn the element of trust in one another.

Getting your basics right

Everyone knows the bigger picture of a particular function or domain. However, they may not have the skills or knowledge of the building blocks of the system. Startups give you the platform to learn and do and get your basics right.

Multitasking

The most important skill that you will incorporate in working for a startup. Your ability to take up more than one thing at a time, prioritize, and work.

Adaptability

B-schools teach the skill of adapting to the larger corporate life. But, working for a startup will leave you facing many uncertainties, ad-hoc plans, and contingencies. So, it gets you ready to adapt to situations readily with reduced time to bounce back.

Of course, there are other skills that university education teaches you that you will have a platform to showcase. Such as leadership opportunities, time management, team management, etc.

Bonus: Questions to ask yourself before joining a startup

Vetting a startup is inherently difficult. People often tend to make this process harder than it needs to be because they are uncertain of what they actually expect from the company. So I put together a few questions that will help you understand whether or not the startup you're looking to join is the place to be.

How well is the startup funded?

Check whether the startup is backed by good VCs (Venture Capitalists) — it tells you a lot about the company's credibility. VCs don't put their money into startups that are not promising enough or do not have the potential for growth.

It also means there is enough runway or money in the bank to pay their employees.

What is the pedigree of the team?

It tells you whether the team is capable enough to pull off what they are saying. It takes a great team to build a great company. Not just that. You'll also know what kind of mentorship opportunities you will have, how much you can learn from industry experts, and work closely with the founding team.

What industry are they playing in?

It is always important to know how big and mature the market is and who the players are. It also helps you identify and understand the opportunities in the market. All of this is important because it tells you about the company's scope for growth, which will impact your growth.

What are the long-term goals of the startup?

Understanding the vision and mission of the startup gives you clarity on where the company is headed. We all want to do meaningful work. So it always helps to know how your work will impact the mission of the startup.

What's their customer portfolio like?

It will tell you whether they have begun making revenue, whether there is interest from the industry, and from what kind of customers. Remember, a profitable company is a growing company.

How will the company impact your career growth path?

Your career growth is closely tied to the company's growth. Therefore, you need to evaluate the startup's impact on your career and whether it aligns with your career goals.

Closing thoughts

True, there's a lot to think about, but startups are awesome for many reasons. First, you might have to trade the comfort of a well-defined job description for an experience that will exceed your job title — something that they don’t teach you in your MBA classroom. Second, your ideas, insights, and actions will be the critical pieces that shape the company. Third, leaders and peers will rely on you and your skills to help scale the company. Finally, it’s an opportunity to leave your mark on the company and the industry.

Like Sheryl Sandberg said, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.”

So, if you are considering joining a startup, you should definitely check our rocket ship out!

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