Ah, “the tech start-up.” There’s nothing quite like it. Lightning-fast work environments, opportunities to really get your hands dirty, the feeling that you’re working for a cause – these are some of the ways that people have described the intense whirlwind experience that is working for a tech start-up.
Like any job, working for a tech start-up has its highs and lows. If you’re wondering whether or not you should accept a job at a hot new start-up, here’s some food for thought to chew on before making your final decision.
More often than not, fresh tech start-ups operate on a shoestring budget. If you’re looking for a glamorous corporate work environment with luxurious private offices, innovative equipment, and a company chef, you may want to keep looking. The Google headquarters might boast these perks, but start-ups are, well, just starting up! That usually means modest furnishings and limited resources. Just keep your fingers crossed that you won’t be working at a desk built out of orange crates or sidestepping empty pizza boxes on your way to the barely functional coffee machine.
Jack (or Jill) of All Trades
Start-ups are in a constant state of growth and flux. For that reason, your job can rapidly change and evolve to meet needs that arise. A start-up can be the perfect springboard if you’re looking to grow your skills, get outside your comfort zone, and learn new things. Even if you don’t stick with the company long-term, it’s a safe bet that you’ll walk away with diverse experiences you’d be hard-pressed to get at a large corporation. Having a “can do” attitude is key. If you shy away from a challenge and prefer to stick to one thing, a start-up may not be your happy place.
A Seat at the Table
Working closely with the company’s decision-makers is one of the key advantages of working at a start-up versus a larger organization. There’s often no hierarchy or levels between you and the top people, so you can play a more active role in shaping company strategy and direction. If you have a voice and appreciate when your ideas are heard (and maybe even implemented), a budding start-up might just be the place for you. As start-ups evolve so quickly, you’ll actually be able to see the impact of your decisions, rather than waiting years to see the ripple effects at a large, well-established company.
One of the most notable differences between working at a tech start-up and a traditional corporate environment is the less-than-structured hours. If you accept a start-up job with the expectation that you’ll be working 9-to-5 – think again. As tech start-ups want to make headway in a sea of big fish, they need to make traction and fast. That means that when projects need to be completed and milestones need to be hit, you can expect to work long hours or weekends, often without compensation. Caffeine and pizza will become indispensable staples of your diet.
Look at Total Compensation, Not Just Salary
Most well-funded tech start-ups are eager to snatch up great talent. In addition to an annual salary, such start-ups often offer stock or equity. Earning equity can be your golden ticket (think of those early employees of Google and eBay – they’re sitting pretty right now)
Pick a start-up that’s a winner, and those options are your upward mobility, both in position and in salary. And who knows, you may just get lucky and get your foot in the door in with the next BIG tech company where your shares really pay off.
And while we’re talking about compensation, one note of caution: Make sure that start-up is well funded. A million dollars in the bank may sound like a lot but it goes really fast if there’s no revenue stream. Beware of poorly funded companies with slow revenue streams where you may not receive your paychecks on time.
All and all, if you’re looking for an exciting growth opportunity and have found a start-up company with a solid business strategy and adequate funding, then jump on board, hang on tight, and get ready for an exciting ride.
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