Considering a job at a startup? New to startup life? Based off of my extensive eight months of experience, here are my tips:
1. Be Agile
Take your job description. Print it out. Burn it. Be ready to wear many hats. Depending on the direction your company takes you may need to take on different projects or tasks that you didn’t initially set out for. Be flexible, learn as you go and multi-task.
2. Be Decisive
Make decisions quickly. Be really confident in your choices, knowing that usually things can be iterated on and re-considered later. Act quickly and trust yourself. Second-guessing wastes time you don’t have.
Chill with other startup kids. Mingle. Go to events. Startup friends understand your work life in a way that others usually don’t. They’ll be able to offer really great feedback and advice, and some of the best networking opportunities come from just hanging out. True story: I met my friend who I hired as a freelance blogger when we were just hanging out drinking wine with other startup geeks once. Networking doesn’t just happen at conferences.
4. Drop the Perfectionism
You do not have time to nit-pick over minute details that don’t move the needle. Some jobs are extremely detail-oriented and are totally focused on shipping only the most perfect product or document possible. At a startup it’s less about being perfect and more about perfecting as you go along. “Ship it and change it based on customer feedback” or “let’s test this and see if it gets traction” are more the themes at a startup.
5. Get Over the Rainbows and Butterflies
Your bad ideas that you love so much but just don’t work? Love ‘em and leave ‘em. You can’t get emotionally tied to and hung up on specific ideas or projects at a startup. Test your idea, measure the results and be ready to scrap the whole thing and move onto the next one if it wasn’t the right solution.
6. Play Ping Pong. Wear a Hoodie.
Be the type of person who gets bored with the mundane and thrives under pressure. Learn to be happy despite a strong level of uncertainty. Show up at work and get stressed. Then, when you need to relax a little, play ping pong or something. Startups are nuts and being able to keep an even keel – in whatever way you do that – is key.
7. Know Your Needs
Feeling sick? Need a day off? This one’s tough for me too. Part of what makes you a successful startup kid is knowing your needs and taking care of yourself. If you need more sleep, sleep. You need exercise and a diet that doesn’t only consist of PBJ & PBR. When you take care of yourself you help your team by making sure their engineer or product person or marketing person is ok. Know your needs and take care of them.
8. Choose Your Choices
Not everyone is going to “get” the startup thing. They don’t understand how your job isn’t just a job to you or why you’d want to work such crazy hours or do what you do. Get behind your own life choices and commit to your own decisions. Then, it really won’t matter to you who does or doesn’t understand or approve. They’re your choices and you want them, after all, so who cares.
9. Be Hungry
Be hungry to learn. Be hungry to figure it out. Be hungry to find someone who already knows how it’s done and then go ask them how it’s done. Identify your weaknesses and seek the knowledge or experience that fixes them. You’ll likely be “punching above your weight class” and will be challenged with a lot more responsibility than you initially thought. If you are absolutely die-hard hungry to learn all you can, succeed in your own role and make your contribution to the team a success, that’ll be ok.
Execute like a ___ ___. There is a unique level of productivity and motivation needed (demanded) from each member of a small team. It’s beyond the level of just getting to the bottom of a to-do list, it’s about asking “What’s next?” and being able to immediately act on that feedback. It’s about bringing new ideas to the table, asking questions, giving your input to every part of what’s going on. Showing up isn’t good enough, and participating isn’t intense enough either. This is about being really involved and applying your expertise to each aspect of your new business.
Startups are crazy, but somehow I love this. What other qualities or tips would you add to the list?