10 Things to Know Before Going to Work in a Start-Up

Working in a start-up may sound cool from the outside, but do you know what you’re getting into? Here are 10 things to know about joining a young sprout…

1. Ephemeral jobs

In general, half of new businesses go out of business before their fifth year of existence. In the field of venture capital, an investor is satisfied if 1 start-up out of 10 is successful. So there is a good chance you will be looking for a new job before long.

2. Lots of autonomy, no silos

Start-ups are often “micro-organizations” with no departments or department heads. Everyone has a hand in the game and assumes their share of responsibility. Significant autonomy and especially a great deal of resourcefulness is usually expected from employees. 

3. Profound projects, passionate founders

The entrepreneurs are passionate people who carry their project as if it was their own child. So expect to meet ambitious people, micromanagers, who follow with a meticulous thoroughness every aspect of their project…

4. Knowing how to turn on a dime

In a start-up, the company’s mission can change from one day to the next, without notice. The founder can decide to do a “pivot” to follow a more promising vein for the company’s future.

5. Social benefits?

Start-ups are fledgling companies that do not run on gold. They don’t usually have an HR department to set a salary scale, offer a group insurance plan or other benefits.

6. Professional development, your responsibility

In the absence of an HR department, it is also unlikely that the start-up has set up a program for development and training of its employees. You will need to demonstrate your sense of initiative to identify development opportunities. Are you interested in a conference? You will have to take the steps yourself to participate.

7. No “punch card”

Is the next round of financing approaching? Don’t think of picking up the kids from the daycare at 3:30! You will most likely have to work doubly hard. The workload in start-ups fluctuates according to the financing needs and the business opportunities that arise.

8. Emotional roller coasters

When you are working in a small, tightly knit team that is part of the project, you have to expect the troop’s morale to have a great influence on your own morale. It’s exhilarating when there is good news, but it’s a weight when the project hits a wall…

9. Expect to be misunderstood

The culture of start-ups is different from that of the world of large companies, and different again from that of the government. So there is a good chance that you will be mistaken for an alien when talking about your job to your family or friends. Especially if you are working on a “revolutionary” product that nobody knows about!

10. Work with talented people

Working in a start-up is a chance to rub shoulders with talented professionals every day who – quite often – had a well-established career before putting everything aside to propel their ideas. So there is a lot to be learned from them.

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