Working at a startup is not beans easy. Unfortunately, many people have allowed the media trick them into believing that life in a startup is one filled with glamor and Eureka moments. It’s not.

And while it’s not all doom and gloom, it can be pretty bleak at times.

I’ve had some experience working at two startups. Things didn’t work out for me, and now I know why in retrospect. There are people like me who won’t fit in, but there are those who will. Startups are the new buzz around town. I meet many people who want to work in one. Here’s my advice for them, born out of my experience, and knowledge from other people’s experiences:

1. Be excited about the mission

This is the first step to thriving at a startup. If you do not know the mission of the startup, and if you do not understand it, there is no way you can be excited about it. And if you are not excited about the mission of the startup, then there’s really no way you can be at your best there. Thriving goes beyond doing just fine. Thriving means standing out by doing great work.

For the startup founder (or intending startup founder) reading this, make it your duty to explain the mission and vision of your startup to your employees and new hires. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by hiring people who have no idea what your startup stands for and what direction it is heading. Your mission may be constantly evolving, so let your people evolve with it.

2. Embrace the long and unconventional work hours

Startups aren’t run like big corporations. They are just starting out and trying to find their footing so there are times when workers will need to work through ungodly hours. At one of the startups I worked, we were doing 7am-5pm everyday, and most times we never went home by 5pm.

If you want to do well at a startup, know that you will work for long hours, most times longer than the average corporate worker. It’s part of the startup experience. Maybe one day you will be able to share the story with your kids and grandkids. So, you’re going to have to enjoy the exhausting work.

3. Be proactive and take initiative

There’s no room for moping around if you want to work at a startup. Things are usually moving so fast, and they need to. If you want to do well, you need to be able to approach your boss and team members with ideas that will make work easier for everyone. That way, you will be bringing undeniable improvement to the company.

You will need to think like the boss, really. You will also need to think well about the impact of your ideas. If you forecast them to have significant benefits, then suggest or implement them. Startups are all about experimenting; or as Mark Essien put it:



4. Be ready to do more than you’re hired to do

Generally, nobody likes a know-it-all (or as we call it in Lagos, ‘oversabi’). But if you want to thrive in a startup you need to be very good at doing oversabi, especially when it comes to team projects. You’ll need to look for things that have been left undone or abandoned, and that need to be attended to, and work on them. But don’t go around doing this with your mind set on proving you’re more competent than others. Remember, the startup life is a team affair, not a one man show.

5. You must force work-life balance to happen

Working in a startup made me quickly realize that, for many people, work-life balance is unattainable, almost like a myth.

But if you really desire work-life balance you’ll have to force it. Don’t expect it to drop on your lap. At this point, I must wish you good luck with that.

6. Enjoy and maximize your breathers

On some rare occasions, there will be time to take a breather. Things won’t always be moving at breakneck speed. Cherish those moments and make the most of them. They may not come all too often.

7. Be observant

Growing while working at a startup requires you to learn on the go. So if you’re not observant and open-minded, you won’t grow. It’s that simple. Hell, if you’re not observant and open-minded you won’t grow anywhere.

Photo Credit: libertygrace0 via Compfight cc

David Adeleke Author

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