Getting a Job at a Startup Company

Most people ask ‘How can I get a job with this new company?’ It’s pretty easy, however, you need to know what a startup company is and how you fit in before you apply to work with them.

What Exactly Constitutes a “startup” Company?

The oxford dictionary defines a ‘startup’ as ‘newly established business’. Wikipedia has a number of different definitions that, in summary, defines a startup as ‘a new company that is usually started by 1 or more entrepreneurs, to promote or sell a service/product. It could be dependent on the perception that there is a percentage of the human population that require this product/service and will be open to purchasing it. 

As a new graduate without any valuable experience, you may wonder if you should apply to work for a startup company or an already established company. This assessment should come from the applicant. The choice to pick should be determined by:

  • Your career path: Where would you like to be as a career person in the next 10 years?
  • Your plan for the future: Do you want to work until retirement age? Would you like to work for a while and then move on to something else, maybe own your own business?
  • Your environment: How well will your service/product help your environment?
  • Personal growth: Do you have plans to evolve, grow, further your education?

Ultimately working at a startup is simply a matter of higher risk and higher potential reward. You must evaluate your personal finances and family obligations before considering whether the risk is tolerable. 

Working at a startup is more viable for some professions than others. Some of the most in-demand startup job titles include Software Engineers, HR Specialists, Operations Managers, Bookkeepers, Application Developers, Information Officers, Front End/UX Developers, IT/Infrastructure Specialists, Graphic Designers, Marketing Specialists, Social Media Growth Hackers, and, perhaps most importantly, Scrum Masters.

If you fall into one of the above categories your opportunities will be greater than those with more “traditional” job roles valued by large corporations or smaller brick and mortar stores. Still, just because you don’t have coding skills doesn’t prohibit you from becoming a “founder” yourself if you have your heart set on startup life.

Benefits of working with a startup include:

  • Hands-on or direct leaning. Due to the small number of workers and team members, a startup usually gives better insight into learning. This works excellently for skilled-based jobs and jobs the require specialization in any form. The chance to learn directly from experts goes a long way in making great students and future experts.
  • Growth tailored just for you: Improvement in your work will be unique and tailored specifically to you. This helps your personal assessments. They are, usually, a true assessment of your abilities. 
  • The chance to try out diverse job functions and responsibilities: In a small company, most employees get to do jobs that are outside your described job responsibilities. This helps your skill set to grow in a very diverse way. When the time comes to move to a new company, whether self-owned or a bigger organization, You end up having a lot more job opportunities to choose from.
  • Flexibility: Depending on what your plans are or your situation is at the time, working with a small company helps flexibility. You can work and go to school at the same time. You could start a family and still have comfortable work hours.

How Do You Determine a Successful Startup from a Failure?

The biggest “con” of working for a startup is joining one in terminal decline or one that is doomed from the outset. There are a myriad of various reasons why businesses fail, so instead of listing an infinitely long list of “what to watch out for” we figured it smarter and more efficient to list the properties that define a promising startup, worth your consideration and even application.

Product/Service Viability

First determining factor comes from the purchasing client/Customer. If a person buys your product/service, uses it and is willing to pay to use it again, that makes your company a successful startup. This is not immediate and will, eventually, be tested over time. The satisfaction derived from a user will help to increase sales through different means, for example, Word of Mouth marketing, referrals, positive reviews posted online and more. All these translate into sales.

Avoid companies raising funds purely based off of minimal viable products (MVPs). This is often more wishful thinking than growth-positioned entrepreneurship. Maybe the founder has a close personal relationship that enables more risky investment but that’s something you will usually want to avoid unless you have a large enough goose egg or side hustle to absorb the risk.

Positive Sales Growth

The increase in the number of items sold or demand in services also, is an important factor in determining a successful startup. For example, a local shoemaker started his company making 5 handmade leather shoes for 5 men every week. His customers love their shoes so much that they now want 2 pairs each in a week.

This means the shoemaker has to produce 10 pairs of shoes in a week as opposed to the 5 pairs a week he started with. Imagine that these 5 clients decide to tell one friend each and these men (now 10) each needs two pairs of shoes.

Even agreeing to wait patiently, when the shoemaker explains he cannot produce all these in a week and he will need a lot more time to produce them. If this continues over a long period, the shoemaker will have to employ extra hands to help him meet demand.

Some will try to claim that user growth is more important than sales. This is a dangerous mindset as a vast majority of startups fail even with positive user growth. Big names that IPO are simply outliers. Follow the money and apply to startups with real sales growth for maximum security.

Workforce Expansion

When demand expands, a bigger labor force is needed. Again, for the shoemaker, whose example we have used earlier, he cannot meet this demand on his own. He has to hire help. He may decide to hire already experienced hands so as to maintain the quality of the shoes he produces or he could hire people that he will train over time. So the size of a company’s workforce helps tell if a startup is successful or not. 

So as not to completely deviate from the main topic and because these three points are important in assessing startup companies that will employ an inexperienced worker, We will stop here and talk about employment.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Joining a Startup

When you have decided that a startup company is for you, then these questions can be asked.

  • Is working in a startup company good for my career? For most skilled workers, working in a startup company is usually favorable most of the time as a one-on-one learning technique is the best way to improve a skill. In a much bigger company, learning is restricted to your performance and this may or may not improve your skills. This also works for some career jobs like Customer Service, Medicine, Engineering and more. 
  • Do startup companies pay more than bigger companies? Depending on the size of their labor force, some startups will pay more for workers that they can train and keep with them for a number of years. Finding a startup with Values and sights that match yours is very important.
  • Do you have experience or at least knowledge of the different management methodologies employed by lean operating startups, like dev-ops stand-ups, agile workflows, waterfall flows, and iterative modelling.
  • If I work with a startup, how long should I remain with the company? That again depends on you and where you see yourself in the next few years. Where would you like to be? What position would you like to have? How much would you like to be earning at the time? These factors are extremely critical to getting answers to your tenure with a startup company.

If you are able to answer these questions and the replies still favor your working with a startup company, then, it’s time to start your search for the right “New company” for you.


About Rudeth S

I'm a retired Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist for a leading Fortune 500 company, current volunteer Director at Copy My Resume, a mother of 3 and herbal tea lover!

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