Startups: Five Things You Should Know Before Onboarding

By: Mer Harper

You’ve got your diploma in hand and are looking into the world for your first post-graduation job. So long to the days of cramming for your finals and hello to the days of making real money. You’ve been doing your research on the pay, locations, and types of jobs. Hey wait… what makes a startup different?

Chances are you’ve interacted with a startup at some point – they’re everywhere! But what is it like to actually work for a startup?

Although everyone will experience, value, and feel different things - there are a few key questions to ask yourself before joining the team.

Am I Okay With Change?

Startups are pretty dynamic when it comes to change. If you’ve been slow and steady your whole life, the startup environment might not be right for you. Things can change on a dime at any time. However, if you find yourself on the cutting edge of everything and embrace a good shakeup frequently you might enjoy the startup life. Something as simple as a consistent desk might not be a reality with a startup, as many have first come first serve seating.

Is the Risk Worth the (Potential) Reward?

Not every startup is a success. Imagine if all of your crazy friend’s ideas were startups, how many would actually succeed? But let’s not be an entire downer on the idea, because some startups make it big. Amazon and Apple were technically startups when they started in garages years ago. That being said, the potential to succeed can outweigh the risk of failure but it’s up to you to decide what you’re comfortable with.

Where are my Benefits?

Startups won’t necessarily have your traditional medical, dental, disability, and 401K benefits. But wait, do you get any benefits? Startups can be pretty crafty with other perks to entice potential employees in lieu of traditional benefits. Happy hours, working from home, and free coffee from your local shop might be some great perks that delight you. But remember: as the company matures your fun perks might exchange for traditional benefits. Be prepared for change.

Am I a Good Fit for the Culture?

For most startups, culture is everything. Generally the workforce behind a startup is small, meaning you will get to know your teammates very well. If everyone in the office loves sports, you better love sports too. If everyone enjoys going to a local brewery for lunch, get ready for brewery lunches. Although you don’t have to become a coworker clone don’t expect that your love of all things nerdy will cause a sudden change of heart with your teammates. Joining a startup is generally more socially oriented than a traditional office space. Why? Because you’ll most likely eventually spend long days together working to get things up and running.

What Are Your Expectations?

It is wise to understand the expectations of employment with any employer before signing on, but with startups it might be impossible to find job descriptions. With such small teams and rapid change, startups tend to expect their teammates to be a jack-of-all-trades. Were you hired on as a software engineer? Don’t be too bent out of shape when you’re expected to answer the phones, sweep the floors, and pick up the coffee beans from the store. In addition to extra tasks, your new team might expect longer than traditional work days. Will you be a non-exempt employee? That might mean some extra overtime cash.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, choosing to join a startup is like choosing to work anywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek additional clarity. Understand the pros and cons of joining your new team, but remember that not everything is as good as it seems. Don’t forget that every company, even the most successful, had to start somewhere!

Let’s get to work!