I want to work for a Startup, What Should I Do?

There are some amazing opportunities to be found working in a startup environment. It’s a great chance to advance your career and take a huge step in your own professional development. It’s exciting, but also difficult, with a good dose of stress, along with long hours and late nights.

It’s important to know what you are prepared to get involved with, both financially and mentally. This blog will help you understand if working for a startup is right for you and what kind of startup would be the best fit for you.

How to prepare yourself for working at a startup.

I have been working at Designbook for the last 9 months and it has been an intense experience to say the least. Startups are incredibly fluid and constantly pivoting, so if you want to work for a startup you should be prepared to take on a lot of different tasks and change how and what you are doing at a moment’s notice. You may have one idea about how things are going to work, but if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this: it’s not going to work that way. Not even if you’re the founder.

This makes for a steep learning curve, but the rewards are well ….rewarding. You will find strength in flexibility. You will learn to master new skills more quickly than you could have ever imagined. These are tangible improvements to your skill set, which can pay off in a multitude of ways.

Skills you learn on the job and often on the fly, can help you leapfrog ahead of ‘more experienced’ colleagues in the field. Taking on added responsibility and delivering on tight deadlines, will show that you’re not only a super capable person, but that you’re also able to learn new skills quickly and apply them directly to your work. Pretty much every employer wants that quality in their employees.

I could spend much more time going into the nitty gritty details of working for a startup but I think that this should give you at least a cursory overview of what you can expect. Now, let’s find a startup that is a good fit for you.

What startup do I want to work for?

That’s the million dollar question. My answer, is of course, another question: What are you passionate about? What is important to you? Start by making a list of all of the companies you want to work for and rank them, in order. You can look though the companies on Designbook, on Ideasquares, Product Hunt, or Betalist. (If you can’t find the ideal startup on one of these platforms, hit me up, I have a few more resources for you to check out.)

When you go through your list, think about what inspires you about each of those companies. How will your passion match up with the skills that the company needs in order to thrive?

One of the first questions you are going to get asked is, “Why do you want to work for this startup?”

Your answer should relate to how you will help the startup achieve its objectives and grow. If you can, try to convey your understanding of the changing nature of startups, and your flexibility in knowing that you can adapt, that your job will likely change or you may even be asked to do a different job.

Don’t let a curve ball throw you off in an interview. This a great time to show your versatility and creativity. Startup founders routinely want to test the ability of potential interviewees to shift gears because the world of a startup is constantly changing. Your ability to deal with these “curve ball” questions will give the founder a good sense of how you handle a stressful and ever changing environment.

If you are a UX/UI Designer or a marketer, come with examples of your work. Show thoughtfulness when you are putting together your portfolio. You can use presentation tools like Slideshare or Prezi. I personally like Prezi better, but either will allow you to present your work in an organized and visually appealing manner.

Include links to published work and narratives of your work process. Organization and thoughtfulness regarding your past work and experience will portray a mature, skilled employee which is a rare and sought after attribute in any organization.

The startup environment is collegial, intense, and always changing. If you’re looking to go home at five every day, you might need to look elsewhere. If you like every day to be different, a startup might be the right place for you.

A great place to get started is on Designbook — there are tons of great opportunities to work for some amazing startups in the opportunities section. Designbook is growing and there are always new companies, new people, and great opportunities to be involved with. If you find an opportunity that you are ready to apply for, make sure you have a completed your profile so that you can apply and ping me if you have any questions.

A few other tidbits:

Don’t speak finance? No problem, check out the Q&A section to learn more about sweat equity and how it works.

If you haven’t already, complete your profile so you can begin applying for opportunities. This is the very first step in highlighting your skills and passions within the community. The learn section has some helpful how-to videos and user tours that will guide you in the right direction.

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