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5 Things I Learnt While Working For A Startup

13th Apr 2013
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Startups are an incredible place to work at and stories coming from employees over here are equally incredible. Break neck speed, immense responsibility and a sense of ownership are some of the qualities that drives these people (you'll see a lot of it at The Startup Jobs Fair). Here, one such employee, Anne John, who worked in a corporate but then gave it up to work at startups (currently at Women's Web) for a couple of years shares her experiences... It’s been a little over 2 years since I started working with startups. Earlier, I had worked for 4 years in a leading multinational company, before I decided to quit and switch careers. The past 2 years have been an incredible learning experience and I’d like to share some of my learnings...

1.    Discovering myself

Working at a startup is an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself better. Why? Because typically, startups lack the resources to monitor or mentor your daily work. Nobody has the time to keep an eye on me – compare that to a big organization where a new joinee, especially a fresher, is usually assigned a mentor or a guide.

At a startup however, the onus is upon me. Am I really a self-starter or have I just included the term in my resume because it sounds good? What kind of activities do I enjoy in my job? What motivates me? What type of worker am I? One can find out honest answers to these questions and a lot more! If there are tasks that you particularly enjoy, then you will find yourself taking the initiative and doing those tasks without anyone telling you to.

2.    Flexibility is an important asset

Working at a startup means learning to be flexible. Every day is different and brings in unique challenges. Everyone is learning and the company is just beginning to take baby steps. This means that you must be ready to wear different hats and to juggle varied responsibilities. You cannot afford to just stick with your department or the role that was initially assigned to you. That kind of an attitude does not gel well with the dynamic environment of a startup. Add to that the fact that I work flexi-hours from a remote location, I’ve definitely learnt to be a lot more open and adaptable. My role has evolved over time and I am sure that it will continue evolving. This unpredictability is what makes working at a startupexciting! Oh and yes, this unpredictability extends to employment too – who knows? Two months down the line, I may or may not have a job. Thrilling, heh?!

3.    Money is not everything

No I do not live in a utopian universe – of course, I know that money makes the world go around! All of us need to earn our bread and butter and sure, who doesn’t want more money? Even the Ambanis wouldn’t raise their hands! But that does not mean that your paycheque has to be the determinant of your career. I think that most people are miserable at their jobs precisely because their heart is not in it – they’d much rather be doing something entirely different – but they hold on because they need that sizeable paycheque at the end of the month.

I perfectly understand that not everyone can afford to take up a lower paying job, but working for a startup has made me realize that there are several other factors that attract me to a job: the value that my work carries in the organization, the trust placed on me by my boss, the glow I get when I do some creatively challenging work, the opportunity for continuous learning, the freedom to experiment… the list goes on!

4.    Breaks are important – even if you are chasing your dreams

Writing and reading are my hobbies – and a major part of my work involves the very same activities. Sure, it is great to be pursuing your passion. But the problem with passion is that it drags you deeper and deeper into it, until you find yourself totally lost in it! While this is a good thing, over a period of time, it also tends to shut out other stimulating experiences thus affecting your ability to think fresh.

Working in a startup can be overwhelming and you need to get away from time to time. Ever notice how innovative ideas have a tendency to pop into your mind when you are not actively thinking about them? Like in the shower or when you are about to drift off to sleep. Especially in this age of 24/7 connectivity it is very easy to let boundaries blur. But taking a well deserved break prevents you from falling into a rut and ensures that you get back to work recharged and refreshed. Whether it is my everyday meditation or that annual vacation, I have realized that just because I enjoy what I do for a living, it doesn’t mean that I can continue doing it without a breather.

5.    Cherish the small things!

In start-ups, as in life itself, the small things matter – a lot! I’ve learnt that it is possible to be excited about each new Twitter follower, every new Facebook like, every comment and every new reader. Every new newsletter subscriber and every new article that we publish is a reason to be happy! All of these little things tell me that I (and the company) am growing, that I am reaching out and connecting with like-minded individuals who appreciate my work - and that makes me smile a little wider!

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