What Job Seekers Should Know about Working at a Startup
Startup companies have an allure about them, that’s for sure. Casual, dress-down work environments. Beer on tap. Sweet T-shirts. Passionate, all-in leadership and team cultures. The potential to grab equity and exit with some cash! These shiny-object features grab the attention of most job seekers in the Triangle market (and in any market with a significant startup company presence). But as our recruiting team has learned across a collective 15 years of placing top-notch candidates in the right jobs, startups are not for everyone. If you’re fired up about the idea of pursuing your first startup work experience, especially in sales, you should definitely read below.
Expect to make less money. Everyone working at the startup (including the founders) is probably making less money than they could earn elsewhere on the open market. The salary and the healthcare/retirement benefit offerings are very likely to be weaker at an early-stage, emerging startup company. The salary could be smaller than you expected — and very likely less than your current guaranteed compensation — and that’s part of the game.
Be ready to bet on yourself. If you’re working at a large company now and want to make the first-time switch to sexy startup land, you need to go into it with the mindset that there is something bigger happening at the startup, either for you personally or for your career — and it isn’t immediately about the money. The startup mentality is “come live the dream with us!” You might choose it because the company mission mirrors your personal passions, or maybe you’re in a season of life where you can make that financial sacrifice today for the bigger possible win tomorrow. Either way, you’ve got to be all-in.
Expect the unexpected — daily. Guess what? At a startup, there is no routine or process. It’s a world where every day might be different. Today you might be selling the “X” solution into the “Y” territory or vertical. But next week the company may pivot. Revenue is down, and churn is up! Let’s change the product, price, target market, or logo colors. If you prefer predictability and process and stability, a startup definitely will not be for you. For salespeople, this can be especially challenging, because constant pivoting has enormous impacts on commission earnings. Taking a smaller salary is one thing, but frequently reinventing the sales wheel will make it that much harder to pull in variable income.
Think You’re Ready for a Startup?
While working at a startup can have a ton of appeal, it’s 100% not for everyone. You may fit well at a startup if you feel good about these statements:
You’re super comfortable with risk and are at a stage in your life where you can absorb a potential step back in guaranteed income.
You’re cool with the unknown and don’t mind being a trailblazer (salespeople, that means heavy cold calling).
You’re ready to work. HARD. Startup situations often mean living for the work, so don’t walk in the door expecting “work/life balance.”
If you’re looking for your next job opportunity, reach out to us to learn about options at startups, large corporations, and everything in between. Or listen to our recent podcast episode about this topic for more.