Startup employees are a special bunch. The fast-paced, high risk and ever-changing landscape of the startup ecosystem requires, and fosters, certain types of personality traits in the people who keep it running like a well-oiled machine. Specifically, working at a startup requires you to manage uncertainty, push the limits, and think like an owner. In the following, we will dive deeper into these three character traits.
The uncertainty that characterizes the startup life can be exciting and frightening at the same time. Not only are you testing one hypothesis after another, but you're also faced with various challenges every single day. While it's a cliche, there really isn't a typical day at a startup. It's an overall team effort that goes into accomplishing the overarching goal of the company, so titles, roles, and responsibilities are fluid, and everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and help each other achieve the best successes they can. The only difference to traditional corporations? They're doing this without a playbook.
If you love the thrill and challenges, you're likely to thrive in this rollercoaster ride of a career path. That said, you have to keep in mind that most startups fail within the first five years. It's not only the uncertainty of the job but that of the company that you'll have to manage.
Push the limits
Working at a startup is all about solving problems that haven't been solved yet. A lot of that starts with thinking out of the box and possessing an eagerness to test assumptions. Ideally, you love taking risks and asking strategic questions. If at first you don't succeed (and the chances are that you won't), try, try again until you find the right solution.
Another aspect of pushing the limits is tied to your personal limits - you should be able to step out of your comfort zone and push your boundaries. This is going to enable you to grow not only personally, but professionally as well. Most startups have small teams, which means that your work will be more visible and have a direct impact on the company's growth and success. If you leverage this opportunity to impress your team members and the founders, you might advance in your career and take on a senior leadership role more quickly than in a corporate setting. At the end of the day, the onus is on you to seize the challenges and opportunities that come your way.
Think like an owner
It's not only important for the company but also for yourself to identify with the company's mission and vision. There's no denying it, the working hours at most startups are long, but one of the pros is that they're also flexible. Along with the long hours, comes an emotional investment in their companies. Collaborating in a close-knit working environment results in employees who are more like a family than a group of coworkers. There's a strong sense of togetherness and purpose, especially when teams are working so closely with the founders.
One of the best things about working at a startup is that you experience for yourself how your work directly affects the success of the company, and you can take pride it in. And the same mentality should go for mistakes. You should be able to step up and own your mistakes and use this opportunity to learn and grow.
Lastly, thinking like an owner means you're ready to roll up your sleeves and take on tasks that weren't in your job description. At every point of your startup career, you should ask yourself, "How can I personally improve this place to make it even more awesome?"