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There's a lot of hearsay and rumors associated with working at a startup. We cut through the noise and zoom in on the four essential things you should know about working in a startup.

1. Uncertainty

Full of surprises and uncertainty - that's how most employees will define working in the startup scene. You will wear many hats along the way and face different challenges every single day. But we should also mention that it's not only the uncertainty in your defined tasks but also of the company itself. Most startups fail within the first five years, but the rate of failure varies and is highly dependent on the industry and geographical location.

Thus, you operate on a short run rate while simultaneously trying to figure out how your product can work. It's not unusual to run out of cash before making any revenue. If you have some investors on board, they also expect the company to hit certain goals like customer growth or recurring revenue within the 18 months of investing. These factors are what contribute to the fast-paced and intense environment of the scene.

2. Change happens all the time

There's a famous Silicon Valley phase 'Build the plane while you're flying it' that perfectly sums up what life in a startup is like. On top of its fast-paced environment, there's a lot of change you'd need to get used to and be able to adapt to. This means that you keep testing one hypothesis after another and ship products, improve them based on feedback, and iterate again. Giving up is not an option - you have to learn from the failures and keep at it until it works.

Besides the product, the company structure and job titles are up for change as well. With every funding round, new investors will join or leave the board, and the team grows even bigger. This gives you the unique opportunity to advance rather quickly to take over more senior leadership roles or change departments. But you have to keep in mind that a growing team and changes in leadership can also lead to changes in the company culture, both positively and negatively.

Along the way, new projects will be initiated, and others will be dropped. Even though you might be emotionally invested in the company, you shouldn't be too attached to your own projects. This lessens the chances of you being affected should your project be dropped. Especially in a startup, trial and error are the name of the game, meaning projects could be cut if they don't deliver the promised/expected results. So be ready to let go and start anew.

3. Move the needle

As the team sizes are usually quite small, your work will be directly linked to you, giving you more visibility and a chance to show your capabilities. This also means that your work contributes quite a lot to your company's success. Compared to big corporates, your opinion might have more weight and move the company in the direction you've suggested. An example would be that your company expands into market B instead of A because your project gave the company useful insights on why market B is the more attractive option.

4. One year will feel like seven

'One year will feel like seven' has both a positive and negative connotation. Positively, you will learn many things as the learning curve is quite steep. But the constant pressure and stress in combination with the long hours will affect your body and mind as well. It's possible that you will feel exhausted and drained. Nevertheless, the feeling of success and the pride you take in for your work is invaluable and will definitely outweigh the negative ones.

Marco Eylert
Co-Founder | TalentSpace

Marco's a co-founder at TalentSpace, and he previously worked at McKinsey & Company, Roland Berger and Credit Suisse. He graduated from Bocconi University and Johns Hopkins SAIS, where he was a scholar of the Haniel Foundation and the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.