‘I’m not doing enough, and I’m not challenged enough because I’m not doing everything I know how to do,’ – a voice representing a few million.
A recent Accenture survey revealed that 51% of college graduates feel that they are “underemployed”.
Underemployed was defined as working in jobs that require a four-year degree, but that doesn’t use all, or even most, of the employee’s skills.
I was not shocked by the figures! So, I continued reading…
It also revealed that only 14% students want to work at a large firm. Whereas, 44% want to work in a startup or a small enterprise.
Ok! I gave it a thought,
Startup culture is not a new phenomenon, but this interest in working for one is.
Everyone has been appreciating the work culture autonomy, learning opportunities at a startup for a while…
But not everyone talks about the downsides to the fun-filled colourful startup life. (Certainly, underemployment ain’t one!)
Based on my two years of experience in the startup ecosystem, I thought it’d be a good idea to share some of the day-to-day challenges that freshers and interns face when they join a startup. A Fresher here is anyone who is about to work at a startup for the very first time;18 years or 44 years old, age is just a number here!
If at any point in time, you are planning to join a startup,
Just be aware! And make yourself ready for what you are getting into.
Less Structure, More Fluid!
If you require constant guidance, repeated feedback and mapped departments, you will certainly feel out of place in a startup!
Most startups in their early phase don’t offer such structured prioritisation and mentoring. While they are in desperate need of fresh talent, their priority is to keep feeding the hungry idea and evolve the product to the needs of the customers.
Unlike established companies, you don’t find separate departments like Sales, Legal, HR, Product Development, etc. in them. There is a good chance you will find individuals running departments, single-handedly.
In startups, structure is an abstract idea, which internally scales with demand and supply. While some see it as an opportunity to work in different domains and directly engage with the founders, some see it as an absolute chaos!
Moreover, the fluidic composition makes one self-driven, flexible, responsible and quick learners.
And to survive the fluid, you need to self-align your strokes in the direction of progress and keep learning new strokes. Continuously. And fast!
Tough Work-Life Balance
If you are planning for a 9-5 job with weekends off, it is time to reconsider your application!
To be honest,
You might skip the sun, or the moon, or both!
You might skip a few dates, or the gym, or both!
But you will never fall short of work…
Startups involve time critical agendas, intense competition and financial pressure. All building up on you.
Your relationships, hobbies and emotions move up and down in the order of priority. And work-life balance becomes a parallel-world reality.
In spite of the imbalance, some stupid-workaholic souls find their way out and enjoy the late night Maggie and the morning toast (often both in the office).
Because in the end, it’s your work that gives you the utmost satisfaction, and not the regular 2 pm lunch!
Fewer Resources, More Work!
You are an intern at Appointy, and your COO asks you to ‘create an exit intent strategy…’
After a pause, he adds ‘….for the RwG landing page’.
The pause and the alien words, might make you think about your own ‘Exit Strategy’. But yes, this is just another day at a startup!
New words! Check!
Strange words! Check!
If you are looking for a few months of training, handbooks, tutorials and cash reimbursement for your ‘educational’ seminars, you need to keep looking.!
On a non-frightening note, yes, you can definitely ask for an advice and get guidance towards the right direction. But each individual is loaded with their own work and doesn’t have a lot of time themselves. So mostly, you need to find your own way, hacks and resources to go about crafting a solution.
A startup teaches you to be self-dependent, and productive in just a few weeks! Moreover, it provides you with a space to self-learn, implement ideas and grow your knowledge!
Constantly Evolving Culture
Culture is developed by the way the startup folks interact with each other, practise their day to day activities, and handle problems. At established companies, a new employee steps into a well-knitted culture where rules, policies and code of conduct are already diffused in the air.
But if you are a part of a 35 employee-startup, you are the pioneers. You are the ones creating the culture and you are the ones evolving it too!
This can be a confusing state for a fresher, or worse for an employee who has worked at an MNC for years. But it provides you with an autonomy to establish your own code of work, your own practices and your own interaction points.
It might look weird and too much freedom for the majority, but works beautifully if you have the motivation to live it!
Uncertainty And Milestone Pressure
In this overfunded startup ecosystem, where hundreds of startups are born on the same ‘damn’ idea, you cannot underestimate the competition and internal pressure. If ‘Yahoo’ couldn’t predict its search, how can a bootstrap startup?
By definition, startups are high risk, high growth companies. You need to be mentally prepared for the risks. A day when your startup does not have enough funds to process your salary or finds you incompetent to achieve your milestones. Just stay prepared to handle the pressure and ‘Work or Move On’.
But if you’ve lived through the strenuous startup culture and processes, you’ll live through it all.
Perks And Compensation Packages
The first thing to do after you walk into a startup is to understand your compensation package.
If you are walking into a well-funded startup, salary and perks might be high. But if you are walking into a bootstrap startup, the numbers might look quite different. And there is little scope to negotiate your compensation.
If you are looking for a Provident Fund, Medical Fund and Overtime allowance, you’ll just end up being over demanding.
A startup compensates you more in terms of learning! You learn and the earning follows. Startups also offer a part of their equity to their employees, which motivates them with a sense of ownership. And if your startup is offering you equity, don’t miss this chance. You never know you turn into multi-millionaire Ambur Iyyappa who was once a delivery boy in Flipkart.
If what I have said hasn’t scared you away, you might be ready for the roller coaster ride to startups.
However hard, crazy, unstructured it may sound!
You will live your work with all your love. And learn with all your life.
You will work for yourself and follow your passion. That is all that matters!
Risks aside! If you choose to work for a startup, you’ll learn more in 12 months than you would in four years of college.
PS: If you are concerned about your work-life balance too, and plan to do something to fix it, do share it with me as well!
Happy Startup Life!
Because ‘startup’ is every day-today endeavour you take towards your dreams.