10 Tips for New Start-Up Employees

Joining a start-up can feel like a leap into the unknown. Maybe you’re leaving a more secure but less fulfilling career elsewhere. Or perhaps you’re ready to jump on board with a company that offers you greater potential for growth and advancement. The downside, of course, can be fear of the future. Will this venture work out, and will you end up where you hope and expect?

If you’re contemplating taking the leap and joining a start-up, the career advice you’d likely receive for a more-established company might not apply. These tips will more likely help you develop a realistic but hopeful perspective on your future with a new start-up.

Banish your expectations. A start-up needs to find its place in the market and grow at a natural pace. Trial and error are often the key to success. You’d be wise to banish any expectations of an exact course of development.

Seek to understand the business. What exactly does this business provide to the customer? How is it unique from other businesses? Seek to understand both the product and the consumer, and look for the vulnerabilities too. Learn both the company’s strong points and potential weaknesses.

Align your values with the company’s. Make sure your personal values and mission align with those of the company. Everyone succeeds when the team is working together for a common goal.

Set specific goals – often the less glamorous ones. What does the start-up need right now, to propel its growth? Sometimes these are the less glamorous tasks. Take one on anyway and do it to perfection.

Prioritize, relentlessly. A common problem with start-ups involves ambitious, motivated new workers delivering the wrong work at a high level. Communicate meticulously with management to discover what the company really needs. Then prioritize those tasks in your first few months.

Focus on the present. Start-ups are motivated by big dreams but must resist the temptation to get bogged down in them. Your top priority should be current problems, not anticipating and ruminating over the what-ifs.

Be ready to both teach and learn. Each new member of a start-up brings their own background and expertise. Trust that you are part of a team that was assembled very deliberately. Be ready to both teach and learn from other members.

Bond with your team members. The early days of a start-up can feel a lot like building a family. Go the extra mile to grab coffee or meet up for lunch and discuss your team members’ hopes for the future. When each member of the team feels valued, you learn to work better together for a common goal.

Get ready for your job to change. Just when you begin to understand and excel at your job, it can change. That’s part of joining a start-up! Rapid growth will mean that job duties and expectations change quickly. Anticipate change rather than resist it.

Brainstorm freely and openly. Nope, you don’t have to perfect an idea before pitching it. Do your research and clarify your idea, and then go ahead and toss it out there. Be flexible and ready to discuss it. Let the team massage it, play with it, change it up, and ultimately put the idea to use in its final form. Your goal is to inspire thought and teamwork, not to solve every problem by yourself.

Joining a start-up can be exciting and stimulating, but also involve ambiguity and rapid change. When you understand this in advance, you’ll likely derive more enjoyment from your new career choice.

Picture of Michael Kimball, Esq.

Michael Kimball, Esq.

Mike Kimball offers practical, timely, and economical legal solutions that move projects along and allow you to focus more on your core business objectives. He has years of experience partnering with companies ranging from Silicon Valley startups to firms in aerospace, biotech, construction, and many more. Mike’s in-house experience includes Yahoo!, Krux Digital (acquired by Salesforce), and Commerce One. He has worked on transactions with Eurostar, Red Bull, Major League Baseball, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Liveramp, Amazon, and NASCAR.