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Everything You Need To Know Before Working At A Startup Post-Grad

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely come across startup companies in your post-graduation job search on career websites such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed. Or, perhaps you know someone who has worked at a startup company and are interested in working at one yourself. While working at a startup can appear enticing with its opportunities for growth, there are some potential risks, such as unstable pay and the possibility of company failure. Don’t know how to weigh the pros and cons? Look no further — here is everything you need to know about how to work at a startup company after college

the pros and cons of working at a startup

When just starting out your post-graduation career, startup companies can look very attractive. According to Statista, startups created over 3 million jobs in the last 26 years. Oftentimes, startup companies are eager to fill positions and may not require candidates to have a whole lot of experience. According to a LinkedIn article by Chris Anderson, content and career expert and startup supporter, “Startups are a fantastic opportunity for career growth and to gain experience that is more difficult to come by in a corporation.” This probably sounds like music to the ears of any recent graduate or student looking for experience. All that glitters is not gold — and that can be found true in the case of startup companies! 

However, there are some cons to working at startup companies. According to Website Builder, “around 37% of startups fail due to lack of capital or profitability.” The allure of working at a startup can cloud the harsh realities that are often met when joining a newly-found company. You may find yourself becoming comfortable within your position and may lose sight of how temporary your job may be. One of the important things that working at a startup can teach you is just how expendable you can be to a company. Daria Shulay, who works at a scheduling company called Monday, told Sarah Green in an interview, “[Startups] are often quick to hire and quick to fire. So if you’re looking for long-term stability, it’s not the right choice for you.”

startups mean small team, all hands on deck

Now that you have some insight into what you’re getting yourself into with joining a startup, let’s discuss the actual work. The work at a startup, just like any business, can be daunting at first. The unique part about startups is that more times than not, they require all hands on deck due to a small number of team members. You may find yourself doing work that’s unfamiliar to you or that isn’t even in your job description. This can be frustrating at first, but if you’re willing to be open-minded, it can be beneficial to learn new professional skills.  

Patrick Dever, the founder of Coupon Ninja, speaks about the positive aspects of working with a smaller team. “I would highly recommend working with a start-up once leaving education. When you start out at a much larger organization, it is likely your initial tasks are more menial, and while that is all a part of learning, engaging with a smaller team at a startup means you will gain far more experience in a far quicker time frame,” Dever tells Her Campus. “Not only will you develop your desired skills, but it is also likely you will learn a whole selection of new ones because smaller teams work a lot more in unison to help out where it’s needed. For me, working at a startup is a no-brainer.”

If you plan on staying at a startup company and working your way up, working within a smaller team could also be a great way to show your flexibility and value as a team player. 

at a startup, you have to roll with the punches

Startup companies are usually not fully established yet, so they may be missing certain company essentials like the human resource department, or perhaps only one person handles all the company finances. This is why it’s especially important to roll with the punches and practice patience. 

In an article titled “Pros and Cons of Working at a Start-Up Company,” Sarah Green writes, “Since teams are small, people generally have to wear a number of different hats, which can mean odd hours, late nights, and working on weekends. Funds are often low when a company is building their client base so they need to get everything out of their employees that they can.” If you are someone who is willing to put in the extra work for a company in exchange for invaluable experience and personal growth, startup life might just be for you. 

The Importance Of Market Research When Working At A Startup

If you go the startup route, try your best to learn about your industry to work your way up within the company. Market research will be your best friend — but what is market research, you might ask? According to Investopedia, market research is the process of determining the viability of a new service or product through research conducted directly with potential customers

Market research is the biggest aid in the research and development of a startup. It’s also imperative to research the competition within your industry as well. The best way to stay on top of your industry and maintain growth is to be in the know of what your competitors are doing. If you’re looking to impress your higher-ups within the company, maybe even mention some of your findings within the competition. It will show great initiative and your dedication to the company’s growth. 

evaluate whether working at a startup is right for you

Just like when deciding to work for any company, weighing the risks is important. Evaluate whether or not startup life is for you and your lifestyle. There is ultimately no guarantee with any job, but signing on to a startup has little to no security. 

Unfortunately, unstable pay is a part of the harsh reality that comes along with working in a startup business. Amy Shunick, who works as a corporate financial controller at Bennett Packaging, tells Her Campus, “It’s important to understand both the pros and the cons of working at a startup before you make that leap right out of college. Most importantly, not all startups are well-equipped to pay regular salaries, so be prepared to not have a paycheck from time to time. Sometimes not having a paycheck is more regular than having a paycheck.” 

However, unstable pay is not always the case with startups. In the case of recent University of Pennsylvania graduate Hannah Le, the startup path was such a success for her that she decided to start her own startup company. Hannah originally began her startup journey working as a marketing professional and product manager for various startups within both healthcare and career technology industries. Inspired by her positive experience, Hannah later started her own startup company called RE.STATEMENT, an “online marketplace for small businesses and independent designers to sell their unique, upcycled clothing that makes a lasting impression.” Hannah urges other young professionals to “learn what you don’t like as much as learn what you do like. Be grateful throughout all of it for the experiences and people you may meet along the way.”

Overall, everyone looks for different things within their first post-grad job. Try to assess what it is you’re looking for within employment and determine what makes the most sense for you.

Rachel is a contributing writer for Her Campus under the Culture and Entertainment verticle. Her articles cover trending topics, including new releases, fan theories, and pop culture news. She has been a part of the Her Campus community since 2019, when she started as a charting member of the Her Campus St. John's University chapter. Rachel was also the chapter's President from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021. As president, Rachel managed the divisions of the chapter, gave weekly updates on progress, and led chapter meetings and events. In 2021, Rachel graduated from St. John's with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and a minor in Business Administration. Rachel has freelanced in Digital Marketing and Copywriting since graduating. As an aspiring multi-media journalist, Rachel enjoys exercising her writing skills on various digital platforms. You can catch Rachel trying out new makeup trends on TikTok, watching her favorite shows, or listening to music in her free time. She is passionate about connecting with people through music, lifestyle, and cultural conversations.