Join the Start-up

It’s a common scenario… many people are ‘settling’ for the high-paying secure job in the big corporation. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for a big paycheck and job security. There are also other ways to scratch the entrepreneurial itch via established but innovating smaller companies or intra-preneurial projects. However, for those people spending their days dreaming of joining a start-up we all know the problem. Risk. It’s big and it’s scary.

The biggest risk is not taking any risk.  – Mark Zuckerberg

On Lead by Change, we recently featured a mash up video of tech leader interviews. We posed the classic question ‘What advice would you give your 25 year old self?’ One of the resounding answers amongst these highly successful leaders was “take more risk”. Many of them felt they left opportunity on the table to take a safer route. As the discussion deepened, it emerged that a common regret was not taking the leap sooner.

However, maybe there’s some survivorship bias in play with those we interview. What about the ones that took the risks and failed? Maybe they didn’t get that IPO exit or the company didn’t take off  the way they had hoped.

What do you gain when you fail?

While financial risk and gain is often at the forefront of these discussions, once you scratch the surface you realize there is far more to it than that. What people really want is to put themselves in a position to learn, make an impact, and challenge their abilities. It isn’t necessarily about the bottom line figures, but more about the chance to go on a journey. Even in the absence of financial success, there is always success in chasing the opportunity. A few things to consider:

1. Broaden Your Experience

The very nature of a start-up means that you will be required to play many roles. This is an opportunity not only for acquiring new skills, but also for learning about yourself. It can be the perfect environment in which to learn more quickly than you ever have before.

2. Play the Big Roles

Aside from playing various roles, your role in a start-up will also be a lot more pivotal than in a larger company. The effects of your role are often far more tangible. You’ll be able to see and feel the impact you make on a day-to-day basis.

3. Build an Inspiring Network

Start-ups are composed of a groups of people with a lot of great attributes in common. These people have all taken the same risks you have. They are mission driven, career focused, and brilliant. Iron sharpens iron.

4. Learn What It Takes

Joining a start-up is not going to be the final step in your career. It’s just the beginning. You may want to work for a range of companies or start your very own business. In a start-up you’ll work closely with the dial movers in the company and will most likely be a dial mover yourself. You’ll learn what it takes to do it again, from the ground up.

5. The Grass Might Not Be Greener. That’s OK.

As mentioned earlier, depending on your motivations, and situation, the start-up life may not be for you. There’s a lot of mythology about start-ups in the culture at the moment. But do those who make the jump regret it? Usually not. If they have the itch, and scratch it, there’s opportunity to learn and have an impact, even if they ultimately say “I liked the big company. I want to go back.”

Your career isn’t a sprint to the finish line. Joining a start-up might be the best risk you can take to achieve your long-term goals and broaden your horizons.

The chance to learn, play bigger roles, surround yourself with like-minded people, and be a part of something special, can sometimes be the platform you need to supercharge your career and increase your engagement.

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