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Why You Shouldn't Join a Startup

By Emily Smith on Thu, Mar 2, 2017

Joining a startup won't be the right career choice for everyone. It's seen as a much riskier employment option than working at an established company, and it's not unusual to be reluctant to leave the perceived job security of an established company for a small startup with no track-record of success.

But what happens if you've found an early-stage company you're really excited about - you've interviewed with them, been offered the job, and now it's decision time - do you take the job, with all the risks that come with it, or do you stay in your current role?

Is Working at a Startup the Right Fit for You?

This is the big question you need to ask yourself. What is it about this role - and the company - that appeals to you? What motivates you, and brings you satisfaction at work?

Obviously, there are no right and wrong answers here: everyone's motivated by different things. But it's important to realise that the workplace culture and associated expectations are vastly different at a startup compared with an established company:

  • Hours - an established company often has a very set '9-5' day, punctuated with a whole lot of clock-watching. In contrast, a startup may be much more flexible there. However, with more flexibility comes more responsibility: you may find yourself working longer hours, or more intensively, especially if your startup enters a period of rapid growth.
  • Responsibility - particularly at an early-stage startup, it's really a case of 'all hands on deck'. Responsibility is shared - there's no more 'that's X's job'.
  • Change - in a startup environment, things change very quickly. Decisions can be made much faster than in a larger corporate environment. And as your startup grows and finds its feet, changes in direction are to be expected.

Taking Advice

It's natural to seek advice when making big decisions like changing jobs - either from friends and family, or in a professional capacity from mentors or former colleagues whose opinions you trust. You're even more likely to seek advice when the decision has a degree of risk involved - such as joining a startup.

As a personal example, when I was joining Cobloom I received advice from many trusted sources - both personal and professional - advising me not to take this job, and stick with my 'safer' former employer.

When you're asking for advice, it's important to identify what you're really asking: have you already made up your mind, and so are seeking reassurance, or are you still weighing up the pros and cons of two options?

If you're genuinely seeking advice as to which is your best option, then you should also consider the biases that colour the opinions of the people you're speaking to. For example, the advice I got from my parents (with financial backgrounds and 'reliable' jobs) was very different to the advice I got from my partner, who had joined a startup and been working there for several years.

Everyone has different experiences and will consider the same question from a different angle - they may even raise concerns or perks that you hadn't considered before.

Making the Choice that's Right for You

When you're getting advice from people whose personal and professional opinion you respect and trust, it can be very difficult to balance your own opinion with their advice - especially if their opinion is in opposition to your gut feeling.

However, it's crucial that you make the choice that's right for you: work is such an important part of our lives - you don't want to spend the next few months/years regretting your decision or wondering 'what if?'

For me, I knew that the role I'd applied for at Cobloom was the most exciting job opportunity I'd seen in a long while: I'd even described it as a 'dream job'. My misgivings stemmed from a combination of imposter syndrome and reluctance to leave a great team.

Chances are, you'll have a gut feeling right from the outset as to whether or not you want to work at this particular startup, and at the end of the day it's your decision to make, one way or the other.

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