Startup Life Is Not For Everyone

After more than 3 years of working in an established company, I moved to a startup with a different industry. It’s been 6 months and all I can say is: It feels like an effing roller coaster.

I still remember the farewell moment back in February, along with the emotions and dilemma I had— the dilemma that I know a lot of people experience: should I stay in this company and chill or jump start my career in the startup universe?

While the majority of people still perceive big corporations as the best place to work because of their big names and promising compensations, I decided to leave because of 1) I’ve been working on the same thing for the last 2 years and I need a new challenge, 2) I want to be exposed in different industries, 3) I believe startup environment will offer a great opportunity to learn and grow, 4) “Move to startup in different industry after 3 years” is my career plan statement in 2016, and last but not least, 5) I got a good offer.

As someone who is (still) in the stage of finding the best environment to grow, I regularly assess how a company with its nature and culture fit my personal development needs. Throughout my 6 months of employment, I realize that startup has some bottom lines. That being said, with ever-changing responsibilities and sometimes undefined expectations, working in a fast-paced environment may not be your cup of tea. Here’s why,

So Many Hats, So Little Time

I was the 18th employee who joined the company. And with limited resources on the company (so typical startup isn’t it?), we have to manage everything and juggling between one hat to another. It is actually quite common for startups to operate in a small team and limited human resources. Consequently, startups often require their employees to be versatile because in several cases, there are tasks to finish, but the company doesn’t have a dedicated team yet to handle it.

Startups often provide opportunities for their employees to explore various roles and responsibilities which may or may not be related to each other. These opportunities are totally valuable for individuals who need to see how the business truly functions.

However, startups couldn’t wait for the employees to master the new field first. They expect the employees to be versatile and learn those new tasks while doing them. Even in several cases, the company will discharge the employee who fails to deliver what the company expected before their probation period end.

Career Path (Might Be) Exists— But Only If You Make it Happen

In many startups, the career path is often highly flexible. It doesn’t follow conventional rules where someone has to serve a specific length of tenure to get promoted. Instead, it gives more opportunities for someone who has extraordinary competence to get promoted.

But in my company and many other startups (especially those in very early stage), they often don’t have clear career paths for the employee yet. In that case, it’s better for us to know what we want to achieve and fight for our ideas and career goals. Because if we just follow the instructions and aim to only complete every task given to us it may cause us career stagnation.

Startups can be an ideal place to learn and gain experience. I can say that the most exciting things to work in startups are the opportunity to work with like-minded people from different expertise and background. While it can feel like a rollercoaster at times, the opportunity to learn, grow and be successful outweigh the potential drawbacks that make it a worthwhile career move.

It’s true that startup life may not be for everyone. The same way corporation, government, and non-profits also may not be for everyone. Every sector and industry has its own traits, including the opportunities and challenges it may offer. Thus, it is our job to understand ourselves and know which environment is most suitable for us so that we can develop our potentials to the fullest.


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