How do you join a startup on a rocketship trajectory?
There is no “playbook” on how to join a startup, because everyone has different entry paths. For example, I broke into startups by writing essays every day for a period last year, which allowed me to show off a few important character traits: I can work fast, and that I am dependable.
I have been working in a startup environment for almost a year, and I continue to believe that these are the two most important things founders are looking for in prospective employees.
Joining a startup can be a liberating experience. While it’s not all remote parties and embracing the latest crazy health trends like the TV show Silicon Valley may have you believe, being at a startup is a great place to grow.
In startups, you will be challenged. There is no escaping the fact that the work will be hard, and it will come at you at a quick pace.
If you want to work at a startup, you need to realize that startups are all about growth. Startups exist because they want to grow and become big companies. Eventually, a startup wants to get acquired or, ideally, go through an IPO.
Knowing that startups want to get big tells us that there will be a lot of work to do. The company will need to iterate quickly. Founders will need to let go of preconceived notions and just do whatever works, even if it sounds crazy.
Because there is so much work to do, startups like people who are able to work quickly. If you are able to rapidly iterate, and keep going even when times get tough, you’ll fit in.
In addition, you also need to be dependable and flexible. In my time working for a startup, I have taken on a number of different tasks. I have done technical writing, research, product work, and more. This is because startups have their employees working on what matters most to the business.
In traditional workplaces, you may be able to get away with “working within a job description.” If a task does not fall under the purview of someone with your title, you can usually ask your boss to assign it to someone else. In a startup, though, this is a negative signal. If you are given a task to work on, you should be able to do it.
If you want to join a rocketship company, do what you can to show that you can work fast. In addition, you should be able to demonstrate that you follow through. Commitments are not enough; you need to actually show that you are capable of doing the work.