What to Expect from Working at a Startup

If you are considering joining a startup for your first job (or wherever you are in your career, for that matter), here’s what you can expect:

You will gain excellent time management and prioritization skills. In a startup environment, priorities can change in an instant. You may also receive requests from many people at once. These two common occurrences can help you stay nimble-minded and ready for the next challenge, constantly re-prioritizing to fit business needs.

You may be expected to take on various projects and tasks. In my first few years at a startup, I created press sheets, sent out mass emails, helped plan events in other states, and even traveled for work. My freedom to touch different aspects of the business eventually led to me learning the ins and outs of Salesforce.com and getting certified as an administrator.

You may be part of a roll-up-your-sleeves culture. I have seen C-Suite executives wash dishes and managers take out the garbage. There is no saying, “That’s not my job” in a young company. The culture at a startup is humble: it will pull any bit of “millennial” entitlement right out from underneath you!

You will get a crash course in strategy. As the business expands, leaders must have a growth strategy. Business practices that worked in a mom-and-pop shop may have to be adapted to a multinational company. Become acquainted with the people who are helping scale the business, as they can teach you a ton about finance, marketing, and operational efficiency within the context of organizational growth.

You will learn that you are the captain of your fate. In smaller companies, career paths are sometimes not defined. This can be a good thing! But you may also feel lost, because up until now you have had guidance counselors and college advisors helping you navigate your way. When you feel it is time for a change, you may choose to A) apply for a position internally B) pave a path for yourself based on your interests and company needs, if this option is available or C) choose to use your fabulous newfound skills at a different company.

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An Open Letter to Companies Who Recruit Based on Prestige

To Whom It May Concern:

I really like your product and check your job openings sometimes. I like to see what kinds of positions you need to fill to make your company tick.

However, one line in your job descriptions put a bitter taste in my mouth.

In Requirements, I see that you need “A self starter” and “Attentiveness to detail.” Cool. However, a worthy candidate also needs “a degree from a top tier university.”

To be honest, Ms. Recruiter, filtering out 99.6% of candidates who did not go to Ivy League schools in the job description makes you seem shallow and reflects poorly on you and your whole company.

It says to me, “I am too lazy to screen the candidate for unmeasurable traits like culture fit, relevant experience, and ability to do the job. I will instead make a formula to weed out candidates who did not fit my definition of success when they were 18 years old.” It says to me that you do not care what I did for my university, only what I did in the months before it.

I get why you do it, though. It doesn’t take a Harvard grad to realize that people from prestigious schools are desirable. According to a study by Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, hiring managers at law firms, consultancies, and investment banks use a candidate’s ability to get into an elite school (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale) for graduate or law school as a litmus test for intelligence. Here’s the kicker, though: the study found that it did not actually matter to the decision makers how the candidate performed at that school, just that they got in.

Quite frankly, I am mostly concerned for you. You are missing out on diversity, on recruiting a workforce that is representative of your user base. You are missing out on the person who learned valuable skills managing a drugstore while going to school full time or the person who did not do so hot in high school but found his niche planning alumni events for his fraternity.

But hey, at least you’re being transparent about your biases.

Best,
Melanie