Is Working For a Startup Company Right For You?

Office birthday parties, free bagel Fridays, a corn hole game set up in the middle of the office and holiday company cruises to the Bahamas- “Is this how all internet marketing companies work?” I wondered to myself when I joined a startup team fresh out of college.

The answer is no, this is not how most companies operate, but this environment is fairly typical if you happen to work at a tech startup where your CEO is 29 years old and more than half of your co-workers are under the age of 33.

My company is growing rapidly and we are constantly looking for good people to join our staff.  I get emails and Facebook messages all the time from random people (most that I haven’t talked to since middle school) who want a job.  They ask if BMI is as fun as it seems and I tell them all the same thing.

Working at a startup has its perks, and while it can be a lot of fun at times, there is also a lot of hard work that’s put in.  We definitely work hard to play hard around here.  In the last two years I’ve seen people thrive in this environment and do really well for themselves, and I’ve seen others, some who have years of marketing experience, completely crack under the pressure.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll fit in at a startup company, here are a few things to consider.

Are you a good at multi-tasking under lots of pressure?

Believe me when I say it’s highly unlikely that you’ll wear just one hat at a startup company. I think this is the main reason why many people don’t work out.  They get hired for a certain position and are shocked when they’re expected to do things beyond their job description.  My official job title is a search marketing project manager, but I’ve also served as the office decorator, copywriter, public relations contact, executive assistant, receptionist, blogger, events coordinator, t-shirt designer and the executive producer of my boss’ radio show (there’s probably more that I can’t rattle off the top of my head).

“That’s not my job,” is a response that would not go over well with my bosses.  Startups usually only have between 10 to 100 employees. That being said, everyone must carry their own weight in their respective positions and then some.  I’m not alone- we all wear multiple hats and don’t really get paid more for doing more.  But on the plus-side, I’ve learned many valuable lessons and skills that I could always put on the resume, and I believe hard work is recognized and rewarded.  I’ve been told by co-workers that busting their asses paid off, so I’ll keep doing my thing and doing whatever I can to make it all worth it.

Do you easily adapt to change?

Plans tend to change rapidly in startup companies. The BMI Elite that I work at today is completely different than the BMI Elite I worked at on this day one year ago.  In one year we’ve had two offices, I’ve held three different job titles, had my desk moved about 5 times and seen about 50 people come and go.  We’ve added new services and taken some away.

If routines bore you and you like the excitement that comes with change, you may really enjoy working for a startup. If you prefer predictability, working at a startup will likely just increase your stress to new levels.

Are you okay with working crazy hours?

If you like showing up to work at 9 a.m. and leaving right at 5 p.m. every day, a startup is not the place for you.  Regular hours- what’s that?

In order to accomplish everything that we need to do, many of us often come in early, work through lunch or happy hour, and sometimes show up to the office on weekends.  I think this crazy schedule has a lot to do with why most of our employees are young, unmarried and have no kids.

Do you believe in the company?

This is major, as it’s really hard to put up with the multi-tasking, long hours and pressure of working at a startup if you don’t believe in the company and its product(s).

Before joining a startup, I recommend doing your research to get a clear idea of its products, values, goals and long-term vision.  What do they do to stand out among their competition?  Startups surface and die every day, so use your best judgment when trying to guess if your position could be long-term.

When working at a startup company, you never really know what’s going to happen.  The industry is ever-changing and even the most solid companies are at risk.  However, some startups thrive and the rewards become worth the risks- think huge financial returns, invaluable experience, getting to work with incredibly smart people and of course the excitement that comes with it all.

If you’re up for the challenge, working for a startup can be a life-changing experience.  Just make sure you’re prepared and are able to handle it first.

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite