It was a week ago (no, it was longer than that, but for the article’s sake, let’s just pretend it happened a week ago, ok?) that Alessandra discovered a white hair on my head. Young as I am, the discovery pushed me into an early midlife crisis. What, I asked myself, is this job at TandemLaunch doing to me? I came up with an answer that might be interesting for anyone thinking about joining the highly motivated, rapidly growing startup crowd.
1. Anorexic is the new lean.
Startups never have enough staff. Everyone working at a Startup will agree with me when I say that you’ll always be understaffed and overwhelmed with work. Work hours at a Startup don’t follow the 9 to 5 principle. Most of the time, I work more on a 7 to 7 basis. Plus weekends. And that’s the minimum if you want to make a significant impact on the company.
2. Stay calm and carry on.
Ever since my first day (quite literally), my boss told me that working at a Startup is like riding a roller coaster – the ups will be far higher than in a bigger, established company (ask the folks at Instagramm how they feel right now) but the lows are … low. Add my age and my bipolar personality, and you’ll get highs and lows on a daily basis (sometimes even hourly). Even if one day I love my job and feel like everything is going great, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be completely hopeless the next day. Yes, it is a rollercoaster – with your feelings. Keep this in mind, and just believe that everything will be alright eventually. That’s what brings me through the bad days.
3. You have a career, not a job.
This especially applies if you’re like me and joining a Startup as a way of speeding up your career. You can’t leave your work at work. My work became my life – and I don’t mean this in a negative way. Let me explain. My friends are people I see at work. When I read newspaper articles, I think about how this relates to my work. While my boyfriend plays Xbox, I think about training programs for my employees and how to adjust the budget template for the new cost structure (in case you wondered, he doesn’t mind.) On the weekends, I finish work that I didn’t have time to do during the week. But – and this is the thing – I don’t mind a bit. Because I know that every hour of work I put into TandemLaunch, I will save 5 that it would have taken me to get to this position in a big company. Yes, I work a lot – but that’s because I compress 10 years of career in a normal company into 2.
4. Adapt, adopt, adept.
What I mean by this beautiful headline (sometimes my brain comes up with great stuff, and this is definitively one of them) is that you can’t expect to have the same job in 5 months from now. Hell, you’ll probably have a different role in a month from now. Since I started working at TandemLaunch, I held the following positions (not including minor shifts in responsibilities within these positions): Marketing Analyst / Head of Venture Development (which didn’t even have a name back then) / Project Manager / Manager, Projects. And that’s completely normal if you work in a Startup. If you want to grow, you have to take chances as they pop up – and then grow within that task until it gets too small for you. This might disturb people who are natural risk avoiders – and I’m one of those – but there’s no choice. Of course you can stick to one job, but this limits your growth potential. The accelerated growth of a Startup makes it necessary for employees to adapt to this growth.
5. You’re not alone.
This is important. You are not alone in this. You have a handful of colleagues (maybe not within your startup, but definitely from the startup community) who are in this with you. And they probably feel equally insecure, hopeful, useless and great like you. So throw your hesitations over board and talk to them. Go out, have lunch, and talk. You’ll see – even though they might seem perfectly fine to you, they have the same worries and insecurities as you have. Or, even better, they’ve been through what you’re going through right now, and can give you valuable advice. Working in a startup means that you (hopefully) get to avoid a lot of the big company politics, so who knows, you might even find new friends.
To make it short, it’s exactly like Conan O’Brien says: “Be nice and work hard – and the most incredible things will happen to you.” Believe me – they will.