Graduate View: why I chose to work for a startup

Less than a month after graduating this June I landed my first, real job. Before you want to punch me in the face, let me say that I know how insanely lucky I am. I got the job the old-fashioned way by sending in my résumé, and I made one good decision: I chose to apply to a small, startup.

Now I work for an internet company that focuses on career exploration – ironic, I know – and I’m happy to go into the office (almost) every morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that startups offer ideal jobs filled with ponies and rainbows and that everyone needs to get in on this gig. Working for a startup is hard. Period. My job’s future is precarious at best – new companies have a sky-high risk of going under. My working week often sprawls into the 50- or 60-hour range. And, like any other ramen-noodle-eating grad, the fact that my salary is lower than what I could be making at a more established company means I won’t be buying designer duds anytime soon.

But, at least for me, the benefits far outweigh the cons. So, here are my top reasons why I made the choice to work for a startup.

My job is dynamic

My interests have always been like those of a squirrel: all over the place. To give you an idea, at university I studied English literature, French translation, and philosophy, along with a handful of psychology and law courses. So the idea of sitting at a desk, doing the same task day after day made me want to throw some clothes in a bag and jump on the next plane to Thailand.

Now, my job allows me to be constantly changing focus. As part of the team that’s developing our website, I get to be a true jack-of-all-trades: I write, edit, and research, along with maintaining our social media platforms. I do some administrative work like billing, plus taking part in human resource-related projects like hiring new employees. And that’s in the first four months.

I’m often out of my comfort zone, but I’m never bored. As the company expands and becomes more established, I’m sure I will specialise. But I know I’m in a dynamic job that will grow with me.

I have real influence

Because my team is so small – there are only five of us – each person’s contributions make a huge difference. For me, this kind of working environment is both very stressful and very rewarding. If our numbers don’t go up one week, I am the only person to blame, so the pressure is on.

On the flip side, I have a real feeling of ownership over our successes. I see the close connection between doing my job well and the company’s progress, which makes it easy to be invested in the project. I’m not just a tiny cog in a huge machine. My work is vital.

I fit into the team

When I first started my job hunt, I was so worried about landing a position that I thought I could adapt myself to the values of any company that gave me an offer. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?

In retrospect, I think culture fit is crucial. And when I say culture fit, I’m not talking about loving crazy-shirt Friday or enjoying the idea of playing air hockey in the break room. What I mean is that my co-workers, boss and I share and value a similar kind of drive, optimism, and no-nonsense approach.

Culture fit is doubly important at a startup because of the small size. I sit less than four metres away from everyone in my company, including the CEO. If I didn’t click with the group, I wouldn’t be happy. And, chances are, neither would my boss.

There’s a payoff

It’s exciting to think about my company expanding to become the next Facebook-like success story. I’d be proud to have helped create a product that really took off, and I’d be in for some serious money. However, I’m not holding my breath. I believe my company will become successful, but that vague possibility of future riches is not why I go to work every day.

Even if the long-term rewards never come my way, I’m getting a huge upfront benefit: an education in entrepreneurship. I’m learning more about business development than I would in a year at business school.

So, even without the rainbows and ponies, I’m happy to go to work tomorrow.

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