May 24, 2018

What Working at a Startup is Really Like

My last post got ultra-personal with the ins and outs of surgical drains (aka pokey plastic things that remove icky fluids from your/my body) so everything is fair game at this point. Scaling back the grossness, and up the general usefulness, I've decided to share what working at a startup is really like!

Just a generation ago, it was still really out of the ordinary to hitch your wagon to some young entrepreneur's pipe dream, especially if you were a college graduate with plenty of options (and less of a financial safety net).

What working at a startup is really like

These days, it's a lot more common. That's due to a number of things:

  • The internet, which made this the startup era
  • A shift away from spending an entire career with one company to having a succession of jobs with different companies over the course of a career
  • Millennial snowflake culture

We're already credited with bringing about the demise of everything from home ownership to lunch, so why not the traditional workplace, too?

I, for one, have only worked at startups (never a traditional, established company), and I don't see that changing anytime soon. If I leave the startup world at some point, it would most likely be to focus on writing and acting, not to go work for Big Business.

We all love HBO's Silicon Valley, but obviously it's a dramatization of startup life and the writers allow themselves plenty of creative license. If you are a recent grad considering entering the startup world, or a more established working looking for a change, here's what working at a startup has really been like (in my experience)!

It's still work...

No matter where you work and what you do, there are going to be days when going to work in the morning isn't your top choice of activity. Maybe you'd rather spend some more time in bed, or maybe its 75 and sunny out and you'd rather be frolicking in the park. 

Girl, I get it. Been there, done that, will do it again.

Even when I was working full-time as a model and ghostwriter, which was an incredibly fun and flexible (in terms of scheduling) time in my life, there were days when grinding out a couple chapters was a challenge, or when making it to the studio for a 7am call time did not put a smile on my face.

It's the same for startups - don't go in thinking every day will be a Silicon Valley-style adventure with your quirky coworkers-slash-besties. Some days you'll spend hours working in Excel (or any other thing that's not your favorite thing to do, but also necessary).  

But sometimes it feels like play.

That said, I don't dread Mondays. Life is too short to do anything that makes you dread 40 of your waking hours each week, unless you absolutely have to

I'm not going to pretend that everyone has a financial safety net that enables them to do what they want, or not do what they don't want, but if you can live a more frugal life and do work you're happy to do, I think that's very often the better choice over living an expensive, luxurious life and hating everything when you wake up on Monday.

At a startup, a lot less is established and there's a lot more room to play around with strategies, try different ways of doing things, and employ creative problem solving. Sometimes work feels like work, but sometimes it's the greatest game!

You can influence the corporate culture...

Especially if you're joining a seed stage startup, the corporate culture isn't set yet. You get to be part of creating your company's culture and making it a positive, healthy one! What better way to find a place that you love to work than to make the place you work one that you love?

Startup Culture

And, in general, startups tend to have a less stiff culture as a whole.

But if the culture isn't a fit, you're probably not going to last long.

Since it's a small team, there's generally a high level of interaction between you and your coworkers. Startups often work in open coworking spaces, like WeWork or Spacious, where you're literally around a table with your team. 

Not liking your coworkers or not liking the 'team vibe' might work passably well at a large company, but it won't fly at a startup. Try to figure out as much as you can about the culture before you accept a job, but know that you're taking a bit of a risk. The payoff can be high, though, and most valuable things involve an element of risk! 

The energy can be contagious...

If you're at a promising young startup, your coworkers are probably a group of really intelligent, ambitious, interesting people who chose the startup over more immediately lucrative positions.

What working at a startup is really like
It makes such a difference to work with people who are excited about working with you! Creating something new, rather than just maintaining a company that's been around for ages, is so exciting!

And it's seriously addictive.

I really can't recommend it more. Even if you can earn more at a more established company, checking out the startup world is very worth your time!

Have you ever worked at a startup?


  1. I have never worked at a start up. But with that being said I am trying to build my own business and sometimes times are rough because I do EVERYTHING. And while doing everything I still have a blog too. But I know in the end it will all pay off.


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