To those who are interested in the job market, employment or even the world of business in general, it may seem that everything today is about startups. It is startups this; startups that; startups a bit of the other. It is starting to feel that everyone is either setting up a startup or working for one. Today, we will be concerned with the latter, the issue of working for a startup and trying to get a job at one.
More precisely, we will be looking at some of the idiosyncrasies’ of working for a startup and why people need to be careful when seeking employment at one.
Startups are Fragile
The first thing to consider when thinking about applying for a job at a startup is that the nature of startups is such that they are fragile. Excessively so. According to a Fortune article, about 90 percent of all startups fail. This is a mind-boggling statistic, outright scary. The reasons for this are many and they are inconsequential for the message we are trying to get across here. The reality is that they often fail and this is something every hopeful startup employee needs to understand.
What this means is that your startup employment will rarely be a stable one. This is a problem that may not be such a huge issue for certain candidates, but is something that many will job seekers will find off-putting, especially those with a family and a need for a steady job.
The Hours are Ridiculous
Another trait of startup jobs is that they are, more often than not, very “liberal” when it comes to work hours, and not in a good way. As we learned previously, it takes a lot of work just to keep a startup afloat, but until you have worked at one, you have no idea exactly how much work this is. Eight hour workdays are nothing more than a concept at most startups, with employees often working ten or twelve hours. Often even more than that. In addition to this, quite a large number of startups are basically 24/7 operations where you are never really off-duty.
For some job seekers, the insane workhours can be a deal-breaker. Some people are just not ready to put their lives on hold in order to make someone else’s dream come true and this is perfectly understandable. In short, if you are looking for a nice and cozy 8-hour workplace, startups are probably not for you.
The Money is Not that Great
Most startups share a very important characteristic – they operate on a very limited budget. Funding a startup is never an easy task and quite often the area where they try and cut their expenses is in compensating their employees, especially the early ones in the initial stages of their startup’s life. A practice that they often resort to is compensating their early employees with stock options. At first, this sounds really attractive as you feel you are getting a share in the company, something that might be worth millions down the road.
In reality, this does not really work that way. Namely, stock options come with so many strings attached that many startup owners end up with much less than they hoped for, even when their startups make it big and sell for millions on the stock market. The reasons for this are extremely complex and you will do well to consult this article if you want to find out more about this.
If you need to put the food on the table and not wonder if you are being compensated enough for the work you do, you need to think long and hard before you approach a startup for a job. Also, always keep your eyes open and keep in mind that startups often use various techniques to get top-level talent without spending too much.
The Potemkin Village Issue
If you are prepared for everything that we have talked about previously, there is one last thing we feel we have to warn you about and that is the fact that many startups are nothing but modern versions of the Potemkin Village.
Namely, many startups are simply not what they make themselves out to be. These are often the result of having owners who are more in love with the idea of owning and running a startup than actually running it and making it successful. They put on a show, flaunting their super cool offices and their $50,000 espresso machines because they are insecure basically.
There are also those startup owners who are simply delusional and cannot acknowledge the fact that their company is on its last legs even though a blind person could see it. They are perhaps even sadder, but there is some honesty in their delusion.
Not that it will make any difference to you.
In short, if you are looking for a job and you are not disheartened by the harsh reality of working at a startup, stand back, be very critical and check your potential employers for cracks. They might be well concealed, but if you are meticulous enough, you will discover them.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank has had experience with innumerable startups over the course of his career in the trade show industry and he knows them inside out. If you like the way he writes, you can always check out BizzMarkBlog.