by : Dharmesh Shah
Thinking about joining a startup, or working at one already? That’s great! If you play your cards right, it will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made in your professional career.
Based on conversations with hundreds of entrepreneurs and the passionate people that join them, here are some simple tips.
1. If the value of the education does not exceed the value of the salary you’re getting, you’re doing something wrong, or you’re in the wrong company.
2. If you’re just looking for a job, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. A startup should be much more than a job. It should be a life-changing experience.
3. Be selective. Seek signs of success. Understand the business. Know the founders. Only join if you think the company has a good chance of being a great success. Working for a fast-growing, thriving startup is a lot of fun. There’s nothing like it.
4. Prepare for long hours. If you’re joining an early-stage company, be prepared for your work-life balance to get out of whack. Long hours may not be an explicit requirement, but you’ll feel the pressure from those around you that are working those proverbial “startup hours”.
5. Don’t expect to have a real “manager”. If you want or need a boss, work for a big company.
6. Learn to balance risk. Working for all equity or all cash is not likely the right answer.
7. If you’re not helping build something you think you’ll be proud of, it’s not worth it. Life is short.
8. Be informed. Learn the basics of things like shares, options, vesting schedules, dilution and taxes.
9. Remember that the number of options you get means nothing. It depends on how many shares are outstanding — and the “strike price” you are getting. Ask questions when you don’t understand things. Great startups encourage questions, they don’t exploit ignorance.
10. Startup founders are usually quirky people. Get comfortable with that. Remember that you have to be a bit crazy to start a company in the first place.
11. Wear as many hats as possible. Help out wherever you can. There are always things that need doing in a startup.
12. Go beyond just equity ownership, take emotional ownership.
13. Take lots of photos and keep all memorabilia. You’ll be glad you did someday.
14. If you’re not having fun and laughing daily, you’re in the wrong place
15. You have a lot of influence over those you work with. Volunteer to help recruit. Volunteer to help interview. Be a keeper of the culture. If you end up working with schmucks, it’s partly your fault.
16. Assume you’re going to start your own company some day (because you probably are). Make note of what’s working and what’s not.
17. Try to make the experience a success, even if the startup isn’t. You do this by working with great people, learning as much as you can — and maintaining passion and optimism for the next one.
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