We are all living in the era of the startup.
No industry or sector is safe from the threat of digitial disruption, and new startups are being born all the time.
As the tech sector grows ever larger, job opportunities at startups will continue to proliferate.
But what it is really like to work at a startup?
The methods and workplace culture pioneered by big tech firms in recent times have spread far and wide, influencing companies of all sizes in all industries.
But despite attempts at emulation, nothing beats a startup for dynamism, growth potential, and company culture.
As startups continue to pop up in every industry under the sun, many more people will be tempted to make a startup job the next step along their career path.
Here is our guide to landing yourself a startup job, from the pros and cons of joining the startup revolution to what skills you need to do it and where you can find new vacancies.
Why are startups trending?
Startup jobs are in high demand.
This trend has gone hand in hand with the growth of the tech industry and the explosion of startups all over the world. As more and more workers become attracted to the startup life, hiring the key talent they need has become easier, fuelling growth and paving the way to success.
But what explains the lure of the startup life?
- Lifestyle. For many, the ‘startup life’ is just that: a lifestyle. One of the core principles of the new philosophy of work emanating from the big tech firms and startups is that work-life balance is a good thing, and something companies should take seriously if they want to get the most out of their employees. Being guaranteed the time to live outside of work is one of the most attractive aspects of startup jobs.
- Digital is the new black. Digital is cool, and is the foundation upon which the startup revolution was constructed. Working for a tech startup means working at the forefront of our rapidly-changing world, as new digital tools transform our lives and our work.
- Innovation, creativity and talent. Digital disruption is fuelled by ideas. Startups trade in innovation and creativity because these things are essential to transforming industries and taking advantage of new opportunities. At a startup you can expect to be given the time and space to go wherever your skills take you.
- Culture and “fun”. The work-life balance at the heart of the startup philosophy does not just mandate that employees enjoy their free time. It’s also important to enjoy work. Startups invest in creating the environment their employees need to have as much while they work as possible while still getting the job done.
- Huge profits. The very successful startups usually end up making their owners very rich. The potential for huge rewards motivates a lot of people to invest time and effort in the early stages of a startup’s growth. Key to the lure of the startup is the promise of future greatness.
‘Everyone in that room believed they were working on something that had the potential to disrupt industries and change the world. And let me tell you, that mindset is contagious.’
– Luke Geiger
Are there any downsides?
Despite their popularity, startup jobs are not for everyone.
The pros will not aways outweight the cons, and some do leave the startup world for more traditional companies and industries. Before you get too excited about the prospect of joining the next high-flying unicorn to hit the stock market, it’ll be worth your while to consider some of the downsides to life at a startup.
- Failure. Not to put too fine a point on it, some startups fail completely. A lot of work has to be done in a short space of time to achieve profitability while outrunning your rivals in the market space. When the funding runs out and the potential for profits becomes ever more obscure, the time may come for a startup to shut up shop.
- Job security. Startups need to stay competitive and be reactive to change, which often means downsizing or quickly restructuring the business. This, added to the possibility of complete failure, makes work at a startup look much less secure than at a traditional company.
- Hit the ground running, or else. While at a traditional company you might expect to receive training and mentorship before being handed serious responsibilities, at a startup you will be thrown into the deep end and expected to swim. New hires need to be ready to hit the ground running.
- Money. While competition for top talent and the potential for rapid growth and massive returns can make a startup job incredibly lucrative, wages are sometimes lower than they would be at a traditional company. Many startups live hand to mouth through funding, and many new vacancies at startups cannot promise high salaries from the off.
- All or nothing. You will often hear startups refer to their ‘mission’ and their ‘journey’. This is a reflection of the commitment that startups make to rapid growth and huge success. With startups, it’s typically all about the short-term, and everyone is expected to make a big commitment to helping the company fulfill its ambitions.
How to get a startup job
Now you’ve had the chance to weigh up the pros and cons of joining the startup revolution, let’s take a look at the most common questions asked by job seekers.
What skills do I need to work at a tech startup?
- Programming and data science are obviously highly relevant for the tech sector, and anyone with skills in these areas will stand a good chance of finding work.
- Management, business development and HR are indispensible to all companies, and startups are no exception.
- Project management skills and experience are vital for startups, and such a transferable skill will come in handy whatever industry you venture into.
- Designers of all kinds, from illustrators to user interface specialists, are in high demand at startups. Digital design is especially applicable here.
- Communication and marketing skills are very important for startups who wish to convey a unique brand identity and scale quickly using growth hacks and by launching compelling marketing campaigns.
- Soft skills are often overshadowed by hard skills aquired through education and past work experience, but at startups ‘cultural fit’ with the existing team is prized extremely highly. Versatility, drive and the ability to collaborate with others are also absolutely essential for startups looking to grow their workforce.
Where do I find startup jobs?
Startup jobs in a wide range of hubs across Europe and beyond can be found on Careerland by browsing the job search.
There are a number of other global portals such as AngelList and Startup.jobs, but more opportunities can usually be found on location specific sites set up to serve the startup scene in a given city. Just search ‘startup jobs [your city]’ to find these sites.
How do I apply for a startup job?
Many startup jobs either begin or are preceded by an internship. This can be a good opportunity to find out how the company (and the sector) works, and to prove yourself to your potential future employers.
Where possible, the skills mentioned above should be emphasised in your CV and cover letter when applying for startups jobs. A strong motivation for the sector is valued highly, as is clear talent in your chosen field.
While there are many new vacancies popping up at startups all the time, many of these companies have small HR teams and have very short hiring cycles. Applying with an unsolicited application has a very good chance of success with startups, and will at least give them something to think about for the future.