Learn to go with the flow at a start-up

RISKY BUSINESS: Start-up culture might not be suited for everyone. To find out if you might be a good fit, ask yourself if you have the right personality to work in a small-group environment for long hours.


    May 17, 2016

    Learn to go with the flow at a start-up

    START-UPS usually operate in an "all hands on deck" kind of environment, where every employee might hold a few roles at the same time.

    This is due to the limited number of people in the team and the risk factors that could be involved, especially for an early-stage start-up.

    That is why accepting a start-up job offer is not an easy decision for most people.

    On the other hand, joining a start-up can be fun and a great learning experience - it may also serve as a stepping stone towards becoming an entrepreneur yourself one day.

    If you are looking to join the community of start-ups, take some time to ask yourself these important questions.


    1. What stage is the start-up that you are being offered a position at?


    If the venture is still in its infancy, it will involve more risks (see Q8).

    You will also need to know how the start-up is funded to determine the level of risk you could be undertaking.


    2. Will the new role provide more learning opportunities than my current job?


    In a start-up environment, you might be taking up a few roles at the same time or your role may evolve as the start-up progresses.

    For example, someone who is initially hired as a developer to do programming could later get involved in user interface or user experience design.

    How much more you can learn depends on how much you already know about the roles you will be handling.

    Even if you have done something similar, there could be ways for you to develop further in the various roles.


    3. Do I have the right personality to work in a start-up?


    Meet and talk to the different members of the start-up you are intending to join.

    You could be working long hours - though this factor does not apply to all start-ups - and the entire company could consist of fewer than five people in a small workspace.

    It would be good to reflect if you have the aptitude to fit in and interact well in such a small-group environment.

    At the same time, you may wish to find out more about your future team members and the range of knowledge and skills they can impart to you.

    Next, it is all about adaptability. Start-ups are constantly in motion - new ideas to discuss, new projects to sink your teeth into. Are you ready to always be on-the-go?


    4. What type of worker am I?


    If you think that clear directions will always be given, well, you may be wrong.

    In fact, the opposite is usually true in a start-up - instructions tend to be dished out only when you ask for advice from a colleague or supervisor.

    Most of the time, you will have to be motivated and task-oriented enough to know what to do, or be willing to learn the hard way by figuring things out for yourself.

    No one is going to tell you what, how or when to do it. You have to constantly be ahead and intuitive enough to act as and when needed.


    5. What will my role be?


    Have you been told that you will take on a specific role, and is there a chance that additional roles may be assigned to you as the company climbs up the ranks of the industry?

    It is wise to understand the kind of responsibilities that the company is prepared to give you, and how prepared you are to take them on.

    Being clear on the potential roles and responsibilities will help you assess if you can handle the workload.


    6. Do the founders talk the talk but not walk the walk?


    While you are being hired to do the work, are the founders also putting in the same, if not more, effort than you?

    You will want to be assured that if a critical situation arises, the founders will be there to hold the ground together with you and the rest of the team.


    7. Why am I doing this?


    Some people join a start-up simply because they did not like their previous job, or had a hard time finding another job.

    Others take the plunge to learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

    What are your motivations? For instance, do you have a great interest and belief in what the start-up is doing?

    As start-ups might take some time before you will see efforts bear fruit, you will need to evaluate your career goals before making a commitment.


    8. What are the risks?


    Your time and effort will be significantly chained to the start-up and yet the company may fail in a blink of the eye.

    Therefore, if the start-up winds up, will you still be able to stand on your feet?

    Will you be able to see it as a learning journey and not allow the setback to prevent you from pursuing your career goals in the future?

    Doing some research on the start-up you are thinking of joining will help you determine if you can manage your feelings and other after-effects should the venture fail to pan out.

    This article first appeared on Startup Jobs Asia's website at