Joining a startup might seem interesting, but you could be putting yourself in a tricky situation if you aren’t careful.
If you have an entrepreneurial drive, a startup job may appeal to you. However, it’s still essential to understand whether you’re even cut out for this type of work before you get into it or not.
Joining a startup comes with several risks, and we’ll identify a selection of reasons you might want to reconsider below.
1. You May Not Get Paid What You’re Worth
There’s no doubt that the learning opportunities at startups are good, but they will always ask you to keep the cost low until the benefits arrive. In some instances, such as if you have to interview someone, the company might expect you to pay for coffee or lunch.
Before joining a startup, learn about its investors. If they’re some random people or the hiring managers aren’t willing to disclose who they are, you should think twice. You never know when someone may pull their funding, and you’re out of a job.
2. Quit If They’re Not Offering Equity Right From the Start
Some startups compensate for less pay and long working hours by offering some form of equity. If your hiring manager is telling you otherwise or asking you to wait for a few months to be eligible, you’re entering the negotiation phase from a weak position.
Moreover, the value of equity is usually good when you join a startup in its early stage. Later on, it doesn’t make that much difference—for instance, the equity offered to its 30th employee will be worth much better than what’s offered to its 100th employee.
If you don’t want to be here for the long term, or you dislike your role later on, you’ll again waste your time by working for a lower salary than you could’ve got elsewhere.
3. More Responsibilities
While it’s possible to maintain your work-life balance while working for a startup, you’ll have to be a pro in time management and smart work. That’s mainly because certain companies may require you to work long hours and serve more duties than your contract states.
4. Less Mentorship
Startups often have no training period; you’re expected to get to work as soon as you join.
In terms of training, the only thing that you can expect is to check how someone else is doing what you have to do. Nevertheless, there won’t be many people that you can reach out to for guidance due to the small team and tons of work.
If you join a startup in its extremely early stage, let’s say when it only has 15-20 employees, it’s possible that there would be no managers there. While having a flat structure works in many countries, it can also lead to bad management when poorly implemented.
In some cases, you might find that the only people that classify as managers have little experience. So, if you want to solve disputes at the workplace, you might have problems.
In some cases, you might also not get personal feedback—meaning that you’ll have to figure out more on your own.
6. High-Risk, Less Personal Space
Many startups fail, and they can do so for several reasons. It may happen because a big company entered the space, or the vision of the CEO doesn’t align with the investors—and they end up pulling their funding.
While high-risk decisions can pay off spectacularly, you also risk making big mistakes—and the room for error is often not too big.
Meanwhile, some startups might demand that you work weekends and not allow you to take long vacations. If you don’t want to work in a high-pressure environment with the potential to have little in return, you might want to reconsider your job prospects.
Founders have little time to deliver results on specific deadlines, and investors demand that they show things are working out. So, if you need to deliver something, it’ll need to be on time—and ideally, correct the first time. You probably won’t get sugar-coated feedback, either; seniors will tell you directly if you’ve done something that’s bad.
For many people, having that kind of feedback is crucial for personal growth. But if you find dealing with such things challenging, a startup job might not be your most ideal option.
8. Working in a Startup May Get Chaotic
The highs and lows of working in a startup can be emotionally exhausting. For instance, if your team worked on a client’s project for over six months—but things didn’t work out at the end and the client fires the firm—your entire work will go in vain. Instead, you’ll need to start from scratch with something else.
The level of uncertainties is usually high and things change within hours here. To work at a startup, you must act like an entrepreneur. You need to have a desire to help the company succeed and not show up to tick boxes and collect a paycheck.
Is a Startup the Right Career Move for You?
Joining a startup has several rewards. You will learn a lot of skills that will help you find your next job or start a business of your own, and you’ll also learn how to work under serious pressure.
At the same time, joining a startup might not be your best option if you want a decent work-life balance—and to work for a company that has already proven it can sustain itself in its field.