How to make a Smooth Transition to Your Startup Job

Collaborative Environment / Loud Open Office Plan

I think open office plans are great. These spaces are amazing for collaboration, and happen to be the cheaper and trendier alternative to private offices and cubes. Yet, these floor plans get a bad rap, especially for introverts. (One third to one half of the workforce is introverted.) With everything out in the open, the space is likely going to be noisy. Phone calls, meetings, even overflow music from your neighbor’s headphones. As a person who enjoys seeing the big picture, I like overhearing different conversations. But when there’s work to be done, I can go nuts trying to focus in on my own work.

The key to making it work: Noise canceling headphones and telecommuting options. At one job, we had a head phones rule - if someone had headphones in, they were not to be bothered. This worked only 78% of the time, but I think a no interruptions policy is a must.

Great Organizational Culture / Complete Lack of Privacy

If your company is just starting out, you might be in an alternative space. Lower rent sometimes means one bathroom for 8 people. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but really what I’m trying to convey is that there’s a big lack of privacy at most small businesses. There might not be a place to retreat to make a quick phone call or take a breather. Your colleagues are going to know when you’re upset or overwhelmed. They will probably also know when your next dental cleaning is, because you had to call and schedule from your desk. Having your coworkers know so much about your personal life can feel like you’re living a life without boundaries.

The key to making it work: Still trying to figure this one out. But, Boundaries, people.

Ability to Perfect Different Skill Sets / Multiple Job Titles

It’s a startup, and when you’re starting - there’s a lot to do! This translates into a very vague job title to encompass your actual jobs. If you’re a champion at wearing many hats, than perfect. This is the environment for you!

The key to making it work: Time blocking. I time block as much as possible. With my job at Root Radius, I’d have a social media time block, and then an help the design team time block, then a love on and check in with our clients time block. This wouldn’t have worked if I had been designing, checking twitter + writing a thank you note at the same time. Time blocking helped me make sense of not having a clear cut job title. Plus at the end of the day when you’re out of the whirlwind and wondering what even happened today - you can look at your calendar and know you’ve accomplished something.

Independence / You Depend on You

I will say that the ability to just figure it out should be on resumes and a big factor in hiring decisions. When you work in a small business, there’s sometimes not a person to consult with you on a problem right away.  

The key to making it work: Google is your personal assistant, your mentor, your teacher. I’m going to be honest, I spent the first few months of my first job googling everything my bosses said. Know when to ask your boss for help and when to just figure it out.

Financial Transparency / Financial Transparency

You will probably know way too much about the company's finances to be comfortable. Whether it be thin walls, misplaced paperwork, or just being at a position where you have a right to know, knowing about the company's finances will make you do one of two things. You will either work harder or freeze in your tracks. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

The Key to making it work: Knowing the financial state of your startup, you should make 100% sure that you are using your time with them efficiently. Even if it meant less time and less money. At some point you can care more about the org and their mission than you do about your personal gain. That being said, don’t act like you hate money. Spend some time researching a fair payment for your work. You’re not doing your company or yourself any favors by working under market value.

Startup jobs are not for everyone. But, if you love the thrill of solving a problem and can put up with the quirks, then you’re in the right place.