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Why work at a startup?
7 Benefits for your career and future

Marco Louters

Last update: March 27th, 2022 | Read time: 5 minutes

Why work at a startup?

Marco Louters

Last update: March 27th, 2022
Read time: 5 minutes

A startup experience can be extremely beneficial to your professional growth and future career. But yeah, a startup experience is a startup experience. And that has – as with everything in life – pros and cons.

Let’s start by defining what a startup is.


Startup definition:

    • a company designed to grow fast
    • with a concept that is scalable
    • and an aim to go global.


Not all startups are equal, or in the same phase. Some might be bootstrapped, some might have acquired funding, some might be pre-funding, some might still be looking for product-market fit, whilst others are scaling up.

Many of us have seen one of the images below at least once before.


As a rule, startups don’t have a big corporate building or a massive list of additional employee benefits. It could very well be that your new career starts off in the living room or garage of one of the founders, or a cheaply rented office space.

Although, nowadays that could also be your own living room, with an increasing number of companies adopting a full remote work policy, or a hybrid form.

Startups are forced to be lean and cost-efficient. They have yet to prove their right of existence; going from problem-solution fit to product-market fit, or have to scale up as quickly as possible with what they have.

Because they have limited runway, they have to get a lot of work done in a small period of time with a small team. And because they have limited funds, they value quality talent; high performers and generalists, who can make the difference and handle more than just one specific task.

With the crucial necessity to keep overhead costs as low as possible, startups have to cut employees who don’t pull their weight.

Working at a startup equals hard work, long hours, constant change, lower starting pay and benefits, the need to love what you are doing, the need to believe in what you are doing, and the need to do a lot of different things, including the ‘dirty jobs’ that you might think are below you.

At the same time, you are an essential part of the team; not a cog in the big corporate machine. You work on exciting projects, your ideas will be heard, it truly matters what you do, and founders are genuinely grateful to their early hires; those that are willing to take the leap with them.

In addition, there are some genuine beneficial factors from working at a startup that will serve you in the next part of your career, and possibly for the rest of your professional – and personal – life.

1. Experience of wearing multiple hats

As mentioned, startups generally have small teams; meaning you will have to do a lot of different things. You will wear multiple hats. You might be marketing, graphic design, ux-design, customer support, sales, office manager, and copywriter at the same time, while also packing hundreds of envelopes for an upcoming project.

At the early stages of a company, generalists are usually valued more than specialists.

Not only does this train you to be extremely flexible and able to rapidly change your thinking patterns, it allows you to understand every business role on a deeper level than otherwise possible. You experience the different corners of a business first-hand.

This multifaceted background might help you discover what you find most interesting and meaningful to do, and will definitely be valued by your next employer, or co-founders, or future self.

2. Knowing the fundamentals

Opposite to a well-established company, in a startup everything remains to be done. Being there from the beginning of time, you help build up the company from its base.

And usually, the responsibility and ownership to do that lies with you. You shape the way something is done in your field of responsibility, and will learn why certain things are important and others are not, why some things work and others do not, and what makes an organization solid.

3. Work ethic

One cannot work at a startup without having good work ethic. Having worked at a startup means you know how to pull up your sleeves and get down to business. It means you don’t shy away from doing the things that need to be done.

Everything is on high speed, with a mindset of today; not tomorrow.

Having great work ethic will present you opportunities that to most people are impossible to reach.

If your work ethic used to be good, a startup experience will level you up to great.

4. Habit of learning

People adopting a lifelong learning mentality are increasingly more valued. As a matter of fact, many people don’t just want to work and receive a paycheck, they also want to improve themselves and learn new things.

Company benefits related to professional growth are highly appreciated.

Slow and steady wins the race” is however the main philosophy on this subject; maybe a LinkedIn course this first half year and a workshop on customer service in the second half.

In my opinion, this does not work at a startup.

At a startup, learning has a completely different meaning; it must be fast, frequent, and basically habitual.

The company itself has to learn very fast what problem to solve and how to solve it. The individuals working at the company have to learn how to do new things rapidly, experimenting on the go, as roles and approaches change, and the company grows.

We live in a world of exponential development, and this is noticed especially at startups. By some, startups are called an Intern Paradise.

5. An eye for spotting opportunity for innovation

A startup is in itself innovation. It is at its core; identifying problems, spotting opportunity, and crafting a solution.

Working at a startup means this will become part of your mindset; the way you look at the world. A mindset of innovation instead of settling with the status quo.

You will thrive in finding opportunity and possibility quickly. You’ll see things that can be improved, processes that would work better if handled slightly different, or recognize the patterns that show there is a problem waiting to be solved.

6. Taking the short route to a leadership position

The roles in a startup develop very quickly. A position as CTO or CMO involves very different type of work in the beginning than in a later stage. The role will evolve; from doing everything yourself to leading a team.

As the startup grows, there are constantly more positions becoming available. Often existing staff have an opportunity to advance in roles or take on a higher role.

7. Growing assets in the form of stock

At startups, is is very common for the first hires to receive a percentage of stock in addition to a salary. You thus not only contribute to the increase in value of the company, but can also benefit from this yourself.

8. Afterword

Working at a startup is an energized experience, very different from ordinary companies.

But do some more research beforehand. Read a couple more articles and blogs on the subject. And if I may make a suggestion, you should definitely add The Hard Truth of Working At a Startup to your reading list.

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