Here's Why You Should Be Working at a Startup in Your 20s

A simple answer - working at a startup early in your career builds a strong foundation for your professional network. But how? Read on.

The early stages of your career are pretty exciting times. But they can also lead to frustration.

On the one hand, there are more possibilities open than ever before. It’s the beginning of a journey that will bring unexpected hardships and triumphs and take you in directions you probably never expected.

But on the other, it is the first time you’re working without a roadmap. And it might be intimidating, as most of us have been trained by the Indian education system to follow the syllabus and stay within it.

Starting right out of college, you might have to compromise a bit on your ideal job role. In fact, you may not even know what the ideal role is for you, yet. Depending on your industry and profession, you’ll have to work hard to distinguish yourself in a competitive field. There might be times when you feel like you are ready for more responsibility than you are given. And there might be times where you feel like a complete imposter, incapable of doing the work assigned to you.

But isn’t that how you grow?

You don’t have to have it all figured out at the beginning of your career. But during these early stages when you are working in your 20s, it’s important to discover your strengths and weaknesses so that you can set yourself up on a path for success.

We believe that working at a startup – at least for a while – is important for anyone when they’re just getting started in their career. Below are a few of the best reasons why working at a startup when you are young will help you get on the path to a long and fulfilling career.

Startups help you explore and learn new skills

Startups – particularly in their early stages – are notorious for requiring employees to wear many different hats. This is especially valuable for someone who has a general idea of what they want to do, but maybe aren’t sure about the specifics.

For example, maybe you are interested in marketing but not exactly sure what specific kind of marketing role would be best for you. In the earliest stages, a startup usually won’t be able to hire multiple employees for individual marketing roles like graphic designers, copywriters, social media managers, SEO experts, etc.

This means that if you’re a marketing hire, your startup employer will likely request you to help out in multiple areas. This is a great way for you to dabble in several different disciplines besides marketing to see which ones you like and are naturally skilled in.

Startups help you build an impressive resume

While having an impressive resume isn’t quite as important when you are just starting out in the workforce, it’s never too early in your career to start thinking about what your job history looks like. It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are or how integral you feel to your current company: there may come a time in your career when you change jobs unexpectedly.

Even if you aren’t working at an extremely prominent startup with millions in funding, having any kind of startup employment on your record will show potential employers that you have experience in a fast-paced company and know what it’s like to push boundaries in your field. Startup experience can be particularly beneficial if you are looking to change fields, especially if you can indicate that you worked on projects in your desired job field.

Startups help you understand how entrepreneurship works

One of the tenets of a startup is doing market research: understanding and listening to customers, particularly when it’s early in the product development stage and substantial features are still being developed. A growing startup needs to have its ear to the ground and be able to internalize and respond to market feedback quickly. This kind of agility is the hallmark of a successful business – almost any startup that’s been around for several years has changed its offering in response to customer requests, market conditions, or a combination of both.

By contrast, this sort of business-first approach to work isn’t as common in large corporations, particularly in non-customer facing roles. In fact, there might be multiple layers of communication between a given employee at a large business and the customers they serve.

But at a startup, it’s so important to focus on and listen to the customers that almost everyone at the organization will at least have a broad understanding of the startup’s customer persona and its desires, challenges, etc. If you stay in this kind of environment long enough, it helps train your thinking. You’ll be able to call upon and apply this entrepreneurial mindset to many other situations later in your career.

Even if you don’t want to start your own business, this kind of thinking is extremely valuable in the business world – especially if you eventually want to work your way into a senior management role.

Startups help you build a strong network

The people you know professionally can make all the difference in your career, no matter what point you’re at. Whether you are connecting with mentors who are in a more advanced role to seek advice on standing out at work, or looking to get referred to a new employment opportunity, having a strong network means you start off much further along in your pursuit of the goal.

Working at a startup as one of your first jobs gives your network a very strong foundation. Your inner network will be colleagues and supervisors, but eventually you’ll be able to branch out and potentially connect with vendors and customers, as well as others working in the startup community.

Even if you don’t stay at the same startup – or any startup at all – it’s beneficial to keep in touch with people in this world. Many employees who find success at startups go on to become managers or senior-level executives at other companies. They can make great connections down the road in your career, whether you find yourself looking to advance into a higher position or want to launch your own venture.

Startups provide greater career autonomy

When you join a typical company in a traditional sector of the economy, there’s usually a set career path you can expect to follow. For example, in the IT field, you may start out as a support specialist, then move on to become an analyst, then a support manager. Eventually, you might be able to move into a director-level role, although these jobs are typically highly competitive.

On the other hand, working at a startup means you might not have such a direct track for advancement. For someone used to having this kind of specific track to follow, the prospect can seem worrisome. But if you have the skills and creativity needed, working at a startup can allow you to create your own job track. At these kinds of organizations, you’ll have much more control over the projects you work on as well as the professional skills you get to use.

If you join a very early-stage startup, you might even be able to craft your own job description based on your own talents and proclivities.

When you combine greater professional freedom with a willingness to work on learning new skills even outside of work, the result is much greater control over your professional role. If you decide to transition out of the company, you’ll be able to position yourself to transition more seamlessly to your desired next role.

Final thoughts

Your 20s can be both a frustrating and exhilarating time in your career: you’ll be learning a lot, working a lot, and discovering things about your professional desires and preferences. One of the best ways to maximize your skill development and get yourself set up on a career trajectory that aligns with your deeper personal goals is to work at a startup in the beginning of your career.

While you might find yourself frustrated or burned out from time to time given the intense pace and expectations, your time working at a startup will improve your ability to deal with uncertainty, your ability to learn, and your personal network of ambitious and driven people who can connect you to many lucrative opportunities in the future.


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