The startup life is full of twists and turns. One moment a startup might be making a breakthrough, but the next moment the team might be collapsing due to many possible causes, such as mismanagement, investor conflicts, and more.
Staying at a startup for several years is also not easy, especially in a society where young, fresh graduates are told to work for large corporations because the salary is higher and the career path is less risky.
For me, accepting the offer from my current company, Tagtoo, 4 years ago was actually the best decision I’ve ever made. It allowed me to closely observe how a CEO managed an organization and gave me the opportunity to take on more responsibilities.
Working in a startup is challenging. With that said, there are actually a few tips that can help you get through all the difficulties and succeed in any assigned mission.
Here are 3 takeaways I learned as a senior employee in a startup.
Be versatile and collaborative
In most cases, there is no clear structure in a startup organization. One moment you are approaching potential clients as a salesperson, the next moment you may be designing the next seasonal campaign as a marketer with other team members. This is exactly how a startup life looks like.
To be able to succeed in the aforementioned scene, being a master in a specific field is not necessary. In fact, being versatile and collaborative is key. A startup employee should be open in supporting any projects and be collaborative to work with colleagues from different teams to achieve a greater goal.
As far as I was concerned, my previous position was about managing our clients’ advertising accounts and optimizing their digital ads to reach the target ROI. Little did I realised that I was also required to handle customer service on behalf of the sales team sometimes due to the manpower shortage.
I didn’t think that my company didn’t appreciate my specialities. Instead, I was more than happy to support other teams in any way I could. I strongly agreed with the company’s mission and extremely valued the togetherness created by everyone in the organization.
Startup life is not as glamorous as one thinks, and, yes, it is sometimes kind of messy. But an ideal startup employee should be able to tolerate the chaos and utilise all his innate talents and work with other teams to ensure projects succeed.
Be independent and self-taught
In a startup, your manager might not be able to give you clear instructions all the time. Chances are he or she has several ongoing projects at hand and is supporting different functional teams.
In situations like this, being independent and self-taught becomes extremely critical for a startup employee to get on the right track and not to be at a loss of what to do. You can not expect others to come to your aid every time you are handling a hot potato.
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Take me as an example. There wasn’t anyone that possessed market research skills at Tagtoo when I took the position of Market Analyst. My assigned research reports continuously didn’t meet my CEO’s expectation. For the first 3 months, I was almost lost and was not sure how to step ahead.
Thankfully, I bounced back after realizing the sense of loss didn’t help at all. I changed the way I worked and started to utilize available online resources such as eMarketer and SimilarWeb to make reports look more professional. I also learned that I should see obstacles ahead as opportunities to improve my problem-solving skills and try to become a reliable employee that can take on greater responsibilities.
While it took me another 3 months to recover my morale, the process had enabled me to become more independent and deepened my skill of self-learning.
Be confident and ambitious
Startups are not like big corporates that have abundant resources to spare. It is critical to seize any potential opportunity, such as strategic partnerships, that enables your startup company to grow,
To help you startup gain a strong foothold in a market, being confident and ambitious is the key to success. The former allows you to take on more challenges and responsibilities while the latter helps you to see the bigger picture on the startup’s future development.
In my case, I was given numerous opportunities to engage with senior executives and convince them to adopt our services when I was promoted to oversee the business development in Jakarta. However, I found it hard to eliminate my fear to give decent sale presentations among experienced industry insiders and thereby failed to close any deal.
Only when I came across several student entrepreneurs who seemed naive but confidently approached me did I learn that one’s confidence level can be increased through intentional practices. Subsequently, as the confidence level goes up, the way you see things will dramatically change and that’s when your ambition starts at play.
This may be the most difficult part to practice. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and overcome your nervousness so that you can possess the self-belief that you can do a great job. It’s not easy, but I am pretty sure it will be rewarding.
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