Leaving Corporate Stability for A Challenging Startup Career

In 2014 I decided to leave my boring, stable job to work for ONE400, our little startup that could.  In the past year I have watched this company grow from a humble marketing provider, to an international law innovation agency.  Joining a startup was one of the best decisions I made in my career, but it wasn’t an easy choice to come here.  I am frequently asked about my job, and what’s it’s like – so I wanted to share some advice with anyone considering working at a startup.


Overcome Your Fear of Failure When Looking for A Startup Job

Perhaps the biggest fear I faced was the possibility of failure. When you work at a startup, you have a lot more invested in the company.  You work harder, find better solutions, and find that you are much more innovative than you think.  I would not recommend joining a startup for someone who wants to sit in the back of the room – but rather an outlet for someone who feels unheard at their current job to flex their creative muscles.

Another big fear I overcame was stepping outside of my comfort level.  I had been at the same job since graduating college, and I had been unhappy since day one.  The possibility of looking forward to going to work everyday, was worth pushing myself out of the box.  


Challenges of Working at A Startup Agency

Becoming A Jack of All Trades

At my last job, each department was separated.  These departments interfaced through a project manager, usually with a significant amount of push back.  Nearly every project was attached with a snarky note stating, “this is not my job, send it back to marketing.”  If you join a startup, you will be in every department.  We have group discussions on every project we take on to make sure everyone is on the same page, and the client’s needs are met.  If our designer is swamped with work, I will take some off her plate – and vice versa.  Working with a small team forces you to wear many hats, and learn things you would normally outsource to someone else.  It also ensures that your opinions are heard and respected.


Stress Level Explosion

I can say without a doubt in my mind that I have never had a boring day at ONE400.  That being said, I can recall several days where my mountain of work seemed impossible.  You will be stressed, but it will also drive you to become a better at what you do.  The satisfaction of working your tail off and producing work you are proud of is immeasurable.  If you are not willing to work some nights, or weekends, or mornings, startups are not for you.


Post-Its Everywhere

Startup life is fast-paced, and a lot of information is relayed on the fly.  You will need to figure out a solution to stay organized.  I, personally, use Post-It Notes.  At any given time I will have a minimum of three on my desk.  Embrace it, and find your system.


Am I Doing This Right?

Sometimes you will question everything, which is okay! Self-reflecting makes you a smarter person.  Being in a small team also allows you to ask for more help, critiques, and advice – utilize the resources around you.  


Selecting the Right Startup to Work for

While you can never be 100% sure if you are picking the right company (which is part of the fun), there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help solidify your decision:

  • How did the startup treat me when I called?
  • Did their company culture work with your personality?
  • Do they have any press?
  • What are some of their big successes so far?
  • Is the product solving a problem?
  • Do you think they can succeed?
  • Can you help them succeed?
  • Are they funded?

If you score an interview, you can also ask questions directly.  Be sure to cover anything that you are concerned about.  

The Startup Job is Perfect, the Salary is Not

You scored an offer, but it’s not exactly the compensation you asked for.  Remember, the business is young and you are getting in at the ground floor.  Instead of throwing the idea off the table, think about other incentives like stock options, free beer, or PTO.  Try and keep everything in perspective – you are getting an invaluable experience, and escaping a job you are not happy with.


Work for A Startup By Joining ONE400

Now that you are convinced that you want to take a job at a startup, head over to our careers page.  You can apply for any of these jobs by sending your resume and creative cover letter to [email protected]

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