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Prospects and Pitfalls of Working for a Start-Up

September 21, 2015

To set your expectations straight at the beginning of your career or mid-way down the career lane, it is important for you to understand and relate to the prospects and pitfalls of working for a start-up. What can you expect from an unconventional work environment and lean team to maximise efficiency in a start-up?

While you might be initially allured by the thrill and excitement of working for a start-up – it can definitely prove to be a training ground for your entrepreneurial dreams, to gain significant exposure, leadership abilities and team building experience.

The camaraderie of working for a start-up sounds exciting; however there are few rules to abide by before you dive into the deep ocean of start-up culture. Through careful research and studies, we have managed to enlist few prospects and pitfalls for better clarity on how start-ups work. This will help you make wise balanced decisions in your career choice.


  • For those looking forward to get started on an entrepreneurial journey, a start-up experience is the best career bet – as you will have an opportunity to wear many hats, work on diverse projects and gain significant experience to meet your professional goals and achieve success in your personal endeavours of honing skills expertise for the job.
  • You can feel a sense of pride and ownership in the work you do and the company you work for.
  • You can direct access to the CEO or founder of the company, considering the lack of hierarchy in the business.
  • Increased transparency and visibility of operations is a good thing, especially if you are doing a great job.
  • You need to sometimes elf-advocate considering the lack of managers and supervisors within a typical start-up.
  • The work can be extremely satisfying experience when you see the company you work for grow in magnitude, hence many people are attracted to these kinds of opportunities.
  • The plus side is you get an opportunity to pick up new skills and become better in the business. To regain time, it would be better if you could streamline processes and research tools cou ld help you align priorities and operations.
  • If the company leader delegates responsibility well, then you may feel like you are running your own company. However, in many cases the start-up founder may have specific ideas about running business and an organisation. So independent thinking may not encouraged much, in this case you may feel like a robot.

See: Evaluate Your Job Offer before Committing


  • The number of hours that you need to put in at work can get extremely gruelling after a time. In the beginning, you might feel an adrenaline rush, however later you may be required to stay up late to resolve a problem or situation. However, if you are made to feel valuable as one of the key persons responsible for keeping the business running smoothly, would you still feel motivated after six or nine months? Since there is no time clock in start-ups or recognition for working overtime.
  • Smart leaders will recognise that crashing and burning is a part of the start-up culture. Expectation is no exception, at a later point in time you would have to begin cross-training employees on job and learning other’s job yourself to share the burden.
  • There will be times when you feel there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, as start-ups are lean and mean. With the number of employees and resources on board, everyone is needed to keep the company afloat.
  • You will be doing more than the job you signed for initially. It will not be unusual to take on a sales role or answer incoming calls. Pitching in is a part of the necessary job requirement. You might feel like saying, “That’s not my role or job I signed in for,” but this type of attitude wouldn’t work well with a start-up.
  • If you are expecting praise or being applauded for long working hours, then you can be seriously disappointed. Getting the job done at all cost is an expectation that goes unsaid with regards to start-ups.
  • The starting pay at start-ups isn’t usually the main attractive factor to recruit and retain talent. The funding is generally tight and invested in the business growth, hence even if you directly contribute towards the company’s expansion plans your salary hike is not guaranteed. Ultimately it is the vision of the founder and meeting his priorities, which can increase your chances of pay raise.

To understand before time, on how your boss feels about your contribution and determines pay raise, probe during interview with questions on how your performance will be adequately rewarded.

If the start-up has been functioning for a while, you can also enquire from senior professionals on rewarding career prospects in terms of professional, financial and personal satisfaction growth endeavours of the company.

Also read: 4 Risks You Should Never Take in Your Career

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