Growing up, I was always told that you should work in the service industry at least once. Seeing what wait staff and bartenders experience on a daily basis is eye-opening and educational. After working as a hostess in high school, I completely agree with this advice. And after working at a startup for six months, I think the same advice applies.
When I was looking for an internship for my final semester of college, I had no direction. The idea of working at a PR agency was intimidating to me, so I geared my search toward in-house positions. I stumbled upon Videotape on a university job site, and luckily, they gave me a chance.
In Austin, tech is booming, and it seems like everyone you know either has a startup or works at one. As silly as it sounds, my preconceived notions of the Austin tech community were why I never considered working at a startup. Anytime I heard someone brag about their “collaborative work-space” or “office beer tap,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes (and I still do). But here I am, six months into the world of seed funding, venture capital and bootstrapping, and I like what I’ve found.
There is something to be said for the flexibility startups allow. If you’re tired of wearing a suit and tie every day, I suggest trying to find a position at a startup. The atmosphere is worlds apart from the corporate environment, and much more laid back. If you need to, you can usually work from home, something corporate employees can only dream of. If you’re anything like me, trying to be productive at 8 a.m. is hard, no matter how much coffee I’ve had. Not everyone thrives on a typical work schedule, and most startups understand that. And we get to wear jeans to work.
I’m happiest in environments where I’m allowed some creative freedom. Working at a startup, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to put your creativity to use. At Videotape, we’re always trying new things and different approaches to our work. Not only does this encourage thinking outside-the-box, it requires it. If you like doing the same thing every day, then the startup environment won’t be your cup of tea. If you thrive on growth and new opportunities, you’ll fit right in.
Typically, you’re working in a small office space with a few people. Being surrounded by people who are innovative and excited is a neat thing. If you thrive on collaboration and brainstorming, you’ll enjoy the startup environment. If you prefer to work alone, that doesn’t mean you should rule startups out. As I said before, many startups allow you to work remotely. With that being said, you’ll still have to communicate frequently with your team.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” You’re not just an employee at a startup. Your work, or lack of, matters and directly affects your team. Due to the need to stay “lean,” you’ve got to do your job, because nobody else can pick up your slack. Startups that prosper are made up of people who are passionate about their product. Be prepared to own your work, because there’s no room for the half-hearted here.
I’ve learned a lot in the past six months that I never would have if I had gotten on board at Videotape. I’ve gotten to be a part of building something from scratch, which is invaluable. Even though I’m just an intern, my opinions actually matter. I’ve been able to get my hands dirty, try things out, and witness the evolution of our product. If the idea of working a typical nine to five job makes you feel like your insides are dying, look into working at a startup. I promise, you won’t regret it.