Most of us want to do our jobs well. We want meaningful jobs, greater security, higher status, bigger pay packages and a brighter future. This expectation is valid irrespective of the type of industry or organization one works in. The one place I particularly find employees expressing their need for faster career growth is a start up. Accelerated career growth is one of the most important value proposition a startup offers. But the ability to make use of this fast growing environment ultimately depends on the employee.
1. Be Effective:
Efficiency is doing the job right; effectiveness is doing the right job.
A startup is always trying to do more with less time and money. Efficiency, as a result, is of utmost importance. However, in the process, it is easy to lose track of the effectiveness of the task.
What does one need to do to go from being efficient to being effective?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is the one pressing need of my startup at this moment?
2. What is the primary source of revenue?
3. What was the last big win?
4. What were the changes or tasks that led to this win?
These questions help you understand the changing needs of your startup and give you clarity on what to focus on.
Sit with your co-founders and your boss to know what you should be focussing on. Here’s a quadrant that helps you arrive at this decision.
2. Be an Intrapreneur:
A good employee does what they are told to do, a great employee recognizes what needs to be done and gets the job done.
If there were one characteristic I would rate high for a startup employee; it would be this.
This isn’t employees trying to do better at their existing jobs or move up the ladder; this is them wanting to create something new that doesn’t currently exist.
Encouraging intrapreneurs help not only the employee but also the startups.
If companies give their talent something to focus on, projects to own, people will stay and help their business move forward.
3. Attitude Counts:
Being known as someone who is easy to work with is a huge plus in a start up. Right attitude means giving it your best shot, every day. It also means going that extra mile even when you are tired, pissed, and ready to quit.
A good startup is willing to invest in people. At Exotel, we always look for individuals who want to “punch above their weight.”
So what does it mean to “punch above one’s weight class?” It’s a boxing analogy. It means a welterweight who wants to fight in the heavyweight category. It means a “young Turk” who has something to prove.
4. Dig into your boss’s job:
This is a corollary of the previous point.
Punching above your weight also means that you make sure that your boss has the mind space to think of projects and tasks beyond the scope of your job without having to worry about the job getting done.
5. Earn your seat at the table:
Startups are not a place for titles and entitlements. The CEO has done everything – from sales to managing network administration. An employee’s ability to create or add value to both the short-term and long-term goals makes them a part of the conversation that is strategic to the company.
6. Be the Plan B person:
Roadblocks are a part of every startup’s journey. Most people lose steam when they run into roadblocks that could derail projects. Overcoming obstacles by either planning ahead or being resourceful and having a plan B is an important and much-valued skill at any startup. Demonstrating the ability to overcome obstacles at work inspires confidence across the board.
Don’t focus on it. The people who strive in a startup are those that don’t rely on money to find solutions. This again is a corollary of the point mentioned above. Creativity strives under constraints.
One great advantage startups have over established companies stems from the size and funding constraints most startups share. In the absence of the budget, it would take to hire an R&D team, the founders themselves spend time in the field gathering information.
As an early stage startup employee, you get to be a part of this process too.
8. Build the right team:
Startups need to be always hiring to get the best people. The early stage employees play a large role in ensuring this happens.
As they say, A Players hire A Players, B Players hire C Players (because C players make the B players look good).
Never hire out of urgency. One compromise is enough to degrade the quality, so if you are one of the people responsible for recruiting, it is better to wait for the right person than settle.
And finally, it is important to capitalize on the career enhancing moments; It can be a customer escalation, an important presentation or report, managing a crisis, etc. A lot of people, when presented with stressful situations, are filled with dismay and horror, but a startup employee understands that these are career-enhancing moments and is ready to rise to the occasion and shine. They understand that there are no bad jobs, but only a bad attitude to jobs.