Things to consider before joining a startup   

Creative team enjoying communication in modern office, discussing ideas for startup, empty space, International Youth Day

The startup sector is thriving in the UK: in the first half of 2021, there were 340,500 startups founded, which equates to more than one startup being created per minute!

What’s more, it is estimated that 91% of UK entrepreneurs succeed after the first year, making startups an exciting career opportunity for those seeking innovation and change. However, working in the startup environment can be challenging, especially after the familiarity of a traditional corporate structure. Wendy McDougall, CEO and co-founder of Firefish Software, points out some key factors to consider before making the jump.

Do you have the right mindset?

When considering joining a startup, first, consider this: are you realistic about your ability to cope with change? Being part of a startup project means that everything needs to be done by a small team, so you have to be ready and excited to take on responsibilities, put your ideas forward and be part of a workspace where you will always have something to do. To succeed in a fast-paced startup environment, you need to be hungry for it. The biggest thrill of joining a business at this early stage is throwing yourself out of your comfort zone every single day. Does this idea excite you or scare you? Be honest with yourself and this will tell you if joining a startup is the right move for you.

Expect no rules!

If you’re looking for structure, don’t join a startup. You need to get your energy in the right place and be ready to focus on the work at hand in order to make your mark. A key skill is flexibility – you will need to be ready to wear many hats throughout the course of a day! Use all the tricks up your sleeve and be clear on what your transferable skills are, as they will be most useful in this changing environment.

Are you passionate?

No great work is achieved without passion. One of the main reasons that entrepreneurs start their own business is to pursue a project or idea they are passionate about, which is why you need to share this enthusiasm if you join their team. This means not only believing in the project but also sharing the startup’s values. Having that drive and motivation fuel your work will get you through the black days and the times when you feel demotivated, and you will look back on your experience with no regrets.

Timing is everything

With periods of great change there are always times of great innovation. If you are keen on being at the forefront of originality and creativity, make sure you keep an eye out for projects that excite you and network with people who have shared interests. Your timing will be key when deciding what projects you want to be involved with, so make sure to choose something that you believe in.

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Do you have the right support network?

Being part of an exciting project and challenging yourself is important, but it is not enough: you also need a strong support network. We don’t talk about the importance of support networks enough – when you’re working in a fast-paced growth environment, you will likely experience times of stress and you will often work long hours. It’s important to have support from people who understand this and to have the right coping mechanisms in place to ensure that stress does not become burnout. Surround yourself with people who understand what working in a stressful environment means and reach out when necessary.

Re-evaluate career progression

If you want a clear path to career development, you’re looking in the wrong place. Joining a startup is high-risk, high reward, so you have to acknowledge that some things will not be as linear as traditional business development. However, you will gain some key skills that can only be developed with the experience of working in a startup. So if you are ready to take that risk and embrace working for the results rather than for the promotion, you are looking in the right direction.

Be confident!

Being part of a vibrant, creative and passionate team is always rewarding, but it also leads to some team members being overshadowed. This is why you need to recognise your value as part of the team and bring this forward so that your contribution is recognised. You should always remember that you control your own future, you influence the end game and you will reap the rewards one day.

Make sure you consider these key points carefully before you make your decision. But once you are sure, be confident in yourself and grab the opportunity!

Wendy McDougallAbout the author

Wendy McDougall, CEO of Firefish Software, has been making waves and influencing recruitment technology for nearly two decades. Wendy founded 9-20 Recruitment in 2004 and in the first year of trading (from her back bedroom) the business turned over £1m. Following an investor-led MBO, Wendy built Firefish Software, the largest independent recruitment software provider in the UK.

In 2021, Firefish was listed in the top five fastest growing tech companies in Scotland for the fifth year running, and increased revenue by 30%. In the same year, Wendy was dubbed Most Innovative Woman in Recruitment by Recruiter Magazine and her team won Best Talent Tech Company to Work For at the TALiNT Recruitment Awards.

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