What I Learned After Working In A Start-Up

In this day and age, there are thousands of start-ups popping out of nowhere and dominating the work field. I’ve worked for a “beauty” start-up for about 1 year and I have to say… it’s a true roller coaster. Here are 5 things I learned after working for a tiny, failing start-up in Los Angeles, CA.

You will get frustrated, almost everyday

The thing about working in a start-up is that you won’t really feel a sense of structure, unless you make it for yourself. In my experience, my bosses had SO many different ideas and just didn’t know how to communicate that with us and just expected us to be mind-readers. He would seldom tell us exactly what he wanted and changed his mind almost every day… and he would expect us to deliver what he wanted. Sounds frustrating, right? My advice: take minutes of each meetings and write down everything that was discussed, word by word. That way, your boss can visually see what it is that he asked you to do and can’t go back saying that he never said it (which has happened to me far too many times…). Be organized, have a plan, and don’t take it personally. 

One more thing- most likely you will be working in an open office. Everyone’s emotions will be poured out into the room and if one person is angry, you will definitely feel it. Don’t let this overwhelm you. Have a pair of headphones handy and try to avoid any negative emotions that your co-workers might be feeling.


Your ideas will be heard and you probably will have lots of creative freedom

Now, this can be a good and bad thing.
I started to learn very quickly that I was hired for a reason – I understood their brand and they trusted me with my creative direction. Whatever I wanted to do, they were down. While this may be the best thing about working for a start-up, it can get very redundant as well. Having your bosses rely solely on what you can come up will eventually burn you out. Since the team is so small, there’s really no wiggle room to bounce off ideas with one another and work in a collaborative effort. This is what my work was lacking… which eventually led me to loose my passion for the company. Also, it didn’t help that I didn’t believe in the product itself.


There is a ton of room for growth

The good thing about working for a start-up is that your team is small and it’s easier for you to fill in the upper people’s shoes. I went from the lowest of the lowest to the “upper” people in less than a year. I started off as social media manager, then to digital marketing manager, and then director of creatives. The moment my marketing manager decided to quit, I volunteered myself and told them I wanted to learn and I was eager to grow in the company. At the moment I might’ve hated it, but this decision was the smartest decision I ever made. I was able to learn valuable skill sets that only “qualified” people are able to do and eventually I became a very valuable employee. Not to mention, I received 3 raises in less than a year.


The secret to never getting laid off

Within the year I’ve worked at my job, there were 2 sessions of lay-offs (about 6-7 employees). By the time I left, the team went down to about 4 full time employees… leaving me alone in the marketing team. How did I manage to make the cut every time? I was a chameleon.  I was able to offer the company lots of different skill sets in addition to what I was originally hired for. Not only did I know social media marketing, I knew how to video edit, produce a campaign, take photos, create ads, and eventually optimize ads. That’s like 4 people’s jobs that I was able to perform so it’s a no-brainer for them to keep someone like that. They save money and you get the raise. It’s a win-win. So my advice: try to learn EVERYTHING you can before leaving the start-up. This might be your only chance to get full exposure on jobs that you don’t qualify for yet.


Coffee will be your best friend

When I was transitioning into digital marketing, I would literally have to be watching the ads every minute. My boss would be calling me at random hours like 7am or 11pm to check in. On top of that, having to keep up with social media and content creation was really kicking my butt at one point. But you have to remember, a start-up doesn’t generally operate strictly on “normal business hours”. You will be stretched and maxed out to the core on some days…so that’s why you gotta have coffee handy to keep you sane. It helps if you get to work at cute coffee shops to get away from the open office environment. Don’t worry…if I could do it, you can definitely do it.

seriously…so much caffeine 

So, those were my two cents on the start-up life. My only hope is that you learned something from my experience and get a better understanding about working for a start-up. If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask me in the comments below. I’m an open book, so ask away.

Cool coffee photo credits: Stephanie Pak


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