7 Lessons I Learned After Working in a Startup for 20 Months

7 Lessons I Learned After Working in a Startup for 20 Months

After failing in 11 interviews in my final year of engineering, I was devastated.

I knew I messed up!

The fear of being tagged as “unemployed” came upon me.

That’s when I decided to go for a post-graduation diploma course from a well-known institute in India.

I assumed that I had no other choice, right then.

I went into that institute. Enrolled in the course (which I thought would land me to my dream job).

But…

After 3 months, I realised that I was not doing any justice to myself.

It was a lie that I would tell myself that everything is fine and this is the only way to achieve success and make money.

That’s when I decided to take a bold step to opt-out of my post-graduation course.

I then returned back to my hometown and decided to work for a company for free (as an intern). 

I mean, what worse could have happened?

It was a B2B digital marketing startup company and they were looking to give opportunities to people who were looking to grow their career in digital marketing.

At that time, I had a very vague idea about digital marketing and its possibilities. And especially, about startups.

But I decided to take the leap, again.

And…boy oh boy! 

It proved to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Working in a startup proved to one of the unique experiences of my lifetime.

A small team, flat hierarchies, irregular work timings, multi-tasking and vibrant work culture are some of the things that define startups.

Over the last twenty months, I’ve learned more than I can boil down into seven points. But I believe these lessons speak a lot of startup culture and the amazing opportunities such an environment presents.

1. Multi-Tasking is Life

Researches say that humans are not really built for multi-tasking or doing several things at once.

Instead, we can switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly.

This is what exactly I experienced while executing various tasks day in and day out.

For example, while working in a digital marketing startup, you may state yourself as a Social Media Marketing Head, but along with you have to chip in with other tasks and responsibilities such as pitching the products/services to potential buyers.

Add to that, 10 more miscellaneous works that you will be facing for the first time.

At times it may seem very consuming and drowning in work but you really can’t complain about the workload because everyone around is pulling some extra weight.

Handing pressure and juggling multiple roles and responsibilities becomes natural over time.

2. Learn, Apply then Share

I understood this concept (very late to be honest) from one of my beloved mentors Digital Pratik who really focuses on executing things rather than just learning.

When I was just getting started with digital marketing, I used to consume and learn a lot of content through watching videos of Brian Dean, reading blogs of Digital Deepak and even taking a long list of notes out of them.

But very few things I would apply from those notes into my day-to-day works.

That’s where I realised that learning things won’t really help me in the long run, until and unless I’m ready to apply those learnings.

After the application process is done, I made a habit to share the outcomes with my fellow team members and consequently they used to give feedback and appreciations for my efforts.

This kept me motivated and inspired from within.

And in this way, I realised that I developed the eagerness to deliver more value than what’s expected, and perform even better.

3. Self-learning is the Key

Startup environments are very dynamic and ever-changing. 

So never expect people to ease you into the job or do any hand-holding.

When I started working as an intern, I was told to learn on my own. 

I was told to explore more about digital marketing and what interests me.

You have to understand that unlike the process of formal education, this way of self-teaching and experimenting things on your own, will reap exponential growth in your career.

You’ll have to get the knack of figuring out solutions as you go along.

There will be people around you who will be ready to help you out 24×7, but it is you who must have the endless hunger to learn every single moment.

And believe me, those learnings will prove to be invaluable and would significantly impact your career and your mindset.

4. Solution-Oriented Mindset

All these years in school and college, we were taught and processed to be a task-oriented person.

“What all needs to be completed? What is our deadline/time-frame? What it will take to get the job done?”

We were mostly directed to answer the “what” question.

Identifying problems and finding solutions was really not in focus.

I remember the times I used to crib and complain about things that made me look like a complete loser, but being in a startup completely changed my way of perceiving things.

I became more focused on executing the works more effectively and consistently finding out solutions to a given problem.

From a fundamental perspective, I became more inclined to understand and evaluate the “why” of things.

This way of thinking gave me more clarity in understanding my role in the process and to take necessary steps that would result in accomplishing the end goal.

5. Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Most of us have this default setting in our brain to say NO to any sudden change.

We love to stay in our comfort zone and expect that something magical would happen in our lives.

But it is a fact that when you are not executing things out of your comfort zone, you’ll never succeed.

When I got started with Facebook Ads, I was not really sure about the infinite number of terms that existed while creating an Ad Copy.

I was uncomfortable with the interface.

But when I created my first successful Ad Copy, it gave me a hell lot of confidence and an ineffable amount of joy.

This was only possible because I took the initiative to grab the opportunity to go out there and try stuff in such an environment.

After that, I never tried to limit myself in what way the startup had to offer me any task upfront. Whether it be SEO, Social Media Marketing, SEM, ORM and even sales, I was open to learning everything.

The experience of working in a startup, where things are changing every day, will teach you to embrace and adapt to change rather than resist it. 

6. Ability to Take Calculated Risks

When everyone around me was negative about working with a startup and suggested to continue my post-graduation course, I decided to trust my instinct.

It was not a calculated risk after all, but this decision actually worked out quite well.

Working for a start-up taught me to take calculated risks even if there is a high chance of failing.

Without taking a risk, you are forced to settle with an unoriginal strategy that so many other people have chosen to follow.

Consider what Mark Zuckerberg has to say: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

If you are choosing to work with a startup, you’re not afraid of risk-taking.

Working for a period of time in a startup will hone that skill.

7. No Fear of Being Judged

Whether you’re being interviewed or you’re pitching your silly idea to one of your friends, people will judge you anyways and in every situation.

But the startup environment is different.

Working in a small team environment, I learned to appreciate uniqueness as it helped us stand out from our competitors and branded our company image. 

Sometimes, if an idea is very silly, it is perfect to capture audience attention.

I understood that we all have different ways of looking at things and so nobody has the right to put down your insight just because it does not sync with theirs.

And if someone judges and rejects your idea, accept that gracefully and try to understand why he/she is saying so.

In Conclusion

Startups are risky business, but it can be an exciting journey too.

You’ll be a part of a team who will be ready to get things done no matter what the situation demands.

Just don’t be afraid of the uncertainty because that’s part of the fun.

And most importantly, speak up. Never hesitate to express yourself the way who you are. People will love you and your work when you are authentic.

Take the initiative to lead projects slowly and steadily and check your progress. Always remember that you’ve been invited into the start-up as your ideas and actions are important.

A startup may not make you a millionaire, but it may launch your career forward.

What do you think about startups? Leave a comment below. If you are working with a startup or have worked with a startup before, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

16 Responses

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    January 23, 2020
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      January 24, 2020
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    January 28, 2020
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