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10 Important Lessons from Working in a Start-Up

10 Important Lessons from Working in a Start-Up

Start-ups often employ a very small amount of helping hands to speed up the growing process of the business. This leads to a significant accumulation of tasks and responsibilities on each employee’s desk, opening up their way of thinking if they wish to provide valuable input to the company.

Working at a start-up was a very rewarding and challenging experience that I would recommend to anyone who wishes to feel a great sense of importance and accountability. After working for about a year at an emerging creative agency, the skills that I have obtained can help me succeed in any industry and in any position. Looking back to the long and often stressful days, there are ten startup lessons learned that will leak into future careers and personal challenges.

1. Never Stop Learning

Never Stop Learning

    With new technologies and software continuously entering the market, start-ups expect you to constantly update your current skills and industry knowledge, and find new ways of simplifying work processes without digging too much into budget. Never believe that you know enough or that you know all that there is to know about an industry. This type of thinking will only place you behind the rest of your co-workers. In order to succeed in your position, buying paperbacks, signing up to online courses, even taking an on-campus course will keep you up to date and ready to provide your employer useful advice and information.

    You don’t have to stick to only educational material to stay ahead of the game; read fiction, learn a new language or program – you never know when this knowledge can be useful or can make a great impression on a client or employer. Stay informed and learn from history to make the right decision in the present.

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    2. Learn to Adapt to Any Working Environment 

      With all this emphasis on online networking it is not surprising that there is a high emergence of in-person networking events and conferences. Past positions that chained their workers to desks are slowly fading away as each employee is now required to engage in more networking events on and off-line. As a Digital Marketing Manager at my past position, I was pushed to attend various events where potential clients and partners lingered and meet with clients face-to-face. My work environment definitely did not keep me at my desk. After consulting various other individuals who work in the marketing field, they told me the same thing – the idea of the work station is changing and those who cannot adjust their work habits or cannot multi-task are becoming overwhelmed and are sometimes even seen as a burden. If you can adapt to any atmosphere, be it a casual environment or corporate, you have a better chance of succeeding in your career.

      3. Take Risks

      Take Risks

        Whether you wish to switch your career or start a business of your own, taking a risk is what gets your gears moving forward. Working for a start-up taught me to take risks even if there is a high chance of failing. These risks help you grow as a person and to truly appreciate the stability that you have in other aspects of your life. A risk helps you try various paths that could get you from point A to point B. After trial and error, you will find the path that is best suitable for your goals and budget. Without taking a risk, you are forced to settle with an unoriginal strategy that so many other people have chosen to follow. Don’t follow the footsteps of the herd; take a risk even if it means isolating yourself from the pack.

        4. Open Your Mind to New Ideas No Matter How Silly

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        Open your Mind

          Originality will always help you get your foot through the door so say good-bye to old ways of thinking and doing business, try new things, research new methods and be welcoming to the unknown. We usually ignore any bizarre or stupid thoughts that enter our minds, but these thoughts are usually the keys to a unique business strategy or can help solve the most basic problem. We often tend to overlook what’s in front of our eyes so open your mind and acknowledge and appreciate new ideas. We all have different ways of looking at things so nobody has the right to put down your insight just because it does not sync with theirs. After 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.

          5. Find Opportunity in Negativity

            Sometimes life hands us lemons and we start to feel hopeless. Have you ever noticed how the worst situations always lead to better outcomes if examined from an outside perspective? Look at your issues as criticisms to your strategies. If you have many problems with clients or team members than you are doing something wrong. Take this time to re-asses your situation and to find a solution. You never know, these negative situations could be an opportunity for you to bring in more business.

            As an example, the start-up company that I worked for introduced social marketing services to their past clients and noticed that their clients were looking for every viable excuse not to subscribe. I was in charge of trying to find out the cause of this issue and after some calling and surveys I found out that these agents feared social marketing because they had no idea what it was and did not trust us to perform the services because they thought it was a scam. After consulting the chairman, we decided to introduce webinars, for a small fee a marketing specialist would go through the basics of social marketing and would teach these clients to engage with their online audience. In the end, the clients realized that social marketing is nothing to be afraid of and after trying it out for themselves asked us to take over as they simply did not have the time to do it themselves. These webinars eliminated client fear, helped us get more clients signed up for additional services, and gave us a small profit as well. Look at every negative situation as an opportunity to perfect current practises.

            6. Don’t Take Criticism Personally

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            Don't Take Criticism Personally

              Everybody has a role to play in a business infrastructure and receiving criticism for work or behaviour can discourage us and make us feel unworthy. Don’t let this get you down, instead, focus on the situation from an outside perspective. It is not your personality or your interests that are being judged but your final product. Be honest with yourself, if you know that you did not put in enough effort into a project, then why are you upset when the employer had made a subtle hint on the quality of your work? Since the company grows based on the accumulative efforts of the team, your contribution is bound to be criticized. Step back and see what you have done from the employer’s perspective, if there is truth to what they are telling you, just disconnect your feelings from the equation and focus on improving the work at hand. By taking negative comments to heart, you are only placing more weight on your shoulders. This could seep into your personal life and will most definitely ruin your day. No one wants that, so step back, re-analyze, and fix the situation. Knowing that everyone receives negative feedback once in a while helps to move on and to focus on other things.

              7. What Works for Others May Not Work for You

              What Works for Others May Not Work for You

                Simply copying your competitors’ business model is not going to place you on top of the ladder. Even taking ideas from a business from an unrelated industry may not advance your business but do more damage. If you think that replicating a product idea from a Fortune500 company will get you on that list, think again. People want originality and uniqueness even if your product or service is similar to those offered at the place down the street. Consumers look for a company personality when deciding on which product to buy and if you cannot provide them that, you simply won’t succeed. This ‘personality’ is what consumers will pay more for even if your friendly neighbour offers the same service but for a significantly cheaper price. So in regard to marketing and structuring your business and personal brand, it is great to see what others are doing to get their named out there, but look for new ways to create a voice and to be different.

                8. Speak Your Mind

                Voice Your Opinions

                  No matter your position within a company, find ways to speak your mind. We all have different experience and educational preparation, you opinion might just provide your employers or partners a different viewpoint on a topic that wasn’t seen before. Additionally, if you see something inappropriate at work, speak up as this unsuitable behaviour may not just be impacting you but your peers as well. By taking responsibility, you are being an active participant of the company and helping the way it grows and succeeds. Even if you are down the chain of command, your opinion matters so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.  

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                  9. Get Organized

                  Get Organized

                    The best way to plan your day is to make a to-do list each morning and to cross off tasks as you go along. Of course, some people flourish when they have papers covering their entire work station without any real sense of organization, but for the most of us, we need structure to our day and to our priorities. Making lists throughout the day will help you complete more tasks and will remind you of all the small details that we tend to forget. Organization is not limited to your desk, when is the last time you looked at your computer’s desktop? Going through old files on your computer and phone cuts the amount of time that you spend searching for documents and once it is organized, it will be much easier for you to maintain the cleanliness. If you wish to land any managerial role in a company, get organized and it will help with deadlines, meetings, and projects where teamwork is involved.

                    10. Be Active Outside of Work

                    Be Active Outside of Work

                      You will be stressed, you will feel lost, and you will underestimate yourself. The amount of tasks and projects will accumulate, often forcing you to stay overtime while drowning yourself in coffee. Anxiety and pressure is part of working at a start-up, heck it is part of any job so it is very easy to burn-out. To avoid digging yourself a grave at your work station, make sure you are not skipping out on your hobbies and special events. Having a balanced work/personal life is crucial if you wish to stay sane and still be an active team player. Our best ideas come when we disconnect ourselves from the issue, so go for a run, read a book, meet with friends! After all, your boss will not expect you to be a robot so schedule in your personal time and make every minute count. When you will reflect on your life, you will want to remember adventure, happiness, and family gatherings rather than regret all of the time that you spent in front of a monitor.

                      Working at a start-up will introduce you to many new ways of thinking and lessons that could be helpful in your future career.

                      Featured photo credit: Le Temple du Chemisier via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                      Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

                      Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

                      Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

                      Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

                      Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

                      Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

                      Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

                      1. Make Time for You

                      If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

                      Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

                      Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

                      Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

                      For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

                      By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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                      2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

                      Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

                      Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

                      When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

                      It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

                      Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

                      3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

                      According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

                      For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

                      If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

                      4. Work on Your Personal Brand

                      Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

                      Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

                      What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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                      Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

                      Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

                      5. Be Accountable

                      Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

                      For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

                      When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

                      6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

                      All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

                      Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

                      Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

                      It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

                      7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

                      Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

                      It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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                      This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

                      If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

                      To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

                      For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

                      You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

                      8. Learn to Embrace Failure

                      Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

                      The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

                      In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

                      We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

                      However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

                      Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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                      “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

                      9. Build Your Resilience

                      Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

                      Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

                      Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

                      In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

                      Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

                      10. Ask for Help

                      It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

                      No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

                      My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

                      1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
                      2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
                      3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

                      Final Thoughts

                      You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

                      Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

                      More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

                      Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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