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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 November 19, 2019

                      Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

                      Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

                      I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

                      How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

                      Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

                      So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

                      1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

                      Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

                      For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

                      Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

                      “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

                      2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

                      These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

                      This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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                      But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

                      Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

                      For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

                      There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

                      3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

                      It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

                      Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

                      4. Use Your Phone Wisely

                      Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

                      If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

                      5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

                      If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

                      In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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                      One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

                      6. Use a “To Don’t” List

                      We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

                      But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

                      Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

                      7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

                      When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

                      Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

                      “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

                      And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

                      8. Be Concise

                      Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

                      One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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                      Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

                      • Making new contacts
                      • Talking about yourself at a job interview
                      • Meeting people at conferences or parties
                      • Phone calls to new clients

                      9. Ask the Right Questions

                      “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

                      How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

                      When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

                      Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

                      Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

                      10. Learn as Much as You Can

                      You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

                      Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

                      “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

                      11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

                      No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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                      If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

                      What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

                      Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

                      12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

                      As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

                      But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

                      The Bottom Line

                      The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

                      Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

                      More About Working Smart

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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