Applying to a Startup? Make Sure You Have These 4 Qualities First

If the working world was like high school, millennial entrepreneurs and their startups would probably be sitting at the “popular” table.

With their reputation for trendy urban workspaces and casual dress codes, it’s not hard to see why most millennials are drawn to these organizations. After all, who doesn’t want to work at a dog-friendly office with regular beer socials?

However, while this all sounds like fun and games, the truth is a startup is one of the most challenging environments a professional can work in.

The early years of a company will make or break a business, and only individuals with a select set of qualities will be able to succeed.

So even if you’re 100% qualified for the job in terms of technical skills, it’s imperative that you evaluate and understand your working style and determine whether a startup environment is for you.


You’re highly organized

Let’s get one thing out of the way: working at a startup is absolute chaos. Everyone goes at full speed, and everything needs to be done yesterday. You’ll likely be working with a small team that’s expected to churn out the same amount of work as a larger competitor. Because of this, you’ll likely be managing a wide array of responsibilities and a number of different projects and tasks at once.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing… but being part of a small company should scare you at least a little. Think of it this way: if you’re part of a company with 20 employees, you can assume you’re responsible for 1/20th of the company’s success. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entry-level employee or a high-level executive – if you drop the ball, the implications are much bigger than working in a big company. You’ll need to be extremely organized in order to stay on top of your work and push the company forward, and if you’re successful, it’ll be all the more rewarding!


You’re results-oriented

Getting a business off the ground means operating as if you’ve been around forever and have all the experience and know-how to match with a fraction of the resources at your disposal. So saying “I’m trying my best” but not getting the job done won’t cut it in this line of work, no matter what your role is.

If you want to work at a startup, lose the excuses. One of the most valued qualities for professionals in this field is accountability. If you’re the type to push blame or be content with a job half-done, you won’t last long. However, if you’re the type that can’t sit still until your work has been resolved, you’ll find a lot of like-minded people here. Which leads to our next point…


You can figure out solutions

Quickest way to piss off a manager? Make them hold your hand through everything.

Obviously, this isn’t exclusive to startups, but it’s even more problematic in a small company where everyone is expected to hold up their portion of the business. It’s imperative that you’re able to solve problems and figure out common-sense solutions before bugging your boss about it. This doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to ask questions – and if you’re new, it’s definitely encouraged so you can get the lay of the land more quickly.

But remember that your boss has a limited amount of time to spend training you and addressing your concerns, so make sure during this time you make the most of it by asking for guidance on things that actually require their input and attention. Basically, if you can Google it or ask your co-worker next to you, figure it out yourself.


You pay attention to the “big picture”

Working at a fast-paced company can make you feel like a small cog in a large machine, especially if your work is repetitive. However, your role or department should not be the be-all-end-all of your work day. It’s imperative that professionals in these small organizations work closely with all other departments and learning how your day-to-day activities impact their operations.

This goes beyond just being a “team player” – this means investing time to learn about different fields of work. No, you don’t have to go out and learn marketing or accounting, but you should understand what they do on a high level so when you make changes in your role or you propose new strategies or processes, you take them into account.

A successful startup requires an entrepreneurial mindset from every member of its team. It’s this collective drive and innovative thinking that will push it forward and help it stay competitive in its respective market. Obviously. it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. However, if you think you have what it takes to thrive in this challenging and rewarding environment, be sure to highlight these qualities in your next interview.

Good luck!