Career Planning

Why Working at a Startup is the Best Way to Launch Your Career

Isaac Morehouse
November 2019

An entry-level startup job is better than a fancier job at a more traditional business.


Would you rather have been making coffee and running errands at Spotify when it had ten employees, or working as one of thousands of tellers at Bank of America? Thinking about your career in terms of jobs and titles is dangerous. Thinking in terms of skills and trends is powerful.

What skills can you use and build, and what trends can you ride?

When it comes to trends, startups are growing and not going away. A startup isn’t just a business that makes tech products, or one that’s raised venture capital. Fundamentally, it’s an approach to building and growing a company. Startups start small but go after a really big market that could result in massive success. And they move fast.

This approach is now easier than ever thanks to technology. Startups are a rising trend, and individual startups typically ride other emerging trends. This is where you want to be, in an up-and-coming area, not an old-and-dying one.

When it comes to skills, startups have a diverse set of demands and ample opportunity for learning. Not just code skills. There are so many things beyond writing code that need to be done at a startup.

As the company grows, you grow

The great thing about growth-focused companies is that they have no choice but to demand growth from team members. Each new phase of the company is different, and you’ll be exposed to different challenges, tasks, and types of work.

You can’t spend a few years at a startup without leveling up!

A little bit of everything

You get the chance to do a broad range of stuff at a startup, especially an early-stage startup, compared to a bigger, older corporate job.

You may not always be asked to do a lot of different stuff (though you may), but you can always offer to. It’s not uncommon for a customer success rep to offer to help the marketing team and get the chance. This diverse exposure is huge when you’re young and trying to find your sweet spot.

Even failure is success

Lots of startups fail. It’s true. But company failure is not the same as personal failure! Spending two years at a startup that goes bust will advance your career more than two years at a big stable company.

When you’re at a startup, you get immersed in the world of other startups. You build a network of other employees, founders, and investors. You learn about the industry, products, competitors, and customers. You learn why the company failed!

In startup land, failure isn’t frowned upon, and you can take the experience and build on it in your next role. Getting a job as a business development rep at another startup after doing it for one that failed is far easier than job-hopping in the non-startup world.

It’s more fun!

This is actually pretty important. It’s not always easy. It’s not always chill. But it’s pretty dang awesome to be a part of something new and growing with other people who are passionate about it. Startups are fun to work for.

Learning all the time

Early in your career, optimize for learning, not earning. A bigger paycheck in a role where you repeat the same thing and don’t add to your knowledge and human capital will end up costing you in the end.

There is so much opportunity—necessity even—for learning in startups. There’s an entire ecosystem of books, blogs, Twitter accounts, videos, podcasts, and guides on every aspect and role, and it’s common for startup employees to be immersed in continual learning. This will make you so valuable later in your career!

All-nighters and energy

How many companies have employees that get excited to pull an all-nighter to release a new product? How many jobs do you get a chance to ride crazy growth spurts or deal with crazy fires in brand new products?

Stressful? Sure, sometimes. But this is the kind of adventure young people crave, and it makes you come alive!

The future, not the past

Whether or not you start a company someday, you are “Me, Inc.” The world is moving to a startup-like career landscape. The sooner you immerse yourself in that world, the better you’ll be as the rest of humanity catches up.

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