Can You Work in a Start-up?

The idea of working for a start-up tends to be glamorized in the media.  Candidates need to carefully consider if they have what it takes to survive and thrive in this unique environment.

 Changing Priorities

You may be working on a mission-critical project when something changes and you are asked to stop and take on a completely different project.  If you are energized by that you could do well in the start-up environment but if that causes you significant frustration you may want to steer clear.  Priorities change frequently in the early stages.  An investor may have an urgent need that trumps whatever you were working on.  Based on focus group feedback your presentation to the board tomorrow may have to be completely revamped.  Change is a given in a start-up operation.  Candidates need to honestly assess their comfort level with constant change.

Limited Resources

In a start-up employees often have to wear multiple hats.  There are not unlimited resources or highly specialized roles, you may be asked to do whatever is most needed at the moment.  Some candidates thrive on that variety but others need a more predictable and focused work plan.  Think about how you do your best work to determine if the variety is a positive or a negative for you.

Comfort with Risk

A start- up come with inherent risk.   Not all start-ups succeed.  Brilliant ideas for new products or services don’t always predict a successful new business venture.  Can you live with the risk of the company going out of business?  On a more daily basis can you tolerate the risk of trying something that may not work?  If you try and fail, do you learn something and eagerly explore the next option to see if that will work?  Sometimes the risk is that you have to make a significant decision on your own, in the moment and then have to live with the consequences.

Believe in the Mission

Working to make a start-up successful is hard work which can be both rewarding and frustrating.  To commit to working this hard to make it a success, it is important to believe in the mission.  If you are not aligned with the mission it is likely not going to be a good fit for you.  You can’t convince others of the value of your product or service if you don’t truly believe it yourself.

See the Impact of Your Work

In a start-up you are able to see the direct impact of your work on the success of each initiative and on the company as a whole.  If you want a clear sense of how you are impacting the outcome, this could be the perfect opportunity for you.

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Manage Your Personal Brand for Career Success

When you are preparing to make a purchase you carefully consider the brand of the product you are selecting.  To ensure that employers are selecting you in the job search process, you need to pay attention to managing your personal brand.

You are the expert on you and need to ensure that your professional brand reflects your skills, reputation, and values.  You need to build it carefully, control it diligently and protect it fiercely.  Your brand is the sum of your personal and professional reputations, your competencies and your relationships.

To define your personal brand you need to consider the following:

  • What are your professional and personal goals?
  • What is your mission?
  • What are your core skills and values?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • How do others describe you?
  • How do you differentiate yourself from others personally and professionally?

What are the critical elements of your brand?

  • Email address – Yes, even your email address should express your brand. If you do not want to invest in your own domain name, it should at least be lastname@gmail.com.  Do not use your personal email with cute names or hobbies.  Keep it professional.  Also in a job search, don’t use your current work email to look for another job.
  • Resume – This is your career collateral and how you communicate your brand to perspective employers. It will not get you the job but hopefully it will get you an interview.  Be sure it is written to focus on the needs of the employer.  Present yourself as a solution to their business needs, not just another person seeking ab job.
  • Cover Letter – This will be used as a sample of your business writing skills but it also provides another opportunity to present yourself as a solution to the employer’s business problems. Be sure to focus on relevant key words in the job description.
  • Portfolio – Where appropriate have a portfolio of work you can share when requested. Use it to demonstrate your experience, solutions and competencies.
  • Presenting Yourself – Be sure you have a professional appearance. Don’t assume they will overlook appearance to see how smart you are.  Appropriate business attire and a professional appearance go a long way in the job search process and represent your brand.
  • Voicemail Greeting – Don’t forget that employers may be calling you at the number on your resume. Be sure you have a professional greeting with your full name and a request to leave a message.  Be sure you check messages regularly and respond promptly.  This behavior positively enhances your brand.
  • Linkid In – Be sure you have an updated, complete profile to represent your brand on Linked In. Employers will be looking.
  • Google Yourself – Be sure that you know what employers will find if they google you. It is important to ensure that your online presence fully supports your professional brand.
  • Business cards – Do not use your current employer business cards when looking for a job. Invest in personal cards to support your search and to support your brand.

To manage career success, you should pay close attention to your personal brand.