Life at a Startup

I’ve been networking with a lot of job seekers lately who have expressed their frustrations about finding good jobs in corporate America. Some of them have considered working for startups even though they know that sometimes working with a startup could be unstable. Others have even considered starting their own. Regardless, many of them were curious to know more about life at a startup to determine if it was the right choice for them. Luckily, I have recently connected with an individual who lives in Silicon Valley and has worked in different startup environments. She was happy to provide useful information about this.

Jocelyn Aucoin, who currently works at WorkSimple in San Francisco, has been kind enough to answer the following questions about startups. Here are some details to help give a realistic idea about it:

Ashley Perez (AP): How did you get involved with startups?

Jocelyn Aucoin (JA): “A good friend of mine originally approached me about helping him out with a startup he was working with, knowing I had a background of running my own business and knowing how key an autonomous work ethic is to working at a startup.  I was immediately hooked. Startup life really feeds my love of building and creating.”

AP: What are some of the most interesting lessons you’ve learned?

JA: “I’ve learned to be just as proud of my failures as I am my successes. If I’m not pushing myself, if I’m staying comfortable, then I’m probably pretty safe, right? But if I’m working to constantly do more with what I know, challenge the status quo, and think ‘sideways’, then I’m going to fail. It’s inevitable. And I’m totally fine with that. I’d rather try and fail then never try.”

AP: What are some examples of things that go against common belief in terms of starting a startup?

JA: “I think there’s a misconception that people ‘settle’ for working at startups. This is just not true. The brightest, bravest, most creative people I’ve met in my working career are the ones working for startups. If you want to be inspired – daily – it’s where you want to be.”

AP: What are some of the challenges that startup employees face?

JA: “The biggest challenge for me personally is the extreme ebb and flow. The work pace is unpredictable and things happen fast and without warning. That means you have to be on your toes at all times, ready to go. And whereas that’s difficult in terms of planning out a week or a month, it’s a catch-22 because it’s also what keeps me from getting bored.”

AP: What are some realistic situations that employees can deal with when accepting a position with a startup (i.e. lack of benefits, lack of stability?)

JA: “Well, there aren’t always a lack of benefits. That can be the case – but not always. It depends on the type of work you’re in and the level of the startup. But yeah – it’s realistic to expect a bit of instability. Again I’d say that’s what makes it exciting. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

AP: What is the difference of a startup environment vs. an established company?

JA: “Established companies typically have ways that things have been done and they require things be done in this way. Startup culture is built around innovation – and that shakes down to every level. They will generally welcome new ways of thinking and new ideas which breeds energy and creativity. You notice the difference from the moment you step foot inside a startup. You can feel energy.”

AP: What is some advice you can give to job seekers who are considering working for a start up?

JA: “Practical advice? Identify the companies where you can see yourself and start connecting with the people who work there via in any way you can. Don’t send a blind resume. Instead, say you’d like to chat and share ideas. Remember, startup culture is about collaboration and ideation. And things move fast.  Also, these places don’t have big HR systems in place, so don’t expect process to move in an overly processed way. General advice? Buckle. your. seatbelt!”

I was thankful for connecting with Jocelyn because this seems to be a hot topic out in the working world. Her answers proved that startup life can be exciting. Also, working for a startup can have an equal share of failures mixed with successes. If your personality and work ethic match some of the things Jocelyn had mentioned, I’m sure you will find your experience rewarding no matter what the outcome may be.

 More about Jocelyn: Jocelyn Aucoin is the Community and Social Media Manager at San Francisco and Minneapolis – based startup, WorkSimple. Find her at Blue Bottle Coffee or on Twitter at @jocelynaucoin.

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