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Six qualities for a successful startup career 

Six qualities for a successful startup career 

by Ankita Poddar 24/08/2018

Startups have been all the rage the past few years and the trend isn’t changing anytime soon. As per the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, global venture capital investments in startups hit a decade high in 2017, with over $140 billion invested. Total value creation of the global startup economy from 2015 to 2017 reached $2.3 trillion—a 25.6% increase from the 2014 to 2016 period. There is no doubt that startups emerging and fading have become an integral part of the modern day economy. Yet people believe that it takes a different breed to run and work in startups. While that may not be true, some skills do make working in them much easier.

Let’s take a look at six hats that you need to wear if you are looking to join a startup you admire:


1. Ace pitchman:

No matter which role, in a startup, everyone is a master salesman. You are always selling something; be it an idea, a concept or technique. You sell all the time – to yourself and to everyone outside and inside the company. The product is often undefined, non-existent and dream like. In short, you sell the future and more importantly, yourself. Investments flow in because investors believe in the people not in the product alone. Therefore, unless you can sell water to an ocean, you need to brush up your sales skills. One may argue that this is a skill everyone needs to master irrespective of whether you work at a startup or not. However, in a startup, this skill becomes even more critical.


2. Technology Geek:

Most new startups work closely with the latest in technology. Eight out of ten German startups see a significant impact of digitalization on their business models. Naturally, hiring managers prefer candidates who knows their way around the brave new world of modern tech. This doesn’t necessarily translate into knowing everything that exists, just the love of technology and the thirst to continuously learn. If you have that in place, the rest should be easy.


3. Mad Hatter:

There are never enough people in a startup. Yes, we’d all like someone who can get us some coffee, fix the printing machine or just close the office doors at night. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. More often than not, you’ll end up being the office boy, technician and CEO all at once. The more hats you can don, the more valuable you are. The founders are looking for someone who treats the startup as their own; someone who identifies a gap, fixes it and doesn’t whine. I can guarantee that your stint at a start-up will be one of the most satisfying ever. You will learn more and faster than you ever have and be versatile in more than one area. If that is your thing, startups are just the place for you.


4. Data Junkie:

The modern world is built on data. There was a point of time when Microsoft Excel was enough. In most organizations, it still is. However, not in a startup. A good handle over data will help you monitor and predict the success of the startup. It is likely that you aren’t the only player in the field and there is data out in the world that will help you model a better product. It is also likely that the product or service you’re working on provides large chunks of usable data. Creating a better product is a lot easier when you have a better understanding of how it is used.


5. Builder:

If you want a successful career in a startup, you have to be a builder. There are no two ways about it. Life in a startup comes with its blows and rewards. You need to be able to put the pieces back together no matter how many times your creation is torn down. You need to be able to filter constructive criticism from the cynical feedback, work on gaps, bounce back like a piece of elastic and build again. Growing a thick skin is all part of the process. Know that there are always going to be enough naysayers out there who will wonder why you left a comfortable job at a multinational and committed startup suicide. Let me tell you this – you will never work in an environment that operates in higher ambiguity but it will all be worth it. Cultivate a point of view, a thick skin and elasticity. They will help.


6. Accountant:

Of the many hats that you wear while working in a startup, the hat of an accountant comes with undeniable value. You don’t have to have the same level of competency as an accountant however given that budgets are usually always lean, this skill will help. When resources are scarce, (which they usually are) and the focus is more on creating vs selling, you need to make sure that what you have is being used effectively. If you understand budgets and can balance right, you may just end up being the founder’s best friend.

Working in a startup is always going to be challenging. No one will deny it. Hence, it is important that you research a startup well before you decide to join. Spend time understanding the founders, the vision, the product and the operating model. Unless the product inspires you and you trust the founders, the experience could end up being frustrating. However, if you pick the right startup, the journey is enthralling. There is no doubt that you will learn more than you ever have in terms of both skill and personality. You’ll get the opportunity to be a visionary, manager, designer, accountant and salesperson all at once. How many people do you know who’ve done all of this in a single year? Most likely, only the ones in a startup.


Ankita Poddar is HR professional based out of India. Identified as one of the emerging HR leaders in India in 2016,  Ankita's experience as an HR Business Partner gives her the opportunity to work closely with business leaders, innovate and execute on the behalf of customers especially in areas of people analytics, employee engagement, rewards and recognition and performance management. Ankita blogs about all things HR at Follow her on Twitter @ankitapoddar

Ankita Poddar

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