Launching your career can be extremely overwhelming. You’re trying to understand this new career landscape and where you might fit in without having much work experience yourself while your teachers, professors, and parents typically have little to offer when it comes to sharing what opportunities are out there beyond their own professions.
You feel pressure to map out the next 40 years of your life RIGHT NOW with two hands tied behind your back and a blindfold over your eyes while shooting at the career dartboard with your left foot.
It’s not a fun feeling and leads to lots of anxiety, stress, and aimlessness.
Here’s my advice. Simplify your early career goals and make your single objective to get hired by and work for a growing startup for the first year of your professional life.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do to successfully launch your career if you’re an ambitious and driven young person.
Stop worrying about what your career destiny is and optimize for as much learning through real world experience as you can.
Startups are the best place to do this. They offer
- opportunities to push your work ethic to new heights (which you’ll certainly need in order to do work you’re truly passionate about)
- an endless number of chances to solve difficult problems on your own
- talented teammates and leaders to add to your network
- plenty of opportunity to grow into different roles and you figure out what you do and don’t like to work on
Here’s what you’ll get out of working for a startup early in your career:
Short-term skill building and a growing professional network
Coming out of student life you have minimal skills to offer to potential employers. Ideally, you’ve worked a few difficult customer service jobs in retail or busted your ass waiting tables for a few years but not much beyond that. Startups tend to not focus on the skills you have on day one! They are more concerned about whether you can learn new skills quickly because a company at the earlier stages of their growth need team members who can be flexible enough to keep up with the changing strategy as they find traction with new customers and dial in their product.
Whether you’re starting in sales, customer support, or marketing, you’re going to have to level up your capabilities quickly. That’s exciting because you won’t be doing the same thing every day, month after month. With smaller teams you’ll probably have to chip in in different areas of the business, allowing you to find your own sweet spot over time.
But the best part? Startups attract other ambitious like-minded young professionals as well as experienced leaders who aren’t satisfied with collecting a fat paycheck in a management position at a large corporation. After being surrounded by mostly well-meaning teachers and sheltered academics you finally get to build the type of professional network that will challenge you and support your long-term career growth!
An Agile Career Trajectory
Early in your career, it’s easy to waste a lot of time focusing on what type of role you’ll be best in. To be honest, you don’t know enough about any one type of role to know that’s where you belong. Startups take the pressure off of you to treat role areas like choosing a major in college because the chances are extremely high you’ll have to do more than just your set position early on. Besides, you’ll have every opportunity to grow into different jobs where the company can take advantage of your top strengths and skills as you develop new ones.
The vast majority of our Praxis participants either get promoted within their own team or move to different departments within 12 months of starting their apprenticeship. Startups with early traction are constantly creating new roles in the company and always look to hire from within when they can. There’s a huge advantage to learning about the product and customer through boots on the ground work as a support rep that allows you to be a stronger candidate for future openings on the marketing and product teams.