Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Survive a Start-up

Be the person who gets things done. A lot of people have ideas but don’t actually like to do the work. The person who can take an idea and actually make it happen is very valuable. 

Just start. Making things pretty and professional and creating processes will come, but you’ve just got to start somewhere. It’s a real skill to be able to start small and humbly with whatever you’re working on and see a bigger vision for the future.

User research and user testing is key. Talk to customers/users/people to see what they want. This works for usability testing on the website and also for testing out marketing copy.

Own your calendar. Prioritize things that need to get done and don’t let people schedule all your time for meetings. If you need “maker time” (for coding or for writing or whatever), be sure to carve out your most productive hours for that.

Stick to deadlines. It’s amazing to me how many people miss deadlines. Your coworkers will take you seriously if you take deadlines seriously.

What are some skills that you didn’t expect to be important?
Know how to communicate with your coworkers. It’s really important to be able to talk about what you’re working on and learn what other people are doing.

Be happy! If you’re fun to work with and are generally pleasant, people will pull you into cool projects. Never underestimate the value of a positive outlook and a big smile.

Organize fun events. Startups are all about culture, but oftentimes people are too busy to think about creating a culture. Your coworkers will appreciate it if you go out of your way to organize fun offsite events or even just remember birthdays.

Be patient. It always takes longer than you’d think to get things going.

What are some of the best things you did to prepare for your interview?
Tell your story effectively. Walk people through your resume. Explain why you made the choices you did. It doesn’t really matter what you’ve done as long as you have a compelling story.

Ask questions! It’s amazing how many interviewees never ask a thing about the person interviewing them. People love to talk about themselves and their company, and they will think you’re more interesting if you ask them questions.

Play it cool. Sweaty palms and a shaky voice are warning signals. People at startups want to hire someone they want to hang out with. But don’t be too cool that you seem blasé.

Of course, some jobs have specific requirements. I do believe, however, that these skills are universal for all “departments” in a startup. After all, the best thing about working at a startup is there is no such thing as a department.
*Written by a different author

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