Working at a start-up company is a truly unique experience. From a sometimes-too-laid-back work environment, to the surprisingly quick opportunity for upward mobility, working for a new organization may leave you wondering if you ever knew life on the outside. However, the long hours and endless responsibilities that come with working in a start-up environment, have a way of paying off in ways you would never expect.

Following is a list you may recognize well, if you have ever worked at a start-up:

1. Week…End?

When you work for a start-up, a day off during the week becomes a thing of the past. Much less, two! Work, more or less, becomes not a way to break up the hours, but a constant way to define them. Think of Saturday and Sunday as merely days six and seven in the job that never clocks out.

2. “Sleep”

You may imagine that without much time off, also comes much… much less sleep. Catching a nap at your desk becomes as common as working on your laptop in bed. It’s a give and take. When you do sleep? Be ready to dream of paperwork, numbers, and an endless stream of marketing graphs.

3. Congratulations! You’ve been hired as a…

Assistant director? Program manager? Surprise! They are all the same thing. When you work for a company with 10x the work, and 1/10 of the staff, be prepared to take on jobs from every direction. You may start off writing code and pitching numbers, but before you know it, you may be lead consultant in the latest budget balancing debacle. Strap on your [insert title here]-hat, and enjoy the ride!

“I’ve Got the Power!”

4. I don’t have a specialty, and I’m just fine!

On the flipside of taking on more responsibility than you bargained for, start-up companies are a great place for generalists to really hit their stride. Though you may have been told all your life to pick one thing, and get really good at it, if you haven’t found that thing yet, don’t worry! Not only is it good to have experience in a lot of different fields at a start-up, you may find your new ever-changing position the perfect place to actually find that elusive primary skill you’ve been waiting to discover!

5. Age is just a ____.

At a start-up company, your boss may have graduated with your nephew… or your child. Age is irrelevant in this new and growing environment, which is an opportunity not only to expand your horizons, but also to experience upward mobility unhampered by the numbers on your birth certificate!

6. Bro, didn’t I see you at the bar on Friday?

The laid-back nature of start-ups may have you partying with your bosses and co-workers unlike any job before. When you have downtime, you realize the people you see everyday are also the people you work with! However, while pouring another drink in the kitchen of your senior director, don’t forget that they can still fire you.

“Boss Baby”

7. Where’s the hierarchy? 

Short answer: if it is there, it is a very loose “there.” If you do happen to be the boss in the latest new and exciting venture, the person going for coffee runs? It’s still you.

8. Caffeine overdose.

Speaking of coffee, if there were a legal blood-caffeine content level, you would have been arrested long, long ago.

9. Sign Reads: “Do not sleep in the office!”

When there is a rule in place, it means that someone has tried to break it. When you work all day every day, you will quickly understand the appeal of crashing on the office floor and brushing your teeth in the public restroom down the hall.

10. They say people resemble their pets, right? 

Long story short: Your job will eventually become the majority of your life. This may mean real-life decisions suddenly also seem work-related. Does your start-up have a mascot that is starting to seem like a really good tattoo idea? Is it an animal? Maybe a visit to the local shelter does fit in next to your lunch run…

11. Have you heard of this cool new company?

Now, it’s not just your life that gets to experience the joys of your favorite start-up company. When you live your job, everyone else is going to as well. Don’t be surprised if you begin to introduce yourself with a sales pitch. Every new person, is a potential new investor. Why waste a golden opportunity for face-to-face marketing?

12. Forget the word, “reimbursement.”

“Your” money, means your company’s money. And maybe your family’s too. With all the expenses that come with a new business, do not be surprised if you break into the personal checking account on more than one occasion. You may get paid back… Eventually… Or not.

13. My resume is still only supposed to be one page, isn’t it?

Company financier, excellent marketing skills, and ever-changing job descriptions: A great bonus to working at a start-up is that once that new entry is on your resume, rather than, “What were your duties and responsibilities?” It is much shorter to cover what weren’t.

14. You actually are a key player. 

Fortunately, what all this means is that with the big investment of your entire life and savings, there is an even bigger pay off. When you work for a company where you are an essential cog in the often-haphazard machine, your opinion and work actually does matter. This is something hard to find in today’s business world, and something to really appreciate while you can.

15. Bigger picture: American dream!

Essentially, being a part of a start-up is being part of something larger than yourself. Here is something truly innovative, and unlike anything else out there in the world. If you are willing to throw yourself into the crazy world of start-up organizations, you will experience a reward that you can’t really find elsewhere. After all, there is a reason whatever new and exciting venture you are building, is actually new and exciting! Be proud of that!

In the end, working for a start-up can be exhausting, draining, worrying, and truly chaotic. However, the beauty of this field is that you and your colleagues are exploring ground that has yet to be discovered. You are fostering an idea that is really unique and valuable. After everything, start-up companies are one-of-a-kind, and not something to be afraid of. If you put yourself into it, you will find yourself out of it. This is the final, and most important, sign you may work for a start-up company.


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