Do you have what it takes to join a Start-up?

Are you contemplating a career in a startup? Before taking a plunge, you may want to assess, if you have the relevant skills. Basis my years of interactions with startup entrepreneurs and established business leaders, I have identified six attributes that are absolutely essential, if you want to join a startup and make it a win-win scenario for yourself and your employer. Let’s take a closer look at these six attributes:-


Startups go through several ups and downs in their journey. Their fortunes can swing back and forth in no time. There could be moments of euphoria followed by days of frustration. Often, you may feel that the saga of missed chances and ‘the elusive customer’ continues for ever. If you want to succeed in a startup, you must have the resilience to see through the difficult times. In other words, you need a ‘never-say-die’ attitude. If you stay put and hang in there with dogged perseverance, you would relish the good times when they come.

Ability to wear multiple hats

Your startup employers may hire you for one particular role. But be prepared, you may actually end up playing several roles. Startups usually have a lean structure. They usually hire the bare minimum staff to run their business. So if you are choosing to join a start-up, you are choosing to multi-task and wear multiple hats. In a startup, an HR executive may be expected to look after administration as well. A front office executive may be required to take care of procurement and so on. Sometimes wearing multiple hats is by design and sometimes it is because the situation so demands. If you are the type who believes in sticking to your area of expertise alone, start-ups are not the place you should look at.

Ability to wow your Customer

Remember developing a great product doesn’t guarantee you success in business. Success in your business comes from asking and finding answers to these 2 questions.

  • What is troubling my customers the most?
  • What do my customers want but they don’t know yet?

If you can crack these 2 questions, you can wow your customers again and again. If your customers love you, your employer would follow suit.

Ability to see beyond the obvious

Creativity and innovation are the buzz words in the startup space. Before taking a shot at a startup job, ask yourself if you can think out of the box. Can you question the status quo? Can you challenge the norm? Do you often see possibilities where other don’t see them? I am reminded of the famous John Scully quote, “The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” Steve Jobs, the Founder of the technology front-runner, Apple Inc. was adept at seeing the future. When the whole world was using huge gigantic mainframe computers, Steve Jobs was busy creating one that could sit on the table top. In later years where computer manufacturers started building smaller and lighter laptops, he knew that many people would start using tablets, smartphones and wearables as computing devices in near future. While ‘seeing the future’ came to Steve Jobs naturally, you can work at it and build this skill yourself too.

Sense of urgency

Speed is of essence for a startup. It is not enough to create a product or service of superior quality. While the quality of product or solution provided is important, it is equally important to reach the customer faster that the competition. Startups don’t have the luxury of time. So speed and agility are highly essential attributes of a successful startup professional. Most startups with great ideas fail because they take a long lead time to convert their creative ideas into innovative products or solutions. Often they get so overly focused on making a perfect product that they let their competition race ahead of them and execute before they themselves can do. If you are agile and moving faster and at the same time delivering a product of superior quality, your startup employers would love you.

Clear line of Sight

How do you approach a task assigned to you would determine if you would get hired for a startup. Do you begin a task with the end in mind and take complete ownership of it till its completion? Do you carry on with it with single-minded focus and clear line of sight in the midst of challenges and obstacles? If answers to these questions is yes, you are most likely one of the best contenders for a bright startup career. On the other hand, one who always expects a risk free environment, easily gets distracted by challenges and constraints and passes on the blame to others for one’s failures is not living in a real world. But let’s understand that successful startups operate in the real world. J

Now you know the six essential attributes to start a career in a startup. So what are you waiting for? Take up a piece of paper and evaluate yourself against each of these six attributes and find out where you stand. If you believe that you are good or brilliant at most of these attributes, then go for a career in startups. If you believe that you are ‘not good’ or average at most of them, don’t lose heart. Go back, work harder at each attribute and make an attempt again. It is never too late in life !



Surya Mohapatra

Awarded as one of the 25 Most Talented Global Training and Development Leaders. Currenly working as Global Head-Resource Enablement- HP Inc.

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