I first started working in the startup scene as an intern at a company that sold designer tech accessories. In my mind I hit the big time. A few months in I start noticing signs that things might not be as peachy as they appear, but rising sales and optimistic bosses kept doubts from developing into alarm.
I decided against joining them and in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t – sales dropped and staff got laid off. Here are a series of considerations that would have made my decision a lot easier.
How much will I get paid and how will I earn it?
First thing’s first, you’ll want to consider how your pay and benefits are structured. Sometimes what you earn is tied to quotas, goals or commission which – depending on the job – might actually pay off better in the long run. Do the math. With startups in particular your compensation might come in the form of equity or stocks, meaning that you’ll have to contemplate both the risks and the opportunities that this entails.
Ask yourself: How will I get paid? How does it stack up compared the market average for my field? What are the risks and opportunity costs?
Why am I being hired and how am I expected to perform?
With your compensation out of the way, the next step is to get an idea of what you’ll be doing for the company. Sometimes even the fattest paycheck is not enough to keep you happy doing work that leaves you feeling underutilized or overlooked.
You’ll want to consider flexibility. Whether it’s a role in sales, development or design, it’s a good idea to make sure that your method fits the norm at the prospective company. Aim for a balance that has you feeling comfortable at work, but also provides you with challenge. Boredom is a serious risk, so don’t make it too easy for yourself.
Who will I be working with and what’s the culture like?
While it may depend on your the type of job you’re looking for, your co-workers can make or break the job. Generally speaking, startups are small, like-minded and closely knit teams, but this isn’t guaranteed. Imagine how you’ll fit in and what kind of people you’ll be interacting with.
Consider the potential conflicts and opportunities that might arise and how they can affect your contributions to the company. Take some time to get to know the team and the culture that surrounds it.
Where will I be working from and how will I get there?
Whether you’re working remotely or in an office, location is important. We’re not talking about the fancy headquarters or elaborate lunch arrangements.
There are a lot of things to look for when it comes to location like timezones, accessibility and proximity to the team. One of the most obvious problems being travelling. A two hour commute can take its toll on your daily routine. It’s time you’d otherwise use to cook yourself a nice meal, settle down a with a nice book or even spending time with loved ones.
Where is this company headed and do I believe in it?
Last but not least, we look towards the future. Picking a winner is easier said than done, but it doesn’t hurt to take a good look at the direction the company is headed in. Watch for red flags like faulty communication, an unfriendly office culture and overzealous or incompetent leadership. But also positive signs like: happy customers, responsible management or an adorable office dog.
Looking back, this was the most important thing I ended up ignoring. What might be a smooth sailing startup today, might be a sinking ship tomorrow. So ask yourself: Would I do business with this company all things considered? If the answer is yes, you’ve got a keeper.