Working At A Startup: The Good, The Bad, And The Brilliant.

Sure, we bang on about how wonderful it is working in a startup like Enternships, but that’s not to say that it’s for everyone. Before you’ve even contemplated diving into the heady world of the entrepreneur, maybe turn your ear to what our very own Corissa Nunn has to say about the shift from corporate to startup…

Working for a startup isn’t all about beer at lunchtime and endless hilarious animal GIFs (don’t panic, we’d be lying if we said these things weren’t close to our hearts). In the startup environment, there are no comfy stones to hide under – every team member lives their life in the limelight. The old adage about only being as fast as your slowest team member echoes louder, the smaller the workforce. The following is worth bearing in mind not only for anyone who thinks they might like to work for a startup, but also for startups looking to expand their team with a Bright Young Thing.

There’s a fine art to striking the right balance when a startup takes on a new intern; when the members of a small team rely so closely on each other, there’s no room for error. The bottom line is that a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit needs to be tempered with unshakable self-discipline. A paradox? Perhaps. A tall order in terms of finding the perfect person? Definitely. But we all know that the things in life most worth having don’t come easy. All it takes is a little bit of elbow grease to make the impossible possible. As Gloria Pitzer, who quit her cushty job as a food editor in the 1970s to scrape a living by doing ironing until she established herself as an entrepreneur in the culinary communications space, once said: “about the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.”

Take a person with oodles of entrepreneurial spirit, for starters. It’s all very well being ideas-y but haplessly chaotic – bubbling over with brilliant plans and concepts, yet none of them coming to fruition. Startups attract budding entrepreneurs as a matter of course, but the bittersweet outcome of this might be someone who chases down opportunities without nailing the requisite solid groundwork, or dodges the more tedious day-to-day stuff in favour of the innovative stuff. On the flipside, a well-organised human workhorse who trudges on uncomplainingly but never takes the initiative is a wasted opportunity for the company. A constant half-eye always needs to be looking out for issues, solutions and improvements, regardless of whether or not they fall under one’s official remit.

This was particularly apparent to me when we launched our paid-only internship scheme (Wayra Enternships) in Dublin earlier this week. Everyone I met seemed to agree on the same thing – that life in a startup wasn’t for the faint of heart, but that the rewards were infinitely more satisfying than that of a big company. PayMins, a Dublin Wayra Startup that specialise in social e-commerce, are currently hiring three interns through our platform, and CEO Patrick Walsh talked about how Wayra regularly hosted talks from industry experts on a wide variety of topics for the inquisitive to feast upon:

“A startup provides you with a unique opportunity to take on a lot of responsibility and make a real impact – something you don’t always get in larger organisations. We look for people who have an ability to self-manage and a desire to get stuck in.”

When all is said and done, whatever job title you assign yourself when trying your luck with a beautiful stranger down the pub, every individual who works for a startup is a Jack-of-All-Trades. It’s not enough to be on standby to have a crack at something new… you have to revel in it and actively seek it out. In an ideal world, a member of the sales team is able to provide basic technical assistance to customers, and a project manager can deftly field a sales call. And most importantly – no ifs ‘n’ buts – everyone needs to lend a hand in evangelising about the company’s mission. Cue the ubiquitous battle-cry of SOCIAL MEDIA (Twitter-haters, prepare to take a long, hard look in the mirror and recalibrate).

In short: doctor’s orders are a razor-sharp focus on the task in hand, with reactive peripheral vision. Curiosity might kill the cat, but a lack of it stifles the startup.


By Corissa Nunn

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