I thrived under routine —until I didn’t have to.
One morning a while back, I got into work at 8 am. I plugged in my headphones to play the Spotify white noise playlist, I opened Outlook, and I checked the to-do list I’d made myself the day before. The office was still empty and I was able to crack through more of my work than I’d anticipated before the next few folks started to arrive.
What was my task? It was something I’d decided to do on my own, without being assigned it.
I wanted to create an academy for our clients to use the product better.
I set my own deadline. I presented to the CEO and CTO, explaining why I thought it was necessary, with research and evidence to back my views up along with my proposed plan.
This was one month into my first graduate job.
To speak to the CEO of the company with my original ideas and opinions was an opportunity I never thought I’d have in my very first job out of school. How did I come to this?
I work in a small Startup of nine people. I have no day-to-day routine — every single day, I’m doing something different. When I arrive in the morning, I might have no clue what I’ll be doing that day.
It’s up to me to define and pursue the goals I deem important for my role, and for our company.
For some people, this can seem terrifying. But for me? It gives me the freedom and responsibility to work the way I want to.
After a year of working at a startup, here are five reasons I love my job.
1. Close Contact
My boss sits behind me in our small office. While this may be off-putting for some, it’s a great opportunity for me. I have full access to his attention, I can ask him questions to draw on his experience, and I’m always within reach should he have an opportunity for me.
Because it’s such a small, quickly growing company, there is no time for people to micromanage others. My manager just doesn't have the resources to look over my shoulder to see how I’m doing ever three seconds — he trusts me to not just browse Facebook all day.
Being in such close contact fosters a mutually beneficial working relationship between the two of us, without me feeling like I’m being Big-Brothered.
2. Collaboration across departments
In our nine-person company, our sales team consists of one person. Our marketing department? Population-1.
When there are so few people doing the jobs that need doing, we all naturally grow and expand to take on more responsibility outside of our Stated Job description.
For example, while creating the new demo for our product, there was collaboration across the sales department, the marketing team, and the customer success team to create the most engaging and persuasive demo.
With a small startup, there’s no way employees can be siloed off into departments. The only way to progress is to work together across departments.
When there are so few people doing the jobs that need doing, we all naturally grow and expand to take on more responsibility outside of our stated job description.
3. Opportunities for growth
In my job, I work with marketing, sales, development, and senior management — sometimes all in the same day.
I’m not an expert by any means in any of those fields, but by collaborating and working together with the people who are, I’ve picked up a lot of skills and experiences beyond what my role would have provided for me.
I’ve written an eBook, learned to use developer tools, recorded a webinar, and helped design the back-end of our product to improve usability. These are opportunities that wouldn’t be on the table for someone working at a bigger, more corporate lines where the roles are more rigid.
4. Flexibility, not rigidity
Startups don’t have predefined anything. From the daily tasks, to lunch hours, to meetings, everything is flexible. If I have to work from home one day, I send a Slack message to my boss to make sure that’s OK, and I get set up in my home office. If I want to come in an hour early and leave an hour early, so long as I’m getting my work done, it’s totally fine.
For example, instead of tasks, I like to consider that I have themes.
There’s no to-do list that’s the same every day; instead, I focus on my theme, which for me is to ensure our clients are getting the absolute most out of the product. Everything I do should center around that.
That might mean I’m speaking with the developers for half the day about onboarding trouble-spots. It might mean I stay an extra three hours to speak to an overseas client, but come in three hours later the next day.
If I’m really struggling with a concept and need to take a half-hour walk to think about it in the fresh air, I just do so.
There’s no predefined rule about what anything should be, from the time I get in, to my day-to-day job. I just follow the path I think is right.
5. Investment in the future
At a larger company, it’s easy to feel disassociated with the company’s outcome. Get a client, lose a client, it doesn’t really matter to you.
This can appeal to some people, because it means the pressure’s off. It doesn’t come down to you at all.
But at a startup, I am vitally invested in the company’s future, because I’m driving it, in large part. I feel a strong connection with what I aim to achieve every day, because I’m responsible for the outcome.
It isn’t just because I’m afraid the company will fail. I’d be able to get another job without too much trouble.
It’s more that I feel ownership over my work and am eager to see it flourish, like I would if I owned my own company.
Working at a small startup means every single action you take can be directly linked to the success or failure of a company.
I feel ownership over my work and am eager to see it flourish.
As an undergrad, I worked part-time at a large retail chain. What I did or didn’t do, ultimately didn’t matter. If I had ideas, they were rejected — I was only a very new hire, who didn’t know how the company operated, and so I couldn’t possibly contribute anything of value. I clocked in, did the absolute bare minimum, and clocked out.
At my job now, I’m energized to take on more responsibility, invested in seeing the company succeed, motivated to come up with creative solutions. I have the flexibility to work however is best for me, and the support of interdisciplinary expertise.
Five Surprising Reasons Why I Love Working at a Startup was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.