Joining an Early Stage Startup is the Best Career Decision You Can Make Right Now

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with thousands of people about what they want in their next role and it generally boils down to three things:

  1. The right problem (aka purpose)–people focus on working for a company where they understand, support, and even champion the business’ reason for existing. The products resonate and the outcomes matter more than those of other companies. 
  2. The right people–job seekers want to connect with and enjoy working with and learning from their colleagues. Beyond that, many people want access to the networks and opportunities that certain teams will connect them to.
  3. The potential for impact–this is twofold, people want to make a difference at the company (where they get to contribute toward a problem that excites them) but also want each role to meaningfully impact their lives (financially, intellectually, interpersonally) and careers (skill development and progression opportunities).

Joining an early stage company is the best way to optimize for these three things. Here’s why:

  • Early stage companies are hyper focused on a specific, short list of activities–getting their product to market, scaling, iterating, and adapting to feedback or the market–that contribute toward the big picture problem or purpose. In joining an early stage company, you’ll get a crash course in some of the most important activities that drive a company’s success and get to play a pivotal role.
  • A company early in its lifecycle will have a smaller team. You’ll be able to get to know everyone, including the leadership team, in ways that are unique to small, early stage companies. There’s less bureaucracy, more exposure and access to decisions and information, and the chance to share your own point of view. Through ups, downs, and turnarounds you’ll build trust, be vulnerable and develop a special kind of camaraderie.
  • You’ll experience growth and impact in immeasurable ways. Stepping into a new role in an early stage startup means you’ll be expected to contribute your expertise and capabilities right out of the gate while taking on a diverse set of responsibilities that will stretch and challenge you. That growth is paired with more flexibility–without set practices, you can shape the process, tools and ways of working and become more resilient and creative than you’d ever imagine. 

I know some people will ask about the risks of joining an early stage company. Here are some of my thoughts on that dimension: 

  • Taking a new job, any job, is a risk. Recruiting is a sales process (on both sides!) and that means that once someone’s on the ground, they and their team will learn more about one another every day. Doing your diligence up front in your search and interview process is critical regardless of the type of role you’re seeking. I wrote a book about this, check it out
  • Covid, a competitive talent market, and the funding environment in tech over the last few years have de-risked some of the historical realities of early stage compensation and rewards. Will you take a pay cut from big tech or a F500 company? Probably. Will you have a comprehensive benefit program? Not necessarily. But! Early stage companies are increasingly leveling up on both of these fronts to attract and retain the right people. And they’re more likely to adapt and expand their offerings based on the interests of their team as they succeed than larger, more established companies.
  • In markets like Denver, the expansion of the startup community, the infusion of big tech and the success of homegrown companies is paving the way for more opportunities in the future. Expanding your skills, learning fast, and being a part of the building of a business are incredibly valuable in the marketplace. Joining an early stage company, even if it fails, creates more paths for you to explore as a next step. 
  • The status quo, the corporate job, is not going away. Those opportunities can be there if you find you need or want a change in the future. You’ll bring new points of view and disruptive, innovative ideas to that environment if you make the move after spending time in an early stage company and a lot of more established companies are looking for that energy and those abilities. 

If you’re looking for a new role that checks all of these boxes, take a look at open positions within the Range portfolio and reach out if you’re interested!