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Deciding to transition from a corporate job to a startup role can be exhilarating. Many of today’s startups entice the best talent from their competitors, top universities, and Fortune 500 Companies by offering them perks from free coffee to cocktails, free car services to flexible work hours. Employees wear jeans to work every day – not just on Friday. Venture capital firms dump boatloads of cash into promising new market makers year after year. The new companies can then afford offer top salaries to top talent, making the move all the more appealing to experienced corporate employees.

Nonetheless, the transition can be hard, and many professionals with decades of experience in their industries find themselves struggling to adapt to their new roles.

Connections of New York cares, and wants you to succeed no matter what career path you choose. So, we’ve compiled this non-exhaustive list of tips for professionals looking to transition from Corporate America to their local Silicon Valley.

Be prepared to work with less.

Perhaps one of the biggest adjustments that corporate professionals face when entering new roles at startups is the lack of financial and human resources. Traditionally, startups are bootstrapped. They have fewer employees and smaller budgets, so individuals who are new to the game may discover that they will have to be creative about finding new ways to get things done with less.

Learn to get comfortable with ambiguity.

When working for a large, established organization it can be easy to fall into a comfortable routine. One person handles planning. Another is responsible for the budget. Yet another builds things. That is his or her only job.

The same does not usually apply for working at a startup. Plans change. Clients flake. Markets collapse. All the while, the person who was hired to develop code for automating processes may be asked to troubleshoot a coworker’s finicky laptop. With fewer people to work through any given task, professionals looking to work for startups should expect to fill a multitude of roles at once.

Remember: When you transition from a corporate job to a startup role, it is never acceptable to say, “Thats not my job.”

Be ready to have your strengths and weaknesses on display.

It can be easy to be swept up in the inertia of a large-scale corporate march forward. For most workers, one bad or unproductive day on the job at a large organization will go unnoticed. This does not ring true within the startup.

Instead, every employee usually has a mission-critical role. Additionally, the added facetime with company leaders can ensure that your work will almost always be up for scrutiny.

HOW TO TRANSITION FROM A CORPORATE JOB TO A STARTUP ROLEBe prepared to see (and accept) your colleague’s bad side.

Is your new boss a visionary, who can’t write an email to save his life? Is your company programmer brilliant, but possesses the social skills of a slug? Let it go. You’ll need to if you are to thrive within a startup. Most successful startups thrive because the employees are close knit and work well together. The supportive family-like environments are great for fostering teamwork and creativity. However, you may find that you will need to compensate for your coworker’s inexperience, as they in turn will have to compensate for yours.

Do not expect any extensive training or onboarding.

Some startups have the luxury of having received funding early on. As they scale, many of them develop more robust HR departments and training procedures. However, if you’re joining a relatively young business, it is likely that you will need to train yourself on many of the company’s existing processes.

Pay careful attention to the company’s mission statement.

While working for a big firm, it can be easy to ignore its mission statement. Many mission statements were written eons ago. Few of them have any relevance to the day-to-day tasks of a given job.  However, since startup employees must often play diverse roles from coder to communications professional, it is imperative for all of them to understand and stay committed to the quality of the distinct services that they claim to provide.

Check all the way in and embrace the culture.

Startups are rarely a place where employees can clock in and clock out after they’ve put in their 8 hours. Instead, the commitment to company culture is often seen as a huge draw for top talent.

Beyond the free beer, participation in company-wide networking events has the added benefit of allowing new staff members to get a better understanding of their leaders’ personalities and expectations. Informal happy hours can also be a great place to get feedback about your performance from your team members without the pressures of having their ratings committed to paper.


Bring your big ideas to the table.

More so than within a large corporation, startup employees typically have the ability to directly impact the course of business. With a strong grasp of his or her own abilities, a startup employee could pitch the idea that allows him to catapult his company (and his career) to new heights.

Zero in on critical priorities.

Quite often, startups allow employees the freedom to prioritize their goals and to work on them as they see fit. This can be a huge adjustment for workers who are used to working within a system of set processes. With so much freedom, it can be easy to become distracted.

So, make sure that you understand your top priorities and are able to complete your most important tasks before allotting energy to tasks like deciding on the orientation of your business cards.



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