Startup jobs are nothing new to the eyes of students. But the actual amount of students who’ve actually experienced one is slim. At the same time, a Deloitte study on Millennials in 2020 shows that 52% of corporate employees do not find their work meaningful. Yikes! I know… that’s kind of dark isn’t it?
Although getting a startup job does not provide the same level of prestige nor any lucrative financial upside associated with big-name corporations that most students and graduates initially seek. Working in a startup will bring something much different and very valuable to the table that might be more worth to you than you’d initially expect. It’ll maybe kickstart your fire.
Develop your own path and work smarter
Let’s just face it. A lot of us gravitate towards the “mainstream dream” of one day landing a big shot opportunity at a place like Google, Apple or maybe one of Elon’s roaring tech adventures like SpaceX. And usually, we all just follow the path that has already been paved in linearity with what’s on the resumé in order for us to reach those dreams. And then what happens? You got it right! Corporate dishwasher for years.
The truth to the matter is just that the odds of you making it through the tiny keyhole are… slim to none. Sounds harsh, I know. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim for the stars because you always should! But what I am hinting at is the law of attraction. You attract what you are. And if you want to become that valuable asset that these giants can’t deny – you better eat hustle for breakfast. The secret sauce is working smart and acquiring skills that you simply can’t in bigger organizations. So then what? Well, we’d say you might start to consider getting a startup job and refurbish that dusty resume of yours.
That’s what Elizabeth le Dang, Head of Sales and Operations @ LegalHero, did:
Why did you get a startup job and what was your initial career plan?
For me what I found most interesting about the startup life is that everything is fast-paced. I’ve always thrived in environments that move quickly. Finding a startup job was so appealing to me because you don’ know what to expect. Simultaneously, you are given more free rein and greater responsibility than in usual corporate organizations. By that I mean you’re offered more opportunities and possibilities of getting close, touch and change areas that usually would take a few years for typical entry employees in a corporate setting.
When I first applied to LegalHero the position was actually a part-time startup job. However, I had just graduated and had just quit my previous steady job. I realized being in a job where everyday is done in the same matter just wasn’t for me. I kind of liked the chaotic work life with no existing structure, where I am able to bring the pieces back together and establish it myself.
All of the sudden I stumbled upon the startup LegalHero, which I found really appealing with a concept I truly believe can be the new ways of working and operating in contrast to the ever so conservative legal industry.
My first thought was I wasn’t going to apply, but something in me just knew that this could be a great opportunity for me to explore something I’ve probably longed for. I would get to follow this startup’s journey, be involved and able to put my imprints onto new processes and get real hands-on experience. All in all the chance to experience this adventure clearly yelled at me and then I knew I had to apply. By the way, let me know if you need a hand on that job interview, right?
What benefits you the most working in a startup?
I have a background in business administration and commercial law and the most common career path here is either going into law- or accounting firms. What I always imagined myself doing, was to be in one of these big accounting firms. But when I graduated I became unsure. Then I discovered an opportunity in working in a startup. What appealed to me was that you get to try different career paths. More interestingly that these paths can bring you to other places that I never could expect.
So I got my first startup job and joined LegalHero as a Customer Success Manager and we quickly discovered how the role evolved. Some work areas required more attention, which quickly but naturally meant I was trusted with more responsibility which has led to my new position.
Getting a startup job may not bring in the big bucks but there is an intriguing reward based on incentives. I believe the most essential thing about the startup life is that the experience you acquire outweighs everything else you may have compromised. You can think of this learning process as a positive domino-effect. An investment in your career. The more experience you gain the more (or at least improved) skills you’ll get. The more skills you get will eventually lead to more opportunities, which all in all is a fantastic way to start your career in my optics.
How has working in a startup surprised you?
One thing that caught my attention is the startup environment, particularly due to the fact that at times you need to adapt fairly quickly, learn and execute on matters that have great importance to the startup. There is an element of everyone being dependent on your work and vice versa. Given that circumstances can change constantly during the establishing phases it is super important that you are able to adjust.
By doing so, you become more agile. You learn how to make a difference and how to act and overcome obstacles in the future. As there is often some kind of lack of structure you can actually make a huge visible impact on the company – which is super cool and rewarding.
I was really surprised by the dynamics of these driven and creative people you’re surrounded with. You get to meet and learn from true innovators and there is nothing called a stereotype. Age or prior experience has no meaning; it somehow feels like a big community and it’s rather engaging that everyone has or is dealing with the same issues simultaneously, e.g. events like funding.
Unparalleled sources of inspiration
Another thing the startup life has offered me for sure, is the inspiration that comes from seeing these innovators and visionaries always seeking solutions and the dedication they put into their work, which makes you want to do the same.
Entrepreneurs are the best people to learn from. They just think differently. They have faced a problem and thought of a creative but feasible idea on how to solve it. Because they’ve been through the mill they inspire you to reconsider and approach an issue in a way you might not normally would have. Sometimes in ways that do not necessarily match the books you spend so many hours eyeballing through. And that is a gift in itself. Working this way you are slowly taught how to shift your mindset from solving to rather how to improve.
Lastly, getting a startup job has taught me that it’s okay to loosen up. As a custom in school (especially within the law-field) everything has to be neat and is automatically said in a kind of uptight robotic manner. The startup environment perfectly illustrates that professionals can in fact be humans. Being professional doesn’t stem from how you look nor speak. However, is based on your skills and knowledge – not to mention the huge effort! It is allowed to crack a joke or two and you can wear a t-shirt or hoodie while still getting the job done – cause everyone else has the same drive and excitement as you do.
Looking back now as the Head of Sales and Operations at LegalHero, how has your startup experience developed you?
Working at a place where you and your team have to make something out of the breaking ground gives you resilience. It shows you not to be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You want to do everything in your power to make sure nothing goes wrong. You learn how to become more self-motivated and decisive. Which also gives you a strong sense of self and what you can achieve if you are willing to put in the work.
When you get a startup job most people have to face personal sacrifices. In my case I had to brace myself for a smaller salary due to the existing limited resources combined with the startup job being part-time. Despite that I never regretted my decision. It has kept me curious about the startup life, how it works and possibly the thought of becoming an investor myself one day. And not to mention the opportunity of getting actual equity and ownership in a startup! If that doesn’t get your motivation fired up, I don’t know what will.
A significant advantage is that your work gets recognized. More responsibility follows but so does more freedom. This allows you to be more creative on how to deal with your complexities. It makes the learning curve steep – however it too opens up for the possibility of more mistakes. A big comfort I found was no one expects you to be able to do everything. It’s almost impossible to hide from your mistakes, nonetheless failures are usually resolved as a team. No one wants to see you to fail. And to be honest with you… Failure is your greatest teacher.
What should other students be aware of before joining a startup?
A disadvantage may be uncertainty and that it requires a lot of hard work. There can be long hours and lack of structure, which at times can make you want to give in. Although, ownership and confronting obstacles educate the entity on how to deal with drawbacks more agile. Also, it helps strengthen the team chemistry. The startup life is not for everyone and it surely isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a game of mindset. By getting a startup job and committing yourself to a pure vision you’ll find that there are no shortcuts. But you get to challenge yourself. Every. single. day.
Instability can of course occur in any type of shape. But the outcome and the efforts put into one particular project, and seeing it finally take off, is so rewarding. Getting a startup job is something I truly believe more students should consider no matter your educational background.
By Elizabeth le Dang, Head of Sales and Operations @LegalHero & Rasmus Busk Hyllemose, Content & Social Media Marketing Lead @theHub.