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How To Grow Your Career At A Startup

Career Guides
Landing your first startup job is only the beginning of your tech career. Without developing your organizational, management, and leadership skills, you won’t progress as quickly. That means you’re unlikely to progress to a higher-paid role, and as your tenure in the same role grows longer, junior employees who are growing their skills will bypass you professionally. If you only put in the minimum in your current role, you will be overlooked, progress more slowly and see opportunities that could have been yours go to employees who are hungrier for those chances. Startups are fast-paced workplaces where everyone needs to pitch in and be flexible regarding work duties — anyone not doing so will be noticed, and not in a good way.

To grow your career and achieve your ambitions, you should be committing to always learning about your industry and function. Stay aware of new developments, particularly regarding new tech. You should be stepping up for new responsibilities, like taking the lead on a team project or coaching a new employee to prove your capabilities and get noticed by managers and founders. They are watching your performance and assessing who is ready for a promotion— so impress them.

Startups grow so quickly that they tend to promote junior employees to management roles faster than corporate companies. By showing that you are a hard worker plus a capable and responsible leader who is open to learning and staying abreast of the industry, you can set your career up for maximum growth in a very short time at a startup, and reach a seniority level your peers in Big Tech may wait decades to achieve.

Career aspirations

What is Career Growth?

Career growth is like the big picture of your professional career, from your first job to your retirement party. It is a collection of your professional experience, skills, opportunities and compensation. The most important thing to remember, especially in the current job market, is that what your career is and how it will grow is very flexible. You may start your career certain that one day you will hold a certain position at a certain company, only to be presented with an opportunity you couldn’t have dreamed of that will take you on a new path. While some young professionals enter the workforce with immediate ambitions to disrupt their industry and rise to the top, others are looking for stability and prefer a “long-game” approach to progressing through roles and acquiring skills along the way. No way is wrong or right— it’s all up to you.

Careers of the Future

We encourage those who want to have a fulfilling career to take notice of market trends and identify career paths that will be highly valued in the future. For instance, with more governments and companies investing in sustainable, clean energy sources, the value of solar and wind technology will skyrocket. Software developers fluent in the latest programs will be needed to continue to bring autonomous vehicles to production scale. The internet itself is radically changing as Web3 takes off and cryptocurrency disrupts the financial system. And as the pandemic has shown, there is an immediate need in the healthcare sector for pharmaceutical development and improvements to medical equipment. Companies making breakthrough innovations need designers, engineers, product managers, sales associates, and operations managers. Everyone who joins a forward-looking field stands to gain, regardless of position.

Career Aspirations for the Near Future

The foundation of a fulfilling career begins with identifying clear goals and milestones in the present and near future— but what those goals and milestones are is completely up to you. You may be a young professional or new grad who has been hyper-focused on a two or five-year plan, but have you been thinking about how things you’re accomplishing in these early parts of your career can affect where you’ll be in 20 or 30 years? After you impress in your first job as the best junior employee a company has ever seen, how will you turn that success into a path to your highest aspirations in life? These are important questions to ask yourself as you consider where and how you want your career to grow.

Why am I losing motivation for my career future?

It’s normal to sometimes lose motivation for your career future. Not meeting your goals or hitting milestones on your personal timeline can be demotivating. Whether you were passed over for a promotion you thought you were sure to get or denied a raise, it’s important to remind yourself that some setbacks are normal. If everything in a professional career came easily, we wouldn’t call it “work.” Take a step back and examine your career goals: are your aspirations reasonably achievable at your current company or in your industry? Is achieving them really going to make you happy, or is it time to consider other opportunities? Do you still like the job you’re doing or the place where you’re working? Always remember: your career growth is a flexible, evolving concept and you decide where it can go.

Getting promoted

Growing your career inevitably involves an interaction that’s a little awkward and often intimidating for most young employees: letting your manager know you would like a promotion or a raise. While some managers will be able to tell by your actions if you have ambitions of a larger role, it’s also normal to just ask your manager if they think you are ready for a promotion and if there could be one coming soon.

Companies are not always in the habit of regularly rewarding employees with higher compensation. And while larger companies have regular performance and compensation reviews, startups usually don’t operate with as much process. A compelling argument for why you deserve to be paid more can always help. Highlighting additional responsibilities you’ve taken on, your tenure at the company, and successful output in the role often sways managers to give individual employees a raise.

Your boss needs to know you’re interested in growing at the company, so tell them exactly that. If there’s an open position at your company that interests you, reach out to the hiring manager to let them know you’d like to be considered. In most situations, companies prefer to promote internally rather than hire externally. Besides saving them money on recruitment, they get to bring someone to the role who already knows the company and has demonstrated their desire to stay and grow within it.

If your boss won’t hear you out on why you deserve a raise or a promotion, it’s perfectly acceptable to start looking at opportunities at other companies. While previous generations valued “loyalty” and perceived staying at one company in one role for 10 years as a sign of professionalism, that’s no longer the case today. If you think your growth is being stymied in your current position but want to give the company one last chance to recognize your value, informing management that you have an offer from another company and disclosing the compensation is the cold bucket of water a lot of employers unfortunately need before they offer higher compensation or a promotion to get you to stay at the company. And if they refuse your ultimatum, well, you have a job offer. Either way it lands, your career, and hopefully bank account, will be growing.