Four mistakes to avoid while looking for startup jobs

Many people have reached out to me for career advice in the past two years. Speaking to them, I realised some common errors that intelligent people are making while deciding to do their startup job search/switching companies.

  1. Ignoring personal context: Comparing offers from Swiggy/Flipkart with offers from 100ms/Uni is like comparing apples to oranges. They offer you very different things - read this to dig deeper into your needs and which one suits you best.

  2. Impatience: Wanting to spend a year at a startup but expecting disproportionate $$ outcomes*. If you want to increase your net worth by 10x, you must spend at least 3-4 years in a fast-growing startup. Anything less than that will be a momentary upside (pay hike/perks/joining bonus/etc.).

    • When I joined Shadowfax, I wanted it to be a stint for one year. I optimised for CTC over ESOPs. I ended up spending a little longer, but my upside was still insignificant compared to other colleagues who spent ~5 years there - I was ok with it from day-0. 🙂

    ~2 out of 3 unicorns took more than six years to reach that scale where they were “valued” at $1B+...

  3. Expectation mismatch: Not thinking through the risks of early-stage startups enough. Everyone wants to join an early-stage startup that can become a unicorn** in 3 years. But the majority of startups don’t cut through the noise...

    Most VC funded startups don’t become unicorns.

    What if the company fails or struggles to grow? Can you live with it? (especially if you are exploring long term opportunities).

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t join a startup - if anything, joining a startup is the best choice you can make. Reminder to visualise the scenarios and decide to live with them. Instead of feeling knee-jerk later on.

  4. Being lazy - Joining the first startup, you get an offer from: - you know, this is slightly subjective. Disclaimer: I legit did this while joining Shadowfax. But my reason was different - I knew some people in the team beforehand, so I had more comfort. But if you’re doing a standard job search process, and don’t know the team well, is the first choice the best choice? Remember, the best job opportunities won’t come knocking at your door.

Here’s a list of early and growth-stage startups in India to help you in the journey.

If you found this article helpful, do share it with others! Feel free to DM/comment about what you thought about the piece - I always love feedback ❤️

In my next article, I’ll discuss the most important things you should do before accepting an early-stage job offer - with particular input for people exploring senior/leadership roles.

P.S.: *Even after spending 3-4 years, the outcomes might not be disproportionate.

**I’ve taken unicorns/funding to measure startup / net worth growth, but it is not a holistic metric and should be taken with a pinch of salt.