After graduating college with a degree in apparel design, I moved to the fashion capital of the world — St. Louis, Missouri. It shouldn’t be surprising that entry-level fashion jobs were in short supply. After trying my hand at a few dead-end positions, I landed my first salaried role at a niche marketing start-up. It was a marketing / tech company that specializes in B2B lead generation. What I’m trying to say is that this was not Mad Men marketing. I wasn’t crafting a clever experience to sell you cigarettes, nor was there an undertone of creativity and glamour. I was a client strategist, managing email marketing campaigns. While this was certainly not a part of my five year plan, my 24-year-old self had no idea the impact this role would make on my career and my life. My start-up experience is without a doubt more valuable than any other job or degree I could have chosen. What started out as a “let’s make this work” opportunity has turned into the springboard that fast-tracked my career as a creative director.
If you’re a 20-something, career-driven hustler, I highly recommend joining a start-up. From culture perks to insane career advancement, a start-up will give you everything you need to excel in your career. Here’s why:
Start-ups are built on long hours, endless pour-overs, and no shortage of grit. The sense that you’re all in it together is tangible. With this dynamic comes a sincere investment in the team’s — and the individual’s — success. Since joining a start-up, my team has pushed me past my limits, given some radical feedback, and has expected (and supported) me to level up. The mentors I’ve gained support me in and outside of work to be a better human, holistically.
Find career clarity
Chances are, if you’re working at a start-up, you’re the wearer of many hats. While it can be overwhelming to take on multiple projects (some of which are outside of your job description), you gather experience and have the opportunity to learn your strengths. I’ve tried everything from employee wellness to sales and now have a clear sense of my values, my assets, and how I can thrive in my career.
Working at a start-up is like earning an unofficial business degree. As you begin to scale, outgrow processes, and run into the inevitable roadblocks, you learn to problem-solve in a business setting. Whether you’re a creative with limited business acumen or you’re holding your MBA, working at a start-up develops your skills IRL.
Fast track your growth
Start-ups mean growth potential. As the company scales, you’ll face new employees, new problems, new goals — and new job openings. Whether you want to be promoted or create a brand new role, start-ups can move you from junior to senior in zero to sixty.
Needless to say, start-ups are a breeding ground for potential. You can join as an entry-level employee and leave as an executive — I’ve seen it happen. No matter what your career goals include, a start-up environment is sure to get the most out of you. (If this didn’t sell you on working at a start-up, please note that we also had Mario Kart and beer.)