Working at a startup may not be as safe as other options, but it offers its own unique rewards. Among them is the chance to help build a company from the ground up. Continue reading to see if you want to roll with the punches of the startup world.


You have a job description? That only means so much when working at a startup. Expect to do at least that and likely a lot more.

Working at a startup means being a team player-and likely a player on a small team. You are expected to hop right in and help out with whatever it takes to keep the company on the right track. Some of the tasks will be run of the mill, and others will be fresh and challenging. It takes a willingness to answer phones, pitch a plan or do whatever it takes to contribute to the vision of the company.

While job descriptions may change, request to sign an employment agreement. As duties change, within reason, ask that it be updated.

An employment agreement should contain:

  • General job description and duties

  • Starting salary

  • Pay periods and dates

  • Confidentiality provisions

  • Non-compete clause, if applicable

  • Probationary periods

This way, no matter how your job changes, you will have the basics in writing, including when you get paid.

If you do decide to leave eventually, considering using our free employment resignation letter template and make it clear why you are leaving.


Sure, there's always the chance the startup will go public and you'll find yourself with a huge wad of cash as your payoff. But there's also a chance that won't happen. Working at a startup means having a willingness to accept a certain amount of risk.

A startup may only have a year's worth or more of money in the bank. If the company's successful, more money will be headed its way. But if not, your job may be floating away with the remaining dollars. The way to look at it is a startup means profiting from the experience, if not necessarily the paycheck.

In case if it does prosper, protect your interests. Get it in writing by requesting an equity incentive plan.


Startups are likely low on employee numbers, and that means more opportunity for you to prove your worth. Got skills other than what it takes to do your job? Offer them up. There's a good chance that the company will appreciate it, and you will have more of an opportunity to learn and grow. This isn't something always possible at a more structured, more established company where you will probably be asked to stick to your task and not wander too far away.

Remember, though, that just because you thought something up doesn't mean the idea or invention in the end belongs to you. Companies often ask employees to sign an employee invention agreement document, through which you agree to grant the company ownership of any inventions you produce during your employment.


Working at a startup gives you the chance to learn under an innovator. Startups are constantly searching for solutions, giving you the chance to learn from their creativity as they rapidly seek out solutions so they can tackle the next big objective.

It also gives you the chance to move up in your own career faster. Startups are eager for fresh talent and, if you show you are up to it, may reward you sooner by moving you a rung or two higher on the career ladder.

As you move up that ladder, consider seeking a raise.

If you seek additional guidance in how to excel, submit a request help toward promotion document that asks a supervisor to help you reach the next promotion.

Workplace culture

Founders will play a huge part in developing the culture of a startup, but you will as well. Startups tend to have a casual atmosphere, and you may even be able to work from home or take part in activities that you wouldn't at a more established company, but it goes beyond that. You will be part of a team setting the standard, and your personality will help shape what the company becomes.

You are also part of a close-knit group of people all working toward the company's success. These bonds go deep, like a family.

If the startup finds that success, you may personally profit. Get that in writing if an employer offers that possibility. Request to see the employer's employee bonus plan.

There is also a chance that, to lure employees, a startup may offer perks like working from home. If so, ask to sign a telecommuting agreement that specifies what rules you must follow.

Office politics

Working at a startup means being a part of a melting pot of personalities, and sometimes that melting pot can boil over. This is especially a risk considering how much time and work people put in at a startup. Tensions may run high, and such situations can sometimes lead to turmoil.

The best bet is to stay as clear of the negativity as possible and don't let yourself get caught up in it. Focus on increasing cooperation, not on yourself and your own ambitions, and avoid adversarial relationships with others. It is also best to keep your complaining to yourself or someone who doesn't work for the company. While things may not always be fair, taking an active part in office politics may do more harm than good to your chances of advancement.

Read through your employee handbook carefully so you don't get caught in a situation that's clearly addressed.

The big picture

Working at a startup comes with its share of risks, but there are also rewards. Among them is the chance to take part in trying something new, in building it up and being an active participant in what it becomes. Not everybody has that chance.

But, keep in mind it won't be easy. It comes with a hefty amount of responsibility and a bit of financial risk as well. Weigh all options before deciding to jump in with both feet.