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.
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.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.