I said no. I wanted to work for a startup.
It’s been almost two years since I graduated and I have not regretted my decision for a second. Here’s what I wish I had known back when I made that gutsy decision (and was deemed insane by most everyone I knew):
1) Passion is Paramount– This may seem obvious, but my friends who went into the traditional post-college jobs of investment banking and consulting are two years out and hate their lives. They work ridiculous hours on projects they don’t care about. When I wake up in the morning, I’m excited about the prospect of building a company each day. Not only is the excitement about building a company, but pursuing something I really care about. My family owns a small business, so when I heard the initial pitch on FeeFighters and helping business owners, it really resonated with me. It still resonates each time I talk to one of our users or explain our product to a potential user who could save a lot of money.
2) The Experience Is Incomparable- At age 22, I became the 3rd member of a team that would soon become one of America’s Most Promising Startups. I’ve witnessed the company grow from what was little more than a lean, bootstrapped idea into an eight person venture backed rock star. People talk about wearing many hats? I’ve worn them all. Learning to do what needs to be done as the company grows has given me unparalleled experience that will surely prepare me for things I can’t even imagine at this point.
3) Having a Life is Important- My friends work 14 hour days and get sent to random places at their companies’ whims. They don’t get a chance to cook, do yoga, or see their families very often. They are perpetually stressed out and feel like they are not in control of their lives….because they’re not. Working at a startup means flexibility: I work long hours, but I select what hours I work and where I work. Studies have shown that the more flexibility that is offered in the workplace, the happier and more productive employees will be. I’m very happy…and very productive.
4) Being Invested Motivates- I honestly don’t understand how you could dedicate your life to something with no potential payoff. Now, I’m well aware of the odds against each startup out there, but at least I know that my direct effort could potentially lead to something much greater in the future…and that’s better than slaving away for the man with no potential upside.
5) Standing Out Counts– I plan to go to business school in a few years, and I already have a much more compelling story to tell than my consulting cohorts. While those kind of applications are a dime a dozen, my straight to startup post-college story is remarkably rare (so I’m told). While I don’t have an acceptance letter in hand so I can’t speak concretely, I’ve informally talked to many business school students and admissions folks who have confirmed my suspicions. Assuming I put in all of the other hard work, I should be a very competitive applicant.
Being part of a startup has been an amazing experience thus far–I keep learning more and more about business, technology, and myself each day. When you’re in college, it may seem like there are only a few prescribed paths for to follow, however the secret to the “real world” is that it’s more about forging your own path and finding something to do that you love than doing what everyone expects of you.