Reasons NOT to join a startup

Startups are different beasts. If you’ve never been a part of one, it’s really hard to explain just how unique and challenging it is during its early stages. I’ve seen so many people think they want to be involved in a startup only to have the reality punch them in the face when they get what they want.

Here are 5 reasons NOT to join that cool startup (that you think will bring your life excitement and challenge).

  1. You will NEVER get paid a market wage. This is just fact. Startups are broke and their investors are frugal. Take what you are earning right now and halve it for 5 years – that’s probably when you’ll start to see increases, provided the company survives. Don’t bank on an exit — most companies don’t ever see that cash windfall so strike that from your future. You are getting paid what you are getting paid. If something happens beyond that, think of it as a bonus.
  2. More startups die than do survive. To make it 5 years for a startup (or any business) is a miracle. Not just a normal, run-of-the-mill-one-person-survives-a-plane-crash type of miracle, we are talking God descending from heaven and showing herself to humanity type of miracle. Be ready for that to not happen. Also be ready to have to skip pay periods every once in a while.
  3. There is NO advancement, you are already in your role. Don’t expect a promotion or job change in the first bunch of years of life. The role you signed up for is the role you will be doing for years. There is nowhere to move except out.
  4. Don’t expect multi-week vacations. The reality of startup life is that if it can live without you for 3 weeks, you might as well no longer work there. There is not a clearer mismatch than asking for a multi-week vacation while working in a startup. You are not a fit.
  5. There is no HR, no clock and no slow down. You have to understand that the days are long, the weeks blur into each other and the pace is untenable. If you can’t keep up, catch up or stay up, you are not a fit.

If you can stomach these realities and still feel good about startup life, you may be a fit. If not, stop negotiating with the founders and find a job at a company further down its lifeline. You are not ready to join a startup.