Joining a company that is in a period of rapid growth can be exciting, exhilarating, and, well, exhausting if you’re used to working for a well-established organization with clear workflows and expectations.
Starting a gig at a growing company, however, will likely let you grow your career—and paycheck—if you’re up for a fast-paced, continuously changing work environment.
Before making the jump, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I Ready for a New Way of Thinking?
If you’ve only been exposed to how big corporations operate—with departmental memos and detailed workflows—be prepared to adapt your mindset.
Take it from marketer Gregor Perotto, who had big tech and telecom companies on his resume before moving to a small startup six years ago. “My last team of 50+ employees was almost the size of my new company the year that I joined,” he says. “I liked diving deep into work every day with my sleeves rolled up, but moving to a hyper-growth startup was that times a thousand because you have to build processes as you go, and constantly prioritize and re-prioritize the limited resources you have to maximize impact.”
When joining a fast-moving workplace, you can’t be afraid to jump right in with your ideas. Without the rigid chain-of-command structure that you might be used to, there is more room for on-the-spot ideation and innovation, and less focus on crafting a presentation for the quarterly meeting.
2. Do I Believe in the Mission?
Finding a company with values that align with yours is the key to workplace happiness, says Brianna Foulds, Director of Talent Acquisition for Cornerstone OnDemand, a high-growth HR software solution company. This is even more true in high-growth companies, where long work weeks and high-pressure situations are often the norm.
“You spend so much time at work, so if you don’t believe in the organization or stand with its mission as an individual, you’re not going to be driven to make it successful,” says Foulds. “It’s much more fulfilling when the company’s accomplishments are also your accomplishments.”
You can get a better feel for a company by doing some research. Spend time on the company’s website, blog, and social media platforms to understand their products, core beliefs, and values. In your interviews and informational conversations, ask thoughtful questions about the goals, environment, and work styles. Your goal is to get employees talking about their passions and see how they overlap with yours.
3. Am I Comfortable Making Decisions on My Own?
In a place that’s continuously changing, there is usually not a ton of formal structure when it comes to decision-making, says Peg Newman, partner with Sanford Rose Associates-Newman Group, an executive search firm. “When you’re faced with a decision that impacts whether something moves forward or doesn’t, there’s not a lot of time for consultation.”
In other words, you won’t spend a lot of time waiting for C-suite approvals—you’ll likely be expected to get the job done independently. If you’re confident making decisions and love moving quickly, that can be a great thing. You will also have the chance to give your leadership skills a chance to shine.
Think back to the last time you got to make the final call on something at work. Did the ownership terrify you or inspire you? If the latter, that’s a great sign.
4. Am I Ready to Put Out Fires With Limited Resources?
In smaller organizations, you have to do more with less, says Newman. For people who love being resourceful and don’t mind getting their hands dirty, this can be the ideal environment. On the other hand, if you’re coming from a large shop and are used to having plenty of resources at your disposal, the shift can be tough.
This was one of Perotto’s big considerations when deciding whether or not to change companies. “I questioned whether I wanted to take on a larger role with broader responsibility, but with far fewer resources,” he admits. Ultimately, he decided he was up for the challenge.
Consider your entrepreneurial spirit and creativity when it comes to problem solving skills. “Do you enjoy being the go-to person to develop something new, or solve a problem that was considered to be unsolvable?” Newman asks. If so, the lack of resources might be liberating, rather than stifling.
5. Am I a Risk Taker?
Perotto says making the leap from a large, well-established, successful company to a much smaller, relatively unknown startup was scary. Leaving a "sure thing" to join a company that may or may not survive past the start-up phase takes a certain amount of fortitude.
Asking questions about business goals and priorities convinced Perotto that it was a risk worth taking. You can do the same by being forthright in your initial discussion about any reservations you may have. Perhaps the person interviewing you or another recent hire can offer his or her insight as to how far the company has come and the direction in which it's heading. See if there are any financials you can review, or if there has been any industry/media coverage about the company's growth.
For Perotto, the risk paid off; The company has expanded rapidly and he’s thrilled that he played such a significant role early on. "I had the privilege of laying the groundwork for what is now a global brand," he says.
So, how did you do? If you answered ‘yes’ to most of the above questions, you can be confident you have what it takes to survive and thrive in a fast-moving, high-growth environment—have at it! If you’re still not sure, talk to people who work at companies you’re interested in to get a better idea of the day to day grind. The more you know about what you’re stepping into, the better.