5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Joining A Startup

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You have to ask yourself about the company that you are joining and the role that you are planning to take. This requires you to be introspective in understanding where your personal strengths fit in the overall goal of the company. By Lien Nguyen (Co-Founder, Joy de Jewels)

I started my working career at Intel and I had worked at 3 different Silicon Valley startups. Taking a new job at a startup is not a small decision to make. It’s difficult because the few hours you spend interviewing determine who you are going to spend time with for the next several years.

It’s even more difficult when you are joining a startup because most startups don’t have the structure and resources in place like a big company. However, when you’re presented with new opportunities and you take time to ask yourself the right questions, you will be closer to making the right decision.

Here are the five questions that I ask myself to determine whether the next startup is worth saying “YES” to.

#1 - Am I a strategic or tactical thinker?

There are two types of thinkers: strategic and tactical. Each person leans more toward one or the other, even if there are two types of thinking in our brain. Strategic thinking and tactical thinking use different parts of the brain and it’s important to take time to evaluate where you spend most of your time.

Strategic thinkers are better at setting direction for long term growth. Tactical thinkers are better at recognizing short-term solutions and delivering short-term results. For example, tactical thinkers fit better into roles like sales while strategic thinkers do better at product management and defining a product roadmap.

In the beginning of our working career, most of us take on tactical roles. However, over time as you gain experience, you will lean more toward either strategic or tactical thinking. It’s important to be aware of your strengths so that you can avoid jumping into a job that is not right for you.

#2 - Is my boss a strategic or tactical thinker?

Inside a company, it’s important to be around a diverse group of people because people solve problems differently. However, the person you directly work for should be similar to you in his or her way of thinking. If your boss is more tactical, he or she will expect you to do well in tactical tasks. If you are more strategic, your boss may undervalue you for not being great at tactical tasks while not recognizing your strength.

#3 - How well does my boss get along with other managers and executives at the startup?

Working at a startup is hard and natural irritation can arise from conflicting personalities. If your manager is well respected inside the company, then that is a great sign. He or she will be able to mentor you as to how to overcome challenges in working with people outside of your team. The best managers are the ones who possess a high level of emotional intelligence, which helps them overcome challenges in interpersonal dynamics. You will be able to further your personal growth when working with someone who’s well-respected inside the company.

If you weren’t asked to interview with people outside of your team, request one. When you do, you will be able to observe the body language of the people with whom you interview. You will be able to more accurately measure how much people inside the company respect your boss and his or her work. Trust your intuition if you do sense something is not right.

#4 - Is this job a frontline or support role?

There are only two types of job inside any company: frontline and support. For example, at a company like Intel, frontline positions include sales, design engineering, and chip architects. The rest is support. While both types are necessary to sustain a company, frontline positions are more necessary than support roles. When Intel had a reorg in 2005, positions that were eliminated were primarily support roles, such as PR and human resources. However, if you are inside a PR firm, then PR becomes the frontline position.

You have to ask yourself about the company that you are joining and the role that you are planning to take. This requires you to be introspective in understanding where your personal strengths fit in the overall goal of the company.

#5 - How much more will I be learning in this job than my current one?

Your professional growth depends on how much you know in your area of expertise. If you are learning a lot in your current job, then by all means do not leave the job because it’s stressful or annoying. Ask your manager for help in handling issues with your current job. Take these challenges as a means to develop your professional growth. Ultimately, no job is perfect and you will always find challenges in every job you take.

In sum, if you don’t feel fired up to come to work for the job you’re being offered, then always decline the job offer. Never shy away from saying no to anything that doesn’t add up.

Women 2.0 readers: What question(s) did you ask yourself before joining a startup? Let us know in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Lien Nguyen is the Co-Founder of Joy de Jewels, where independent designers make their jewelry collections and ship directly to you from their studios. Trunkshows items are limited-edition, one-of-a-kind items. After experiencing life at Intel and two startups, she decided to start her own. She lived in 7 countries growing up and spoke 3 languages fluently. Before Joy de Jewels, she was a team member of ZeroG Wireless and launched the company's first Wi-Fi module, and stayed until its acquisition until 2010. Follow her on Twitter at @lienista.