Welcome to the Real World, Now What?
Congratulations, you’ve graduated. Now forget everything you learned.
Unlike in the college-learning environment where lessons are meted out in a deliberate calibrated way, the pace of technological and other changes in the startup world can be whiplash inducing. And what can wind up happening more often than not is you’ll find the things you learned in classes that may have been cutting-edge when you took them, are already a little outdated by the time you hit the workforce.
So before you sign the lease on that co-working space, here are a four startup world truisms to keep in mind:
1. Every job is tech focused. If you didn’t study or learn technology in college, now’s the time. We can’t all be electrical engineering majors, but regardless of what your idea for a startup is, it has to have a tech component. Consumers and end-users are looking to be engaged on their computer screens and smartphones. Maybe your passion is architecture, perhaps it's botany, but the key these days is how you incorporate current technology to enhance your idea.
2. Working “9 to 5” is a myth. Any entrepreneur or startup employee will tell you that there is no typical workday or workweek. For that matter, it’s likely that even your parents no longer adhere to the concept of the forty-hour week. Successful entrepreneurs are constantly wearing many different hats, and are always working because they cannot afford to stop thinking about their product or business and how to make it better. When you aren’t pouring your energy into your product or developing your next app, you’re networking.
The startup world doesn’t have a work schedule, as inspiration strikes at all hours. Let go of the idea of structured days, and leaving the office by five or six. There will be twelve hour days, and there will be summer Fridays with office-beer regattas.
3. Find your own work-life balance. Given the blurred lines of the workday, the professional world has reached a point where you have to decide for yourself when work ends and your social life begins. This has been going on for decades, but now email and work documents are available in the cloud. Plus, mobile culture is embraced to the degree that you can never truly be disconnected from work. The temptation to do work and "be in the loop" will be with you everywhere you go (even on dates) unless you draw some serious lines in the sand.
If you've chosen to keep the different parts of your life separate so far, this will cause difficulties in your personal life. Many of your friends with more structured schedules will likely think you have time when you "get off of work." The trick is to think about how to weave work into your life and vice versa. After all, the startup world has no syllabus except for the one you make for yourself.
4. Social Media isn't just a place to connect with friends. In the past few years, LinkedIn has become a massive force in the professional world. Sites like LinkedIn have the ability to connect you with your next investor or your next hire, while sites like Twitter and Facebook have gained professional value. Twitter has now become the chosen medium of many industry professionals to provide succinct commentary on industry trends as well as a tool for sales teams to engage their potential customers. At the same time, large companies are ditching their websites and establishing their primary online presence on Facebook.
Social media isn't just a fun way to connect with your friends anymore. It's an actionable sales, advertising and recruitment channel where your online identity is how the professional world will judge you. Curate your online personality, and use it to display your value.
What’s your best advice for making it in the real world? Let us know with a comment.