Thanks to the much-publicized success of companies like Instagram and Pinterest, working at a startup is hot again. While working at a startup can be a great experience – I worked at one in college that taught me a ton – I find I rely most heavily on my time spent in corporate America, when it comes to doing my best work day in and day out. So if you’re rocking a typical 9-to-5, here are a few suggestions to develop startup-ready skills on the job. Added bonus: Most of these things make you look like a rockstar in your current role too!
Look for opportunities to make life better. One of the most essential skills at a startup is identifying the needs of the business and being able to execute. You don’t have to get Google’s famous 20 Percent Time to make this happen; just find pain points in your and your coworkers' day and do something about it. Is there an annoying, repetitive process that could be automated? Figure it out and disseminate the solution to your team. Is your boss looking for volunteers to help with an improvement project? Raise your hand. Have a great idea to get more business or save your company money? Outline a plan and pitch it to your boss. Even if you don’t get to work on all your ideas, training yourself to be on the lookout means you’ll be ready to pounce on opportunities when they come.
“Done is better than perfect.” This quote is painted on the walls at the Facebook offices and for good reason – we can overanalyze and over-work on things wanting them to be just right when it’s better to finish and edit later. When it comes to a startup's never-ending to-do list, you can save much of your sanity by focusing on getting things done. Even in cubicleland, getting your work done faster means you have more time to edit before showing your boss or the ability to enjoy happy hour a little more often.
Network outside your immediate business. One of the keys to moving your business forward is talking to people of different perspectives and expertise. Corporations are great for having programs meant to facilitate networking, like women’s networks and sports teams. Join a group and attend events to get some low-pressure practice in networking. Or volunteer time with an improvement or activity committee – you’ll meet people who work outside of your normal group and see how the whole company functions together.
(Photo via Mike Monaghan)