When I graduated from college, I felt this empowering urge to spread all the knowledge I had compiled during undergrad to leap into my career. I had spent the past four years of my life learning how to not be late to things (or being a little late), jumping through hoops, proving I could write over 10,000 words about one topic and being able to rock some killer shoes on stage (underneath my gown, of course).
Soon after, I got my first offer from corporate America. I couldn't be happier. I breathed in a sigh of relief.
After the 100th resume, finally all that stress and hard work was starting to pay off. But you know, it just didn't start right. With today's job market and more debt than ever before, I took what I was given.
But, I quickly learned that the rigid hierarchy of corporate America just wasn't for me. I left. I was scared and nervous. I felt as if I had ruined the career I had just started.
Then, I found myself at a startup. We've all heard of the cool startup scene: the espresso machines, the freeform office setting and the flexible hours. Don't get me wrong; these are great perks.
But there are some real, deep lessons I have been able to take from start-up culture and bridge back into my personal life. Here are five ways the startup culture has made me a better adult.
1. Throw yourself into things you might be uncomfortable with.
Being in a startup probably means you're part of a small team. When I joined, the core team was pretty much already in place, with directors of business development, marketing and production already on board.
Having just graduated from college, I was still learning what I could actually do with my degree. The key to finding my place was seeking out needs and pursuing them, even if I didn't know exactly what I was doing.
Fast-forward to me fixing my shower head in my first apartment, or the time I actually had to kill a spider. (OK, that's a little bit of a stretch.)
2. Learn to be a student forever.
Start-up people have a different mental and career makeup than those who fall into the world of corporate America. They see a problem and attempt to think of an innovative way to address it. Because of this innovative nature, entrepreneurs are some of the best people to learn from.
I know firsthand that when you jump into something you may be unfamiliar with — but are willing to learn — the process is much more rewarding. I may not be able to fix a flat tire, and I am not the French chef people might like to think I am.
But, the difference between me and other people is that I'm willing to try and try again. Not only does challenging yourself in your career create amazing channels for development, but it also personally always keeps your mind thinking of ways it can be better.
3. Take pride in your successes and failures.
Because of the nature of small-sized startups, there is probably nobody else in the company who has the same skill set as you, approaches problems in the same way you do or even thinks in the same way you do. This means that when you accomplish something, the credit is directly linked to you.
In the same way, when I messed up, it was all me. It taught me that I need to be able to stand behind what I do and take responsibility for my actions.
Those are tough lessons to learn. But they were lessons I got to learn both at work and at home.
4. Be a little frugal.
I quickly learned that startups are not piles of money waiting to be spent. A lot of factors are blended together in order to get the organization to function as a whole. This probably means that the intern learns how to code, while the founder stays a little later to clean up some dishes.
It's a simple, no-frills way to use money. It's all very much functional. Yet, it's that much more appreciated.
We started learning how to use our time and resources effectively. We found out that by adding a stool, we were able to fit nine people around an eight-person table.
This frugality mindset definitely bled into my own life as well. I enjoyed myself by finding new ways to live a full life without spending all the money I had earned.
I learned to find what was really important and necessary, and I cut out the rest. Instead, I discovered the joy in creating and doing, rather than consuming.
Leading a life of creation gave me more of a sense of being and a greater passion for the things I was investing my time in. I started enjoying personal projects.
In the start-up world, it's all about being more creative and consuming less. (However, you can never have too much Chipotle.)
5. Hard work really does pay off.
It's a saying as old as time, but it's a foundational truth. Hard work gives you the ability to create something that adds value. This can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Not only does the work you pour into a startup have the ability to help others, but you can also create an opportunity that gives people the chance to learn and grow. My corporate job may not have given me the same opportunities, or have a large portion of the company rely on the work I did.
Was I the most important part of the team? Definitely not. But I was an integral part of it, and that's an empowering place to be.
Life is tough, and that much hasn't changed. But, it's incredibly rewarding when you put hard work in and see the beauty and growth that comes out of it. Whether it's professional or personal, hard work always leaves you feeling incredibly empowered and rewarded.