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3 advices from a startup insider on how to succeed and grow yourself in a startup


Startup life is chaotic sometimes and this is the fact you have to accept.

-- Tagtoo

Startup life is full of twists and turns. One moment a startup is making a huge breakthrough, the next moment the team might be collapsing from the peak due to many possible causes such as management, investor, and etc.

Staying at a startup for several years is also not easy, especially in a society where young fresh graduates are told to work for corporate because of more satisfactory salary and less risky career path.

However, accepting the offer from my current company, Tagtoo, 4 years ago was actually the best decision I’ve ever made. This decision allowed me to closely observe how our CEO managed an organization and finally win the opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Working in a startup is challenging. With that said, there are actually a few tips that can help you get through all the difficulties and succeed in any assigned mission.

Here are 3 takeaways I learned on as a senior employee in a startup.

1) Be versatile and collaborative

In most cases, there is no clear functional structure in a startup organization. One moment you are approaching potential clients as a salesperson, the next moment you may be designing the next seasonal campaigns as a marketer with other team members. This is exactly how startup life looks like.

To be able to succeed in the aforementioned scene, being a master in a specific field is not necessary. In fact, being versatile and collaborative is the key. A startup employee should be versatile to support any incoming projects and be collaborative to work with colleagues coming from diverse backgrounds to achieve a greater goal together.

As far as I was concerned, my previous position was about managing clients’ advertising account and optimizing their digital ads to reach the target ROI. Little did I figured out was I was also required to handle customer service on behalf of the sales team sometimes due to the manpower shortage.

Actually, I didn’t think the startup company I work for didn’t appreciate my specialties. Instead, I was more than happy to support other teams in any way I could. I strongly agreed with the company’s mission and extremely valued the togetherness created by everyone in the organization.

Startup life is not as glamorous as other thinks and sometimes is kind of messy. Consequently, an ideal startup employee should be able to tolerate the chaos and contribute all of his innate talents with other teammates to help the assigned projects meet the deadline.

2) Be independent and self-taught

In a startup, your manager might not be able to give you clear instructions every time, not to mention, pay all of his attention to you. Chances are he has several ongoing projects at hands and is supporting different functional teams.

Considering common situations like this, being independent and self-taught become extremely critical for a startup employee to get on the right track and not to be lost in the middle. You can not expect others to give you a hand every time you are handling a hot potato.

Take me as an example. There wasn’t anyone possessing the experience of market research at Tagtoo when I took the position of Market Analyst. My assigned research reports continuously didn’t meet my CEO’s expectation. For the first 3 months, I was almost lost and not sure how to step ahead.

Thankfully, I bounced back after realizing the sense of loss didn’t help at all. I changed the way I worked and started to utilize available online resources such as eMarketer and SimilarWeb to make reports look more professional. I also learned that I should see obstacles ahead as opportunities to improve my problem-solving skill and try to become a reliable guy that can take on greater responsibilities.

While it took me another 3 months to recover my morale, the process had enabled me to become more independent and deepened my skill of self-learning.

3) Be confident and ambitious

Startups are not like big corporates that have abundant resources to sustain. Any potential opportunity that possibly enables your startup company to grow, such as strategic partnership, should be all seized tightly and taken into consideration carefully.

To contribute your effort in helping a startup gain a strong foothold in a market, being confident and ambitious is the cornerstone to approach success. The former allows you to take on more challenges and responsibilities while the latter leads you to see a bigger picture on a startup’s future development.

In my case, I was given numerous opportunities to engage with senior executives and convince them to adopt our services when I was promoted to oversee the business development in Jakarta. However, I found it hard to eliminate my fear to give decent sale presentations among experienced industry insiders and thereby failed to close any deal.

Only when I came across several student entrepreneurs who seemed naive but confidently approached me did I learn that one’s confidence level can be increased through intentional practices. Subsequently, as the confidence level goes up, the way you see things will dramatically change and that's when your ambition starts at play.

This may be the most difficult part to practice. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and get rid of your nervousness to believe in yourself that you can do a great job. It’s never easy from scratch, but I am pretty sure it’s rewarding.


Author: Edison Chen, Business Development Manager at Tagtoo

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