Why I chose to work at a start-up…

…by Ella / from England / studied MA Psychology / Graduate

When I graduated from Edinburgh in 2016 I went through the motions that every graduate experiences: instant jubilation at no more exams followed swiftly by the dread of the working world and the horror of no student loan to keep me afloat…

I found myself itching to get started and get ‘out there’. I knew that positions were extremely competitive and I didn’t want to fall behind everyone else. But after some thought I made the considered decision not to jump into full time work straight away. I wanted to make sure that whichever job I chose, would be one that I actually wanted to do, and so I tried out a few different things. During the summer after graduation, I worked training youth workers in safeguarding and as a leader of a residential youth program where I was in charge of up to 84 teenagers and their personal wellbeing. I spent a brief period freelancing at a media production company in Soho and then working as an inclusion consultant and performer for a few immersive and interactive shows. I went for interviews in various industries, from television to recruitment, advertising to retail. I was upfront when I thought I wasn’t suitable for a given position, particularly if I felt I wouldn’t be challenged enough in the role I was offered. I used the skills I developed during my Psychology degree to gather as much varied experience as I could to ensure I was happy with my final decision.

When I got a call from a recruiter asking to put me forward for a position at a London start-up, I started to look into the benefits of working at a company in its infancy. I recognised that at bigger organisations I would have to pay my dues and start at the bottom, often doing admin-related work that I would have found boring. I knew I’d prefer to hit the ground running in an environment that would push me to develop both professionally and personally.

The vacancy was for a Content Executive, working within a three-person marketing team, aiming to grow the company’s site traffic and online presence whilst spending as little money as possible. I got the job and started in January of last year. And that’s why I wanted to write this article, because I think working at a start-up after graduation can be an incredibly valuable experience. Why? Stick around and I’ll tell you.

You have increased responsibility

The pressure to sign up to a grad scheme post-uni can be pretty strong, but knowing that there are viable alternatives out there that can provide you with equally valuable experience is a comfort. Working at a start-up gives you the opportunity to take ownership of your work. In a small team, the contributions you make are not only recognizable in the company’s results but also mean that you cannot hide. If you slack, it will be noticed. This close-contact environment demands that you keep up with the rest of your team and go the extra mile to achieve your targets. As the team is small, you are given far more responsibility than you would have elsewhere. You can take ownership of projects where you are responsible for the outcomes. Your role can shift and change on a daily basis and you have control of your own development.

When I started at HeadBox, my role was as a content creator with a focus on copywriting. I wanted to develop my design and videography skills and so floated the idea of taking this kind of work a little more in-house. I taught myself how to use Creative Cloud and now create the company’s video content and undertake in-house low-level design work. As a result, I now steer my development to benefit the company and myself.

You’re invested

At a start-up you know everybody in your office. You’re invested in the work that you’re doing and the excitement surrounding new projects is often palpable. Being part of a company in its infancy means that you and your colleagues will always be working extremely hard to reach those milestones. And when you do achieve those goals, there is real cause to celebrate. This environment leads to you forming bonds that you wouldn’t elsewhere.

At a start-up there is never enough time in the day. Your to-do list doesn’t ever get shorter and you often have to get creative when learning new things. Developing the skill to think on your feet and balance many spinning plates at once is a necessity and extremely valuable for any future positions.

All in all, I’ve found working at a start-up an excellent first full-time job after graduating from Edinburgh. I’ve crammed in more experience than I could have possibly imagined, I am constantly learning, developing and keeping pace with changes in my field. So, if you’re worried about what to do after graduating, why not consider working at a start-up? It certainly isn’t easy, but I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

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