Joining a startup? Here are some questions you should ask them

There have been instances where startups have faced the ire of educational institutions on behalf of the students many of whom will begin their careers with the campus placement. Hence, it is very important for students to carefully consider various parameters before joining a startup.

By Siddarth Bharwani

Market consolidation and tightening in funds is leading to companies in the startup segment deferring their placements for substantial periods. There have been instances where startups have faced the ire of educational institutions on behalf of the students many of whom will begin their careers with the campus placement. Hence, it is very important for students to carefully consider various parameters before joining a startup.

Here are a few questions students should ask for utmost clarity to ensure they’re not signing up for a raw deal:

What’s the product idea? Joining a company with a completely new idea can be risky. Many startups have failed just because they intended to deliver a product or service which had no market demand. You need to ask yourself whether the product really has the potential to go beyond fancy presentations and sell. For this, you may consider looking at its competitors and substitutes as well.

How about a background check? There is nothing inappropriate to ask where the funding is coming from in order to take a peek into how well the company will be able to sustain itself. If the company is funded by venture capitalist, you will be able to know who the investors are. A background check on websites like Glassdoor and Payscale will also help you understand the internal issues faced by employees as well as the maximum pay that you can expect over a period of time.

Do I fit in? There are a lot of startups which have been cloned from the Western business models. Play, parties, perks and promotions to sum it all. New age startups prefer to hire young people who may or may not have experience. While millennials have their own style of working, would you be able to catch up or would it lead to a clash is something you need to ask.

People v/s profits? Getting to know who the founders are and what their visions are helps as many a time companies close down because the founders parted ways with different opinions. While some founders value the man behind the machine others treat the man like a machine! Startups have a close knit team and long working hours too. While profits are important to breakeven for a startup, people are equally important to make as well as sustain profits. So working with a startup and finishing heaps of work but having the flexibility to do it in your comfort zone on a bean bag or at home surely helps.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Just as an organisation’s vision is important to fulfill organisational goals, your vision on where you see yourself in the future is important to fulfill your personal goals. So ask yourself if working with a startup is going to help you to achieve your financial goals, help you grow in the industry, give you job satisfaction and most importantly give you a “nowhere else found learning experience”.

While the industry is changing rapidly, doing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) with the aid of these questions will surely help you make the right decision.

Keeping a job isn’t hard, landing one is.Campus placements too can be challenging. Your college may get top organisations for campus placements. However, at the end of the day, top organisations may end up picking just the toppers. This leaves you worried that organisations outside may also misjudge you that if you haven’t been placed by organisations on campus then why would they hire you? You may then choose to just take up a support job rather than being unemployed. But a job is not always a matter of chance. You can actively decide where you want to be and make it happen. Here’s how:

Look for an internship: You can look for an internship paid or unpaid in the area of your liking. This not only gets you a professional experience but you progress and perform you stand a chance of becoming a permanent employee there.

Earn additional certifications: So if you want your CV to be noticed and picked up amongst the thousands available online, you need to acquire relevant certifications in your field. For example, you could take up a certification in ethical hacking in order to get a job as a security analyst or a course in network analyst.

Job fairs and walk-ins: Job fairs can be an eye-opener because it helps you explore the various jobs and employers who can apply too. Walk-ins also help you to connect with different people. What if the job wasn’t right for you? Just going for the walk-in may redirect you to the right person or even the right job. So it counts to be patient. However, doing the right thing while you’re patient is also what matters. Peer pressure may want you to take a job just for the sake of being ‘employed’.

Building an online presence: While the market demands for the latest products, even recruiters demand for the latest CVs. In other words, keep it updated. Consistently updating your CV, makes it come in the top CVs which are recently updated leaving you a better chance of receiving a call. Also, choosing credible websites and highlighting your skill set is a must. Because job titles change, skills required don’t. If you don’t have the flair for writing, you can get someone to build a resume for you.

Buddy referrals and networking: You can ask your friends who are already employed to refer your profile for a job at their organisation. If you get selected, you keep the job and they get a referral bonus too. Also, alumni meetings, conferences, workshops or exhibitions can be good places to exchange your coordinates with people who can help you get your foot in the door.

Yes, mistakes may happen. But at the end, it’s all about being able to join the dots and taking control of your life and charting your own path rather than accepting the hand life deals us.

The author is Vice President at Jetking Infotrain Limited.

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