Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. In my previous two articles as part of this 6-part sequel, I have shared about my personal experiences as an undergraduate and fresh graduate. In the final two articles, I would like to share the ups and downs of starting my career in a startup. Choosing the unconventional path takes a lot of courage and by sharing my own story, I hope to encourage you in finding the career that you desire.
Choosing The Startup Path
My decision to work for a startup was not favoured by many relatives and friends.
Salary, job security and career progression were shaky.
Personally, it was also contradictory to my initial goal of securing a good-paying job.
And frankly speaking, a low starting pay was a huge concern. I’ve heard common advice on how a low pay in my first job will affect the next job offer (I hope not!)
As many put it, working for a startup is not for everyone.
Sacrifices in The World of Startup
Choosing this unconventional path came with tremendous risks and stresses - mental stress of having to manage multiple roles and huge workload, physical stress of working long hours (during peak period) and financial stress of having to survive on an intern pay for some months.
Many sacrifices had to be made - be it personal interests, material wants or social life.
It takes a lot of passion, determination and discipline to keep up.
Work benefits were minimal, progress (in terms of advancement) was limited. Given a volatile startup environment, hard work is not necessarily proportionate to returns. Being overworked and underpaid is common.
With the fast turnover rate, manpower was hardly replaced and workflow was unstructured.
I had to adapt fast and manage the additional workload - ranging from marketing, simple designing, sales and events etc. I had to be extremely organized and well-paced to continue performing at optimal amidst the “chaos”.
Working hours was not necessarily long everyday, but I was never truly out of work. I was constantly on social media and handling email correspondences after working hours, during weekends and holidays especially when it’s event period. Not that it’s a must, but I felt accountable (you’re likely to feel it too).
Food For Thought: How Ready Are You to Work for a Startup?
Opportunities in The World of Startup
Of course, sacrifices came with many diverse learning opportunities, and growth.
I challenged myself in ways I could never have imagined should I have chosen the “safe” path.
I was immediately put to test during my first week of work (as a fresh graduate) to roll out marketing and promotional efforts for the company’s largest festival of the year (close to 1,500 people!)
I was challenged almost every single day, constantly learning about marketing trends, social media strategies and business dealings to accelerate my learning.
It was stressful.
I was constantly accountable for event ticket sales, website traffic and social media engagement. Any mistake I made could affect the company greatly.
But there was something new everyday.
I liaised with sponsors, vendors, influencers, media and experimented with different social media tools.
I learnt about digital marketing, events liaising and management, sales pitching and fostering partnerships.
I took part in many events and met inspiring entrepreneurs!
Food For Thought: Are You Looking Forward to The Opportunities?
How The Startup Life Nurtured Me
Every decision, no matter how small - and every member, no matter how new - are rudimentary to the company’s survival.
Being part of a young and dynamic team, I was given a say. I could give feedback and meet clients on my own. I was constantly communicating very openly and working very closely with the management team, as well as being introduced to valuable insights of how businesses were managed. These translated into very useful skills and experiences that I could share and display during meetings, interviews and networking sessions. I believe the best story we could ever share, is our own personal experience. They’re unique, enriching and inspirational.
3 Key Strengths I’ve Gained
While I’m in the process of searching for a new full-time job, I’ve grown a lot from where I was six months ago prior to my working experience in the startup.
As a problem solver - addressed customer dissatisfaction, proposed constructive feedback to improve workflow and system, crisis management
As a versatile learner - tested and validated my ability to pick up new roles fast and manage multiple projects simultaneously in a fast-paced environment
As an effective communicator - more confident to network, foster and manage relationships with clients
The market is tough right now, I’m feeling it as a fresh graduate. But with valuable learning experiences in both startup and agency environment, I have learnt to present and articulate my thoughts better during interviews.
Food For Thought: How Do You Wish To Grow?
What I’m Currently Doing
I’m actively on the lookout for suitable job openings, attending more interviews and meeting more people.
Every interview attended is a door unlocked.
Every networking opportunity taken is a relationship forged.
Every conversation with prospective employers is a lesson learned.
I am constantly understanding what companies are looking out for and what the different industries entail. As much as I’m dealing with potentially more rejections and disappointment, I strongly believe that every journey is worth taking.
I keep myself abreast of new opportunities by utilising job search portals and updating my presence on fast-growing career platforms such as Linkedin for networking, Glassdoor for industry and company insights and Stroff for useful and applicable career guidance tips.
Food For Thought: What Are You Doing To Help Yourself?
End of Part 5: Career Guidance for Fresh Working Adult