Leaving the buttoned up, soul-crushing corporate establishment to join a hip startup can seem appealing, but joining the ranks of a fresh, progressive company is not without its pitfalls. Say farewell to weekly brunches, Netflix binges, and full nights of sleep. It’s sometimes hard to predict what to expect with startup companies since they’re quick to change, and for some, the fast-paced culture can be a rude awakening.

Here’s the lowdown on what to expect when you embark on your adventure at an early stage startup. Do you have what it takes?

1. The struggle is real

Many startups aim to accomplish lofty goals with minimal resources and a limited workforce, particularly in their early days. A common requirement at these companies is pitching in on work that is beyond the scope of your position in order to get projects off the ground and to meet tight deadlines.

You’re going to need to work smart and work hard, but even the most adept multitaskers are not immune to making sacrifices. Re-prioritizing your time and relationships can be a complicated and emotionally taxing process, and in the beginning you will likely encounter some unavoidable fallout.

There will be times when your personal life will necessarily fall by the wayside and to put it bluntly, it’s going to suck.

2. Get ready to ride...for a long time

Subway seats are prime real estate during rush hour. Via Giphy .

Cushy, centrally-located office space may be beyond the scope of what a startup can afford. A long commute with biking and busing beyond the metro can seem like a haul, but these up-and-coming neighborhoods are melting pots for creativity, multiculturalism, and usually excellent food trucks.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at a company in a startup incubator, don’t get too comfortable. These digs are usually for a limited time only, and you may have to pick up and move the business—and yourself—on short notice.

3. Say goodbye to 9-5...and hello to 24/7/365

The time commitment that many startups require is beyond the average 9-5 grind. You may find yourself replying to an urgent email on the weekend or staying behind in the office after hours to get a last-minute project ready for launch the next week. Taking a conference call at 8pm on a Friday may seem grueling, but getting great ideas off the ground requires a fast pace and genuine dedication.

But it’s not likely that you’re the only one putting in the extra hours. Startups are highly collaborative, and if you’re giving up your fun time, it’s likely that your coworker is in the same boat.

4. Feeling the burn(out)

Spending so much time at the office can take its toll on your personal life.

To alleviate some of the strain of finding that balance, many startups move into coworking spaces that provide a variety of amenities such as fully-stocked kitchens and designated quiet rooms to recharge.

While taking advantage of these offerings can provide some support, it’s essential to check in with yourself regularly and make sure you’re not on the verge of burning out (and it’s easy to do that when you’re working at a high-pressure, fast-moving company).

If you feel like you’re overcommitting, take a step back, reach out for help from your boss or coworkers, and reevaluate how to maximize the benefits of your personal time. Your mind and body will thank you.

5. Taking your work “to go”

"Work from home" = "work from anywhere as long as there's internet". VIa Giphy.

Even though startups aim to accommodate your personal needs during your time at the office, there are certain things like doctor appointments, transit strikes, and waiting for the cable guy that can make it difficult or impossible to come in to the office.

To ensure that all hands are on deck, startups are generally at the forefront of using remote communication technology. Software like Skype and Slack make it easy to stay in the loop and maintain face time from afar. This increased remote access enables you to integrate your work responsibilities into your home life.

However, setting clear boundaries for yourself about when to unplug when you’re away from the office is important for getting that much-needed “you” time. If you’ve met all of your pressing deadlines and you’re outside of work hours, it’s time to sign off.


The level of commitment that early stage startups sometimes require may seem daunting, but great sacrifice can yield great reward. You get more autonomy and responsibility, and you know that your work has a direct impact on the health of the business. On top of that, the camaraderie with your team and the satisfaction of building something from the ground up is unlike any other. In short: it’s worth it.

If you’ve read this far, you’re clearly hardcore and ready take the plunge. Sign up for Planted and connect with startups that are looking to hire brave pioneers like you.


Margot Goldblum is a freelance writer and digital marketing specialist. Utilizing her Psychology degree from the University of Vermont, she designs marketing strategies and content for a variety of industries. Although she was born and raised in Manhattan, she splits her time between NYC and Philly and is a vocal advocate for the creation of a Megabus frequent rider rewards program.

Original version of featured image by Andrew Neel.