Lessons from a startup that aren’t taught in school

It would be difficult to imagine a learning journey without a purpose. Whether your learning journey after school starts at a Multinational Conglomerate or a small startup company just a walk down the street, it can be agreed upon that every learning journey has several key takeaways that impart invaluable life lessons. From learning how to use the copier machine to presenting in front of large crowds, the opportunities are endless.

And much of what makes our individual learning journeys so enthralling and ever-so-charming is our natural ability to imbibe the culture of the company we’re in, thus adapting and growing into our new roles. While this is great news for the recursive self-improvers, it can be a challenge to find a company who can teach you intangible skills associated with honing yourself as a person, as compared to those of a regular employee.

With startups having been zealously dubbed by the media as ‘the next big thing’ of office culture, what are the actual realities of working in a startup world?

Having created something that was born from your hard work, creative thinking and ferocious tenacity is truly one of the best feelings in the world. Akin to a mother taking ownership of her wailing newborn, once you’ve created something to call your own, you begin to truly appreciate the value of ownership. When working in a startup, these same feelings of ownership similarly applies when you work with your team to bring a certain project or prototype to fruition.

Working in a startup will mean trying on a variety of different hats, even the ones that have nothing to do with your original job scope. While this may sound tiring, it is an incredibly fulfilling experience peppered with new learning curves and genuine opportunities to grow. As your team-mates may be too preoccupied for any hand-holding, these roles will challenge you to explore out-of-the-box options and tap on new ideas to solve a potential issue. After all, what is life without a little challenge?

Startups are usually comprised of an international team with an open mindset and a ‘get stuff done’ attitude. With generous flexibility and freedom to set your own goals, work on your own deadlines and accomplish your own victories, this too comes with self-discipline and knowing when to draw the line — Skill sets that no school could ever teach. Additionally, being part of a flat-culture will encourage you to speak up and vocalise your opinions — even to the ‘top dogs’ of the firm — effectively emboldening you to pitch in a positive light.

You cannot learn networking in a classroom. This is unfortunate, as networking forms a huge (and rather important) part of being in a startup. From identifying the right communities to interact with to following up on new acquaintances, being a good networker entails being good at listening and even better at asking the right questions. Instead of viewing networking as a tedious process of having to create new topics of discussion, being a good listener actually forms the foundation of being good at networking. Additionally, the shy of heart will have their day in the sun, as practice makes perfect. It’s all about taking that first step; remember, networking us a skill that can be taught, just not in school.

Startups are famous for their unique company trajectories, creative frame of mind and innovative business structures. Akin to a person’s coming-of-age cognisance, being in a startup is like embarking on a constant journey of self-discovery and perpetual learning.

LEVEL3 is a collaborative innovation workspace that brings Unilever, startups, and entrepreneurs together to deliver meaningful business impact. Startups pioneering the future in marketing and AdTech, consumer insights, enterprise tech (analytics, IoT, etc.), product and ingredient tech, reinventing new business models or making an impact through social entrepreneurship business opportunities are welcomed to join the LEVEL3 community. Innovate with us here: www.l3.work
Christina Oh