Fed up with your job?
You're not alone. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.8 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs this past March.
While not all of those employees ditched their corporate gig for a position at a startup, that route is becoming increasingly popular for job seekers who covet flexibility, autonomy and a more vibrant company culture, career and hiring, experts say.
"Anyone working in a corporate gig should reset the way they look at their career and say, 'I can spend the meaningful chunk of my life at a place I enjoy, have a real impact and be reimbursed for it,' " says Tarek Pertew, cofounder of Wakefield Media, an online magazine about startups that also runs the Uncubed conference.
Transitioning from a large company to a startup isn't as simple as getting up and leaving, unfortunately. New employees at startups often struggle with drastically different processes, streamlined resources and varied responsibilities.
"It's a big adjustment," says Joanie Courtney, senior vice president and career expert at Monster. "Corporate employees are often times used to a tremendous amount of resources, bigger budgets to make changes and investments and a lot more training and support."
Mashable spoke to Courtney, Pertew and other career experts about how former corporate employees can seamlessly transition to a small business culture.
1. Understand the company's founding principles
At large companies, workers are used to ignoring mission statements and values that typically have little to do with their roles and sound like bloated platitudes.
"Whenever you bring up values, it makes a lot of people roll their eyes," says Adam Bryant, author of the Corner Office column at The New York Times and Quick and Nimble; Lessons From Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation. "There's a lot of silliness around it and you can imagine people making posters that say 'excellence, integrity and service.' "
At startups, however, the concept of vision is not a trite maxim. Founders typically start their business because they have a specific mission that entails much more than being profitable. That mission is supposed to pervade the company.
"Take the time as you're joining to read a company's value statement," says John Coleman, a blogger at the Harvard Business Review and the co-author of Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders. "Chances are, someone in the firm spent a great deal of time thinking them through."
2. Find an ally with a similar background
Finding a mentor is never a bad decision, but Pertew says new employees at a startup should go one step further.
"Immediately pair yourself with someone who's done something similar and left a big company to work there," he says.
By seeking out an ally with comparable experience, new employees are able to discover how processes and workflow differ at small businesses — where workers are typically expected to think on their toes and deliver assignments on the fly.
"Take people to lunch. Buy them coffee. And in addition to just hearing the way they talk about their jobs, the firm, their colleagues and their work, ask them explicitly about the culture of the place," says Coleman.
3. Don't say no and don't get fazed
At a new business, resources can be scarce. Whereas workers at a Fortune 500 company might have a 100-person IT department at their disposal, many startup employees handle issues like computer troubleshooting on their own. While that can be an unsettling proposition for a new employee, it's one they need to become more comfortable with, says Courtney. She adds that employees new to the startup scene need to learn to be self-reliant and flexible when it comes to juggling tasks and resolving issues.
"You want to jump in, roll up your sleeves and touch a lot of things.""You want to jump in, roll up your sleeves and touch a lot of things."
That isn't to say that taking on a slew of new challenges doesn't have its upside. Courtney says that startup employees are often rewarded by being able to witness firsthand their projects and hard work paying off.
"It's very rewarding to see that your work and efforts are making an impact," she says.
4. Use direct access to your advantage and get feedback
While corporate employees are used to scheduled reviews, startup workers have much more access to regular feedback.
According to Pertew, both companies and new employees should be eager to check in with one another for informal reviews. At his own company, Pertew admits, he hired someone from a larger firm, but didn't check in with the employee enough, which led to frustration for both parties.
"Build in regular check-ins to your process," he says. "Monitor someone's path and ask what their questions and concerns are."
As anyone who's ever been part of a critical review can tell you, check-ins can often be unpleasant for both the employer and the employee. "Most people go out of their way to avoid these conversations, and you can understand why — they're stressful," says Bryant. "It can feel like you're stepping into a knife fight in a phone booth."
Despite whatever reticence about being critical, founders and leaders need to give new employees an accurate representation of their performance — so long as that conversation is honest and respectful, Bryant says.
"To have an effective culture, and to be a fast-moving startup, you need to have a culture where people can have these frank, adult conversations," he says.
5. Get involved in the culture
One of the major perks of working at a startup is the culture; i.e. the relaxed environment, after-hours meetups and, if you're lucky, an in-office keg. All of those goodies are there to make the workplace less of a chore and to encourage interaction among employees. According to Pertew, one of the best ways a transitioning employee can acclimatize themselves is by sticking around to see what else the startup has to offer when the work day is over.
"Don't just check-into the office and go home," says Pertew."Don't just check-into the office and go home," says Pertew. "Be a part of the events that surface around the startup community — meetups and whatever else — to get your vocabulary up."
By meeting and networking with others, Pertew says, new employees are also able to get a peak inside the inner-workings of their industry, as well as what other companies are working on.
"Being very familiar with the space and being familiar with the growing networking opportunities will probably make your transition a lot easier — and you a lot more deadly," he says.
6. Think about how you can change the business
At a company with five employees, there's a very real possibility that your big idea could change the course of the business. According to Courtney, transitioning employees should think of themselves as game-changers — people capable of doing more than the basics of their role.
"You need to think about how you can make a difference," she says. "At smaller companies, you can see how you can help the business and drive it forward. You need to present that and be prepared when someone gives you the green light to go with it."