You ARE the startup type - Thoughts about choosing your post-grad path
Written ByFlora on Apr 30, 2021
You ARE the startup type - Thoughts about choosing your post-grad path.
A few weeks ago, I was hosting a Q&A with future entrepreneurs from MIT Sloan, my alma mater. Their last question left me thinking about the limitations that we create for ourselves or allow others to define for us. This is the question that led me to write this article:
“We were told that there are different types of people who join specific types of organizations: those who work at big companies, startup types, and those who go on to create their own enterprise. Can you help us understand what type we are?”
I firmly disagree.
I am a strong believer in the unlimited potential of human beings. Our brains, powerful and underused machines, have infinite potential to translate most of our dreams into reality through hard work, relentless dedication, and a bit of luck.
For these reasons, limiting one’s opportunity to just one path seems unfair and unrealistic, though more manageable for the brain to understand, rationalize and grapple with. The tiny genie in our head, most likely motivated by fear or a distorted sense of self, tells us what we can and cannot do. When the genie is lost or overwhelmed, we go and look for other people’s opinions because it is easier to believe that others have all the answers. We hope they do. We pray they will tell us exactly what to do. Believe me, I have been there many days of my life!
While I am a big advocate for seeking people’s advice and perspective to understand better something I don’t know, the path for us to take is not created by what others tell us or what they believe is right or wrong for us. The journey is created and defined by us based on where we are in life and what is important to us.
So, what am I getting to?
I run my life with one primary mission: understanding myself. Sounds easy, right? Nope.
Understanding and accepting one's self is a lifelong journey - one which I am still grappling with today. This is what has worked for me.
This is the question that I use to start my inner dialogue: “What challenge am I ready to face?”
To help me with this answer, I ask myself hard questions on where I am in life, what matters to me the most in the moment, what I am willing to invest in, and what I am ready to give up. Here is an example of how I started my career in the People/HR/Talent space right after MIT Sloan:
Was I ready to go to a start-up? At that time, I didn’t even know what working at a Silicon Valley startup was like. The more I researched, the more I realized that I probably needed to build some further expertise to join at such an early stage.
Was it the time in my life to join a large company? No. After graduation, I needed to become a generalist - someone who understood the People function broadly and could operate autonomously - as quickly as possible. I also wanted to accelerate my learnings and be exposed to as many parts of the HR function as possible. At a large company, I would have learned the ropes and acquired one specific expertise, which would not have led me to be a generalist. A fancy brand on my resume sounded great, but it was not what I needed.
Was it time to start a company? I had started a non-profit in the past and wasn't ready to go back in it again. I also wanted more operational exposure before becoming a founder again.
What was it time for then? I needed to join a company that was past the stress of the early stage, with a team of amazing people onboard who would teach me the craft while leveraging my previous experience not directly in HR. This is the short story of how I met Melissa Yeh, who changed my career – I’ll leave that for another time.
I believe that we are each in charge of our destiny and meant to do more than one thing, You are not “meant to” start a company, join a startup, or go to a large company, but you also might do all those things or just one and in no particular order. One option doesn’t exclude the other, and, based on where you are in life, one might even lead to the next.
The best advice I have for any of you who are about to graduate is to ask yourself the right, hard questions about where you are in life, the support system you have in place, and what you want to achieve at this stage of your career. Then follow your gut, because if you have a good understanding of your own self, it will not lead you astray. After all, even if you want to be a founder, the timing might not be right. As Wharton’s Daniel Kim’s research has shown, the most successful entrepreneurs’ average age is somewhere in their 40s.
Working for a Startup: Why Work at a Startup
At Belong, we surround ourselves with hungry, entrepreneurial, and kind people who will go above and beyond to fulfill our important mission to create authentic belonging experiences. It’s a place where you will learn and grow at a very fast pace, and be tremendously challenged every day. It will be exhausting and frustrating at times, but quickly, you will look back at all that we have built together, the lives you impacted along the way, and feel proud.
At Belong, you’ll learn to be a true operator and if that’s what you are looking for, shoot me a note or reach out to our incredible Talent Team today .
I’ll leave you with this: regardless of whatever your life looked like before today, know that others should not define what you are or are not capable of achieving. Their advice is just a singular data point in your discovery path. Be honest with yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. And trust your instinct. Do not be afraid of making the wrong decision - you’ve got this.
About the author
Lover of good food, scuba diving and the animal kingdom
Head of People