Getting to Know You

Joining a fast-paced start-up can sure seem enticing. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to get in early and cash out big when the company goes public?

But as Kelly Eggers at FINS Technology noted recently, going to work for this type of enterprise clearly isn’t for everyone.

If you’re tempted to jump on the start-up job train, you’ll be well-served to make a few considerations first,” Eggers wrote. She then outlined “seven characteristics of people who may not be cut out for life at a company in full-steam-ahead growth mode.”

They include: if you like neat and tidy job descriptions; if you do your best work with instructions; if you don’t like staying late at the office on Fridays; if you’re counting on benefits and job security; if you like formality in the workplace; if you don’t deal well with failure; or if you’re a perfectionist.

Peter Drucker certainly would have appreciated this line of thinking. “Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves—their strengths, their values and how they best perform,” Drucker wrote in one of his all-time most popular essays, “Managing Oneself.”

Mosaic of the Greek motto "gnōthi sauton" (know thyself).

In particular, Drucker added, that means knowing the answers to precisely the sort of questions that anyone considering a job at a start-up must face: “Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment? Do I work best in a big organization or a small one?”

Most people aren’t especially adaptable on such fronts. “Again and again, I have seen people who were very successful in large organizations flounder miserably when they moved into smaller ones,” Drucker observed. “And the reverse is equally true.”

On the positive side, “knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person—hardworking and competent but otherwise mediocre— into an outstanding performer.”

What about you? How much consideration have you given to what kind of organization is right for you—and what did you decide?