Why you should ditch the suit and join a startup

Last week, NACUE hosted the first round of Small Companies, BIG Jobs. NACUE volunteer, Tiffany Chen, describes her experience of the event and what it taught her about working in a startup.

Small Companies, Big Jobs is a series of careers fairs organised in partnership with several NACUE member universities to connect university students to the wealth of opportunities available in startups and SME’s. The fair occurred over two days at the University of Westminster, at the Cavendish and Marylebone campuses. I was given the opportunity to staff the event on Wednesday, putting on the hat of a NACUE spokesperson and getting my first taste of the young entrepreneurial scene in the UK.   I had attended careers fairs in the past, where impeccably dressed big business representatives with firm handshakes threw carefully crafted CVs into ever growing piles. My experiences had often left me somewhat discouraged about my prospects of finding employment after university. I may have better luck relying on the gods of fate to land a job interview, or so I thought. I knew very little about the startup scene, how they are structured or what to expect from working in a SME. In my head, I had what I refer to now as the... Top 4 Startup Myths from the average clueless American

  • Start ups hire for full time work in very specialised areas, usually requiring some degree of technical skill
  • Hiring in the small business sector is very limited and many graduates seeking full employment opportunities often do so through larger schemes with big businesses
  • Working in a startup is risky- entrepreneurs are too ambitious for their own good and the reality is that most are doomed for failure. Corporate jobs offer stable, reliable means to finance your livelihood
  • Startup jobs are chaotic and unstructured- which is an opinion I gained as a product of American Hollywood, but it seemed to fit the general perception

I soon realised that most students were equally as unaware as I was of the landscape of opportunities in startups and SMEs, as well as the enormous wealth of jobs out there. In fact, a report by the Federation of Small Businesses shows that there are so many opportunities available to those wishing to work within a startup or SME. According to the FSB, small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector businesses in 2015 and 99.9% of them were SMEs. SMEs also accounted for 60% of all private sector employment and 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK. Additionally, many of the startups I had the opportunity to talk to were not just hiring for specialised roles, but had part-time, internships, and work experience opportunities as well. Some of the availabilities showcased last Wednesday included The Challenge, Football Radar, and Inspire Me Korea, which offered flexible paid roles from watching football to writing blogs about Korean dramas, while companies like Lovespace, Pixelpin, and Kwickscreen were looking to fill full time positions around social media or marketing. The representatives were also not exclusively focused on candidates whose academic studies typically matched the role. They were primarily searching for passionate, driven, proactive individuals who took the initiative to reach out and start a conversation with them. I noticed that the engagement between the startups and  students was much more intimate than I had expected. A couple students conversed with a single booth for more than half an hour at a time, and many companies came away from the fair ready to offer positions on the spot. As compared to career fairs centered on big companies, the chance to develop long term, ongoing relationships with company founders instead of touch and go meetings with representatives and recruiters was much more evident. In addressing the instability of working in a startup or SME, it’s important to confront the reality of taking on a business venture and the small margin of success. However, while startups offer little job security, they provide career security and opportunities for professional development that can only be realised in a small business, given you’ve made the most out of your startup experience. Why you should ditch the suit and join a startup

  • You can earn a wide spectrum of skills in a specific area that can be very easily translated in a corporate setting, often giving you a competitive edge
  • By helping to build a company from the ground up, you are given more responsibility and more opportunity to craft your own career path and experience different specialities, from business development to product testing
  • You can move quickly through the ranks due to the often small size of the team and the fluidity of roles
  • You have access to the large, active network of your bosses, who are very intimately connected to prominent figures in their fields – due to small nature of the team, recent hires often work closely/in the same room as senior management

It’s easy to see how most people now view fostering startups and entrepreneurs as an avenue for modernisation and innovation. Whether you’re looking for employment or just want to learn more about entrepreneurship and the support and opportunities available, Small Companies, Big Jobs is an incredible resource to take advantage of. Be sure to come out to the next event at UCL in June! About the author: Tiffany Chen is a third year student at Johns Hopkins University studying International Relations and Sociology. She is currently studying abroad in London on the Boston University Internship Program and was placed in NACUE because of her interests in educational policy and youth empowerment. She enjoys political debates, traveling, and corgi Instagram accounts and while abroad, she is looking forward to blowing all her savings on good food and good memories.

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