Roqqett Blog

June 1, 2021
Author: Sara Mucciolo

What students can learn from working at a startup.

7 skills you can expect to learn and develop while working at a startup.

Quick Summary

  1. Normalising failure
  2. Dealing with exposure
  3. Adapting
  4. Sharing opinions
  5. Gaining entrepreneurial spirit
  6. Working outside the "job description"
  7. Discovering your true passion

Like the majority of my fellow neo-graduates, I was faced with the uncertainty of deciding what to do after university… Take a break and travel? Do masters? Go corporate? Start my own business? Join a startup? The options are endless...

In my case, I was given the opportunity to work for a growing fintech startup, called Roqqett. Being part of something from the very beginning and contributing to its growth is truly something special, and so far I haven’t regretted this decision once. This is especially true, having already tasted the more corporate environment for my placement year at a global brand, where albeit great, it wasn’t nearly as fun and exciting. 

Sure, startups can be difficult as they are often known for being frenetic, fast-paced and sometimes without structure. However, I live by the motto that no experience is a bad experience, because regardless of what happens you learn from it, which therefore makes it good. 

I am aware there is countless content on the internet addressing the topic of careers in startups, and comparing those to other working environments like big corporate brands. Being that I've experienced both worlds, I can highlight 7 key skills students can expect to learn and develop while working specifically at a startup.

1. You’ll learn how to fail 

Nobody is perfect and therefore, mistakes happen. As someone who is terrified of failure, working at a startup has humbled me to the point where I am comfortable making mistakes, purely because we are expected to fail in order to learn and grow as a business. That is a tough pill to swallow, especially for students who already feel the pressure of not being experienced enough. I know it can be daunting not knowing what to do, but guess what? No one knows anything when doing something for the very first time. Hence why startups are perfect for students. You are all growing together… you and the brand are one, and there’s no better feeling than being able to grow without feeling awful about setbacks. I can tell you from experience that the mistakes I made during my placement were handled differently than when working for a startup: both learning curves, but only the latter actually helped me normalise failing and actually learn how to grow from it. 

A wise Roqqett crew member once told me after I made my first real mistake that “we’re not measured by how many mistakes we make, we are measured by what we do after, how we deal with it... remember that and get your chin up”. 

2. You’ll learn how to deal with exposure 

You’ve probably heard how startups are the best avenue for exposure, but I never realised how true that was until joining Roqqett. See, when working for a multinational company, you tend to get lost in the hierarchical structure and spend far too much time trying to gain exposure you can easily get on a day-to-day basis while working at a startup. This is especially true for students or newly graduates who, because of their limited experience, don’t get as much direct interaction with key business players. That’s not to say I didn’t gain any exposure while in a corporate environment , but I certainly never got to interact with founders, CEOs or investors, which is something that is pretty normal when working at a startup. 

In the last eight months I can truthfully say that I have been exposed to lots of learning and growth opportunities that I could not have easily experienced elsewhere… Taking part in Matt Lerner's Startup Core Strengths Programme where my team and I had the privilege to be coached by Leonard Picardo, the 2nd employee at Deliveroo…Interacting and participating in external meetings with potential partners for the business…Liaising with influencers for marketing campaigns… and obviously lets not forget the daily catch-up calls with the one and only Roqqett Founder and CEO, Glenn Smith. All this to say, if you’re a student and want to gain exposure fast, then a startup is the way to g(r)o(w). 

3. You’ll learn to adapt 

It’s a known fact that startups are fast-paced and dynamic. I cannot tell you the amount of times I ended the day with one plan, to then start the next day with something completely different. Things move quickly and get turned around even quicker, mainly because approval is snappier and the thirst to test experiments is real. It's not unusual to sometimes work without having clearly defined tasks or a systematic reporting structure. As such, you naturally end up adapting to situations on command. I believe this is possibly one of the most crucial skills students can learn early in their career when working at a startup.Rest assured that by constantly accepting change and applying yourself to keep up with new ideas for growth, you will end up developing a culture of hard work and never lose interest in what you do as you are always engaged. 

No risk of living a monotonous workcycle, which can often happen in bigger companies, where you end up doing the same thing everyday. Obviously nothing wrong with that if it’s your cup of tea.. 

4. Your opinion matters 

Let me type that again so you can read that one more time. Your opinion matters. Working at a startup means that you’ll learn how to confidently voice your opinion and actually be heard. Startups are inherently small. They range from as little as 2 to maybe 100 employees, which means that your thoughts and opinions can be more easily voiced, taken into account and more importantly actioned. Sometimes students can find it difficult to truly believe that their opinions can actually be of impact to a business. In the case of working at a startup, you can count on having your ideas tested, which consequently kickstarts an array of opportunities to work from. Not to mention, your confidence levels will sky-roqqett (no pun intended) as you slowly become more comfortable with sharing thoughts and ideas.

5. You’ll gain an entrepreneurial spirit 

Working in an environment that is founded on innovation and entrepreneurship, it is only natural to pick up a more ambitious attitude when approaching tasks. You’ll have this hunger to want to try new growth hacks and test experiments to help your brand flourish. This largely ties in with my first point about failure, and how you’ll learn to switch your mentality from being risk averse to being risk tolerant. Sure, not all risk will be fruitful but as a student it is important to learn early in your career that more often than not, seeking discomfort and stepping out of your bubble will always be worth it, as it allows you to grow as an individual and employee. 

6. You’ll learn outside of the typical “job description”

In most, if not all jobs, it is inevitable to learn something new the more you work at it. Like Albert Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.” And that is exactly it when working at a startup. As a student you will have the advantage to truly learn everything from scratch, especially when you will continuously deviate from the typical “job description”. What I mean by this is that because startups are smaller and have less manpower, you will be asked to dabble in areas you didn’t necessarily apply for. In my experience, I joined as a digital marketer for Roqqett, but I can safely say I've developed skills in areas like graphic and web designs, product development, event planning, customer support, sales and many more areas. This leads on to my final point...

7. You’ll uncover your true passion 

Finally, like most students out there, you reach a point in your life where you have no clue what you want to do…pretty much a quarter-life crisis. Now, following my previous point... as you dabble in different areas of the startup business, you will slowly start accumulating knowledge and skills you wouldn’t have normally had the chance to in a specialised job. This ultimately will give you the chance to learn more about yourself, so what you truly enjoy working on versus what not so much. As a result you’ll start uncovering your passion and because you’re in a startup, it is that much easier to get your hands dirty by doing what you love, or if you change your mind, divert that decision. In my case, I fell in love with design, and Roqqett has given me the opportunity to not only set my creativity free and discover that, but most importantly actually make it a reality. 

As a neo-graduate, it is a breath of fresh air to know what I want for my career, and working at a startup like Roqqett has given me the opportunity to uncover that. Therefore, if you’re a student wondering what to do next, startup life might just be the answer you were looking for. Plus, the banter is great, and who wouldn’t want to work with what you can pretty much consider a second family. 

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