You are job hunting and stumble on several postings for companies you never really heard of before. You then find out one is a startup. You think their product is interesting but are unsure if you should apply. Well, I will discuss why I think it is always a great option to try.
To give some context I have worked in small to medium size companies working in various IT-related roles.
I think this is a big one you will see in many other posts but since a startup is moving fast and everyone usually is quite busy managing several different things at once you end up being given the freedom to build and implement things how you want.
What this means is you may be given a problem to solve and if you have an idea of how to solve it and others agree with the solution (and you have the budget for it) you more than likely get to do it your way. Being able to lead projects and own the feature you develop can be quite exiting. You have the chance to work on something you are truly passionate about which makes the creative freedom even better.
I personally love learning be it new technology, new processes, best business practices, etc. At a startup, you are always on your toes and usually will have to learn very quickly since may be the first to solve a given problem within the company. Working in cross-functional teams will also let you have a better understanding of things outside of your everyday work.
For example, you may be tasked with automating some reporting and as you gather the requirements for the project you will learn about how there are certain regulations you must adhere to and ensure are part of the reporting process. Sometimes you my need to even learn things that are not related to your role like how to interview people or estimating feature points for a sprint.
By working in a small cross-functional team you end up getting to know your co-workers better than you would in a larger more focused team. What I like about this is you get learn everyone's strengths and weaknesses which helps everyone move forward. This is a big reason why I like working at startups since the team dynamic makes me feel like I am not doing a job but rather working on something I am passionate about with other like-minded people.
By fast I mean really fast. You may work on something one day and end up never working on it again to start a new project the next day. For some this is exciting but for others, this can be somewhat disorienting. Having to switch context often can be hard however is a great skill to improve on since you end up learning time management skills and how to handle obstacles like feature creep.
Startups attract go-getters and are a group of usually like-minded people who believe in the product and where it is going. So, naturally you end up having to deal with quite tight deadlines to reach your company's goals. This can sometimes make you feel like you work a lot more than what you are use to.
However, what is important is that you care about what you are working on and making sure you still take time to enjoy your personal life. Putting in the long hours to then reap rewards later down the road can be hard and equally rewarding but ensuring proper work and life balance is also important. This will greatly vary at every startup so it is always worth asking about during an interview.
Startups are a great way to not only accelerate your career with creative freedom, chances to learn, and work with like-minded people but are also not for everyone (and that is okay). I personally have really enjoyed my experiences working at startups however what I can say for sure is they were all different. So even if you or someone else did not enjoy a past experience I still think it is worth trying another one. I hope this helped you get a better idea of what to expect working at a startup so you can take that leap and see for yourself.