4 Traits You Need To Work In Startups

You’ve heard the rumors. Ping pong tables, pizza, in-office slides, yoga and more – who wouldn’t want to work in startups? Life in a new business isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Caroline Pinal of Giveback Homes (who we featured last year), tells us the four key traits needed by each and every startup employee.

When I first started in my career, all I wanted was a career at a large company – one that offered a cubicle and a 401(k) plan. For me that was the definition of success, and so I went for it.

But my corporate life didn’t last long. I learned about a company called TOMS (maybe you’ve heard of them?) and decided that my passion was for small businesses. There was just something about the startup world that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.

…the decision to take a chance and be the first employee at Giveback Homes was easy because I completely trusted their vision and loved the world of socially focused startups.

I began working at TOMS and soon, my job became a lifestyle. TOMS gave me the opportunity to travel around the U.S. sharing the story of the brand, and to Central America giving shoes to children in need. I also met Blake Andrews – the founder of Giveback Homes – a company I’m now proud to call myself a part of. Though it also began as a scrappy startup, Giveback Homes is now going strong. We have over 300 members, and have built homes for 24 families in Nicaragua and 5 in the United States. And we’re only getting started.

For me, the decision to take a chance and be the first employee at Giveback Homes was easy because I completely trusted their vision and loved the world of socially focused startups. Or really, to quote Sheryl Sandberg, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

While choosing to go from a large corporate setting to a small, socially-conscious business was easy for me, it isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re on the fence about choosing work in startups, here are a few of the key traits required by any small business employee:


Being asked to join a startup is a huge honor in and of itself. It means that the person asking you to join thinks you’re a hard worker who they can trust, and that they want you to grow with the business. Startups typically don’t have the time or resources to interview as many clients as a larger company might, so it’s a big risk when an employee is selected. You can rest easy knowing that you have the grit and work ethic that’s required to build something from the ground up. 


Before you commit to startup life, think about whether or not you love the business you’re thinking of joining. Life at a startup is not like a corporate job where hours tend to be more traditional. Instead, it’s a lifestyle and without true love for the business and a commitment to working long hours, you won’t last. If you’re willing to keep up with the frantic pace, then go for it. Otherwise you might want to reconsider.


Don’t sell yourself on an idea without preparing for the change that may come with work in startups. No matter how great the idea for a startup sounds, make sure you have at least 3-6 months of living expenses in your savings account before you commit just in case the worst happens. After that, have an open conversation with your potential employer about all of the important details – employee benefits, long-term goals for the business, etc. Even if the questions don’t apply when you’re asking them, they may in the future and once they’re out there, negotiations will be much easier.


Once you’re settled in startup life, set goals for yourself and even for the company. Setting these goals now will only help you to stay dedicated to your role and to the company, and will also provide you an easy look at where you want to be, by when and why. You can always make adjustments in the end, but getting organized from the start will help to make growth much easier for the business and for you as an employee.

For me, I couldn’t’ be happier working to revolutionize the real estate industry.

Our goal is to create social change through the act of buying or selling a home. Regardless of where you are in your career, let yourself take risks, whether big or small, and try to always challenge yourself – you never know where it will lead you.

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