Follow Your Passion – What It’s Like Working for a Startup

What’s it like working for a startup? Long hours, no manual, high risk and you never really switch off. Would you do it?

To some that sounds insufferable, to others, it’s just a day in the life of a start-up employee. For me, it’s my life. 9 months ago I joined the team at Get Invited, 6 months after they officially started business. Recently, I was asked to speak at a conference at Ulster University, on my “Journey to the Top” and it caused me to reflect on my time here.

Disclosure: I am nowhere near the top of my career, I’m only really beginning. Yet, I have still learned a lot of lessons along the way, and like a lot of professionals, I am in pursuit of (career) happiness.

With so many clichés out there, where do you begin? With a cliché:

Choose a job you love you love and you'll never work a day in your life.

Some argue that it is the worst career advice ever written, whilst others swear by it, so what’s the verdict? Whilst this quote may look good on a motivational painting in an office, or hanging from a keychain, can we really take something that we love, monetise on it and still expect it to give us the same satisfaction?

My father is a brilliant cook, and loves experimenting in the kitchen, however, after 2 months as a chef in a restaurant, he began to actually loathe cooking.

The sad truth? Do something you love, and you’ll begin to love it less. You can have the most amazing job in the world, but it’s still a job at the end of the day. You’ll still have clients to please, deadlines to make, and a boss to answer to.

Ask yourself: if I won the lottery tomorrow would I still continue to work?

One of the best parts of my role at Get Invited is speaking to event organisers. They are such passionate individuals. I love listening to their vision, and seeing it come to life. We get all sorts of events here, from burlesque classes, to business conferences, and I love the diversity. However I am not under any illusions that event management is glamorous, I organise events myself and I know how stressful it is.

Recently, CareerCast ranked ‘Event Professional’ as the 5th most stressful job in the world, just after fire fighter and pilot. So, there you have it, it’s “officially” stressful. Event professionals are not risking their lives, or landing passengers safely, but this ranking doesn’t surprise me. Event management is all about people, and although you can be extremely organised, when there are people involved, your environment is unpredictable. Lord knows, I’ve had my own share of event disasters, and so have my peers.

But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.

I have always been a strong believer in that if you have to work, better make it something enjoyable. I have friends who are happy to clock in at 9, do their job, and clock out at 5, but it’s just not in me. I love being creative, getting involved in the business, and being a part of something bigger than myself.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that I don’t ever feel like a day of work is strenuous or boring, or that I enjoy every second of what I’m doing ( PPC is my nemesis). Start-up life can be really tough, there is no manual, no proven results to work from and you can feel a bit lost at times.

In saying that, the buzz you get, and the sense of achievement you feel when you start to see success that you helped achieve, is unreal. I may not own the company, but I still feel our wins (and losses), just as much as our founders.

“Don’t follow your passion, but always bring it with you” – Mike Lowe

I was reminded of this quote during the university conference. Although we wouldn’t have Facebook, Apple or Microsoft without people pursuing their passion, that alone is just not enough. You need to be good at it.

Just because you're passionate about something it doesn't mean you're good at it, and just because you want to improve it doesn't mean you will - Mike Lowe

There are lots of things that I am passionate about, and my job is one of them. I have a genuine passion for marketing. To me, it’s the perfect balance of creativity and strategic thinking. I love that it doesn’t ask you to make a choice between them, but rather it emboldens you to adopt both. I also love to paint, and whilst some paintings I’m proud of, others are absolutely terrible. If I was relying on this for income, there would be many months where I would starve!

Like most, I work for survival. I have bills to pay and groceries to buy. I didn’t dream of working for a start-up, however, I’ve had a hard work ethic instilled in me by my parents, and I like a little unpredictability, so it suits me perfectly.

Lowe is not trying to kill our dreams, he is simply questioning how far we should push them.

A job may be great, but if you’re relying on it to determine your happiness, then you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Equally, pursuing your passion as a career choice can be just as disappointing. You need to be good at what you do AND make money from it to survive.

The feeling I can get from creating a marketing campaign, compared to creating a painting, isn’t the same, nor are the results. Nonetheless, I pour my passion into them both, as I am still creating.

So, am I on the way to career happiness? I think so! Working for Get Invited has been the most challenging, yet rewarding, experience of my career to date. I know Im part of something really great, and I work with a team who are just as committed to making it a success as I am. It isnt easy, but nobody said it would be.