Startups can be great places to work, though they are oftentimes stereotyped as the sole domain of young white male tech geeks. If you’re a woman or minority, you should know that many startups strongly value diversity and working at a startup can offer many benefits to your career.
Three female sales leaders, all of whom work at startups discussed their experience with us. All three agreed that startups are not only invigorating places to work, but truly value contributions from diverse employees. Here’s why:
1. Startups want to help a diverse range of employees grow with the company.
Many people start their career at established companies, but later find that startups are a more natural fit. Micah Day, Sales Manager at The Muse, said that early in her career she worked for a large company with no women as sellers. After learning everything she could in that position, she wanted to “be on the front lines” and work at a startup. That afforded her the opportunity to play a critical role in shaping an organization from the ground up.
As an early employee of The Muse, Day has had the opportunity to learn from its two female founders. Working at a startup has provided her with more opportunities to engage in new and exciting projects. She said, “I’ll never go back to corporate. Ever. They couldn’t pay me to go back. […] At established corporations, there was just a lot of stagnation and I felt held back. I felt like I wasn’t given certain projects and I realized that’s not the environment I wanted to be in.”
Startups are interested in disrupting age-old patterns of business operations. By hiring diverse employees in the early stages, startups can gain access to a wide range of perspectives. This helps them build a different kind of organization than the same old corporate culture.
2. Startups need employees who can wear multiple hats and learn new skills.
As Day alluded to, startups are still figuring things out. This allows startup employees to develop new skills and grow into roles. People with diverse experiences oftentimes excel when given the opportunity to display a varied skillset.
Even if your experience in sales is limited, you may have other experiences that make you a great fit for a startup.
Kristina Wiig, VP of Sales at Stella Connect, described her startup experiences: “I’ve effectively been a product manager, a marketing person, a CEO at times. I’ve been the head of fundraising. I got to wear many, many different hats. And so for me being a sales leader in early stage companies lets me flex and work on a lot of different aspects of my own skillset. And every time I learn something.”
3. Startups value problem solvers.
Above all, startups value people who can solve problems effectively—whether or not they fit the “mold” of a sales representative or business executive. Melissa Finney, Head of Sales, East at Spotify, explained what she looks for in job applicants: “If I’m very honest with you, I don’t want to hear about you being discriminated against. The way I was raised is that you have no problems, you start no problems, you only solve problems. And that’s what I want to hear in an interview.”
If you can position yourself a problem solver, you can create a great impression in an interview at a startup.
4. Startups want people who break the mold.
Startups value people who break the mold and can offer new perspectives to an organization that’s on the cutting edge of innovation. Finney discussed a lesson from the New England Patriots, whose current wide receiver played lacrosse in college. She explained that it can be helpful to “look for someone who is unlike the mold that you’re trying to break out of.”
To hear more about these three sales leaders’ thoughts on startup life, see their full answers here.