Getting to the Top: How to Thrive in a Startup

1. Internalize the company goals.
At the end of the day, you're working for a business. A business that may have to make tough decisions. A business that shifts gears. A business that is focused on growth, retention, whatever. It is imperative that you understand this and are able to make decisions that support whatever the leadership team needs. Do your research, pay attention to those boring quarterly all-hands, and ask meaningful questions. If you don't understand something, find someone who can be a strong mentor for you. The more initiative you take to understanding the bottomline, the more respect you will gain. 

2. Solve problems without a lot of noise. 
Startups are inherently volatile. There will be times when you'll have disagreements with co-workers and your instinct will be to bring in others to help solve the problem. Avoid this as much as possible. Don't complain, don't vent, don't even air your grievances to another coworker. Keep your head focused on finding a solution. Graceful problem solvers get more respect and opportunity given to them. 

3. Be the first to respond.
Did your CEO ask a question publicly on Slack? Or maybe your boss requested information about a new project idea? Whatever it is - respond swiftly. Even if you don't know the answer, reply with a note that says you saw the message. Never leave someone on your team wondering. Beat them to the punch. 

4. Ask for help when it comes to prioritization.
Very few leaders expect you to prioritize everything on your own. Why? Because they know that's their job. In fact, when people who came to me, asking for my help regarding prioritizing projects, it made me trust them more. It made me see they are open to receiving guidance and it also made me aware of how much they had on their plate. 

5. Do the dirty work. 
Take notes. Collect people's orders for a lunch meeting. Send action items after a project check-in. Do whatever you can to stay on top of even the small tasks. It may seem beneath you, but it isn't. You work at a startup... at this point, nothing is beneath you. 

6. Think systemically. 
Always think about how your role, your job, your results are impacting the company. CEOs want people on their leadership team who can work together and foster growth across the entire organization. Understand how the company goals impact everyone, and find ways you can help.

7. Always offer to help. 
It's hard to ask for help in an environment where everyone is expected to do more than they can handle. Everyone is overloaded so no one asks for a life line. BE that life line. Even if it's something small, even if you're just a sounding board - people will remember when you helped them. 

8. Be a source of positive motivation. 
When someone did something excellent, tell them that! People like to be praised and this type of behavior has systemic advantages. Positive reinforcement is contagious and a culture thrives on the energy of the people. Be that source of inspiration and motivation. 

Breena Fain