This article first appeared on NTUC LearningHub, an NTUC social enterprise.
“Should I work at a startup?” If you’re young, ambitious and look up to Singapore’s recent successes in Carousell and Ninja Van, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. But is working in startups as wise as it is cool? And if so, how might you hack your way in? Read on to find out!
According to the Startup Genome, Singapore has overthrown Silicon Valley as the top place in the world for startup talent. This growth has largely been driven by government support by way of seed investments, subsidies and the availability of signature startup hub, Block 71. While there were 4,800 startups in 2015, Enterprise Singapore aims to increase this to a whopping 8,000 within 10 years.
So what does this mean for you? Opportunity. The more startups there are, the more demand for talent there will be. But before you begin sending off your resume, are you actually cut out for startups?
What it’s actually like to work at a startup
If you want a structured salary, career progression plan and office environment, look elsewhere. Working in startups commonly involves a heavy workload and a whole lot of uncertainty. However, you’ll also be able to work closely with founders, see the direct impact of your work and be a part of building something innovative.
If that sounds good with you, then the next question is, how do you get noticed by startups?
The Top 10 Skills Startup Founders are Looking For
In the world of startups, every team member counts and success heavily depends on what skills each brings to the table. Which skills are the most important you ask? We’ve outlined the top 10 that will help you land a job and add to your personal value proposition.
1. Openness to change
From idea to growth and expansion, change lies at the heart of every startup. The more open to change you are, the more you will be able to cope with the startup lifestyle and help your organisation navigate an uncertain environment.
Recommended course: John Kotter Change Leadership & Management Masterclasses
2. Problem Solving
Tightly defining a problem is what enables startups to develop new solutions in the first place. And to do this, they need proactive people who are willing to test, iterate and discover repeatable solutions.
Recommended course: Effective Problem Solving Techniques (ES WSQ – Solve Problems and Make Decisions at Managerial Level)
3. Technical Skills
The vast majority of startups are either tech-based or built on technology. While this makes engineers the most in-demand type of employee, the reality is that no matter what your role is, you will need to interact with technology at some point.
Recommended course: Introduction to Coding using Python
4. Data Analysis
With technology allowing businesses to collect an ever-growing amount of data, startups are now faced with the challenge of what to do with it. The key lies in knowing what to measure and how to measure it. Good decisions are grounded in good insights.
Recommended course: Executive Reporting Using Dynamic And Interactive Excel Dashboards
Lacking a prestigious brand name yet having potentially global aspirations, startups need people who can maintain harmonious business relationships in cross-cultural contexts. The good news is that great negotiators are made, not born.
Recommended course: WSQ Participate in Negotiations powered by Wiley
Startups are rarely the result of one person’s work. In essence, it’s the team that makes an idea a reality. Knowing how to work with, energise and grow others separates the good startups from the great and becomes all the more important when working in close quarters.
Recommended Course: Accelerating Teamwork
Communication can make or break teams. Developing your communication skills and setting clear expectations will save a lot of heartache down the track and increase your ability to influence the people around you.
Recommended course: Strategies for Effective Team Communication (ES WSQ – Facilitate Effective Communication and Engagement at the Workplace Supervisory Level)
8. Business Process Optimisation
One of the keys to startup success is the art of transforming chaos into evolving processes. As a startup grows and understands its market, it is imperative that it has people who can identify waste and build processes that nurture value-adding activities.
Recommended Course: WSQ Apply LEAN Thinking in the Workplace
9. Customer Service
Whether they are nice or not-so-nice, startups need to deal with their customers wisely – poor service spreads fast! Being able to consistently handle and delight customers is an essential skill, and in many cases, a key differentiator.
Recommended Course: Win Customers for Life (WSQ Establish Relationships for Customer Confidence)
No matter if it’s directly or as subcontractors, every startup needs to employ and manage others at some point. And even if no one is employed during your tenure, management skills will ensure that your project goals are reached efficiently and effectively.
Recommended Course: The 360° Leader
Building your Startup Skillset with Funding and Support
Now that you’ve narrowed down the skills that you need to develop, you’ll need to find a way to fund your education. Fortunately, this is one area where you won’t need to bootstrap! There are a whole range of funding and support programmes, all of which are available to Singaporean workers.
All Singaporeans aged 25 and above received an opening credit of S$500 from January 2016 to pay for or offset a wide range of skills-related courses.
Skills Development Fund (SDF) for Individuals
Subsidies of up to 95% of course fees for individuals who are seeking to upgrade their skills.
SkillsFuture Mid-Career Enhanced Subsidy
Subsidies of up to 95% of course fees for Singaporeans aged 40 and above.
Working for a startup requires hard work, grit and determination. But as you can see, there are many benefits and we are here to help you accelerate your journey. Our new initiative Millennial Academy @ LearningHub is created by the youth for the youth. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and are interested in breaking into the startup scene, then our startup package is for you. Be equipped with critical entrepreneurial skills and lateral skills like design thinking, finance for non-finance professionals, digital marketing, project management & lean framework. Enquire about it here.
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