Vocate Blog
Graduate jobs 2017

What Every 2017 Graduate Can Learn from Startups

If you’re a college graduate on the job hunt in 2017, chances are you’ve considered joining a startup. 

If you haven’t already, you should. The startup environment is a lot like hot yoga or picking up a book; it might not be for everyone, but there’s no denying how much it can help you. Businesses in the early stages of growth are prime landing spots for recent graduates for two big reasons:

  1. They need affordable help. Startups are – by definition – in growth mode and need as much help as they can get to accelerate toward their goals. That said, budgets are often lean, meaning companies can’t afford to build out an entire team of superstar engineers or salespeople. They need smart and eager young graduates to come in and help launch them to the next stage of their growth plan.
  2. You’ll learn a lot, very fast. Fast growth means baptism by fire; you’ll be learning how to do the job while doing the job. Yes, that can be stressful at times and yes, it can mean some late nights and long weekends, but when you see a 29 year-old in a VP of Business Development role, it’s likely because they came up through a startup and learned an insane amount of valuable skills very quickly. 

That learning piece is the real key to unlocking success in your career. It doesn’t matter if it’s an entry-level job or you’re 15 years into your career, Vocate is here to tell you that you should remember this: A.B.L. 

Always Be Learning. 

Write it on post-it notes and stick them everywhere. Get it tattooed on your forearm. (Kidding, of course. That’s a bit extreme.) The point is, companies want graduates with a growth mindset, and the relationship can be mutually beneficial. So whether you end up working for a startup or not, here are 5 things 2017 graduates can learn from the startup mindset:

  1. How to Fail.

Failure holds a negative connotation in the minds of most, but in the startup culture, failure is a rite of passage. 

That’s because for most people life holds two truths. First, you will almost certainly fail at something. Second, never trust someone who irons their underwear. 

Startups fail all the time. Sometimes those failures result in a complete shutdown of the business; other times they are small hiccups on the road to success. In either scenario, there’s a lot to learn from failure in the early stages of your career. 

For example, failure teaches you some pretty good lessons in change management. Navigating change can be really tough and many people – even senior executives – struggle with managing change. When you work at a startup, you’ll invariably learn not only how to manage change, but truly how to thrive in it.

Along with failure and change management comes another valuable lesson:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot.

Startups may begin with one idea and quickly realize they need to be doing something else entirely. Take Pinterest for example. 

Pinterest started as a mobile shopping platform called Tote but kept hitting a repeatedly difficult roadblock for consumers: easy payments. 

So, instead of continuing to hammer their head against the wall trying to make the mobile shopping thing happen, they pivoted. 

Pinterest took the most successful component of their platform (the compilation of visual wishlists) and decided to run with that as their new idea. Of course, it exploded and now they have an $11 billion valuation.

Can you imagine how much you’d learn making a move like that? It’s the kind of lesson that will impact your entire career and it happens all the time in the startup world.    

  1. Always Be Looking Forward.

When you work for a startup, it’s a constant mix of wins and losses, sometimes by the day. It can be tempting to spend time celebrating the wins or lamenting over the losses, but there’s no time in a startup environment to waste on either. Instead, it’s all about the “next play.” 

That’s a phrase used by head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, Mike Krzyzewski, to describe how he has his players approach their ballgame on the court. Instead of lingering on any one mistake or getting too excited about a big shot, always be thinking, “next play”; do it again, do it better. 

That’s a valuable lesson for any recent graduate to learn in the early stages of a career.

  1. How to Hustle Under Pressure.

Hyper-growth means there’s no such thing as a “slow day” at the office. Everyday you’ll work on something new – likely on a tight deadline – and getting work done isn’t confined to the standard 9 to 5. The satisfaction comes from seeing something you worked on actually helping the company succeed. That hustle pays off in the end. And you learn a valuable lesson, namely how to get work done under pressure.   

  1. The Impact of Good (and Bad) Leadership.

You don’t need to go to a startup to see good and bad leadership in action; you’ll find examples of both at any company. 

But in a startup environment, you’ll see the impact of good and bad leadership in a much more tangible way. You see, at large companies, it’s possible for good leaders to go unnoticed and bad leaders to hide for a long time. You might have a bad manager, but nothing ever changes. 

In a startup, there’s nowhere to hide. You’re working on small teams where everyone is held accountable. As a result, bad leaders are quickly weeded out and good leaders quickly rise to the top. 

You’ll also have more direct access to leadership, an invaluable characteristic of the startup world. As an entry-level employee, your desk might be right next to a VP of marketing or director of engineering, giving you ample opportunity to learn and build relationships with senior executives.


The growth mindset of your average startup teaches recent graduates a  lot about how to find success in their careers. If you’re interested in working for a startup, Vocate can help. 

With one application, Vocate sends your resume to thousands of startups and other companies interested in hiring recent graduates for entry-level opportunities. You’ll be matched with opportunities directly on the platform, saving you the time of finding jobs and filling out hundreds of applications. Check out Vocate today to see the opportunities out there for you. 

Zack Andresen

Add comment