Why I Left My 9–5 Job For A Startup
“That’s the best company anyone could ever work for.”
The exact words everyone said when I told them about my job as a recruiter.
If you’re wondering what made them brim with jealousy, it’s because of this:
- Medical & dental insurance fully covered
- Free company laptop
- Free Friday lunch catering (Chipotle, Panera, Boston Market, Subway, Dave’s BBQ, you name it!)
- Replenishing snacks and drinks, up for grabs at any time of day
- $50 reimbursement for phone bills
- Paid holidays
- 40k/year + commissions ($100-$2k/month depending on your work ethics) + extra bonuses.
And you know what the best part of the package was? Absolutely no limit to how much you can earn. Basically, the harder you worked, the larger the check. Perfect! Because that’s exactly how the work system should be. I mean, I HATED those jobs where you’d pour so much sweat and tears into your work, only to find out that you still earn the same measly dollar as your lazy colleagues.
That said, I’m sure many of you would die for this job — especially if you’re one of those baby boomers (like me), who spent months, years even, to get into Starbucks or McDonalds. Even a janitor job didn’t sound half bad! I don’t blame you though. There’s not much you can ask for if you don’t have a lavish resume.
Which is why I felt so excited to start my career as a recruiter. Because I knew if I put 120% of my soul into it, I’d finally be able to catch up with my peers, who started building their career the minute they walked out from college. After much persistence:
2 month and a quarter mark: 1st promotion + 33% raise
3 month mark: awarded as “best employee of December” + $ bonus + commission
4 month mark: an irresistible offer to become an account manager
You wouldn’t believe how ecstatic I was to see my work transform into a “badge of honor.”
Yet, despite all these perks, why didn’t I feel happy?
What I’ve envisioned — me calling my buddies to celebrate the beginning of the weekend — had broken down to me getting chained to the phone, doing the same task over and over again. I had to go through an endless cycle of calling potential candidates and research for new labor sources at the same time. As much as I wanted to break out of this system to learn something new, I couldn’t. Because every time I reached my daily quota of 80 calls, the managers expected 90 the next day. 100 if I passed 90.
Soon enough, my weekends had synchronized with my career. No longer could I find the time to cook (my biggest passion), let alone eat peacefully for one hour without getting a call from my manager or candidate.
Is this what my life will be 1 year from now? What about 5?
How much have I learned within the past few months? Can I do more? Will I be able to do more?
I only had 2 options laid down infront of me:
#1: push forward and live a stable life to a job that saps work-life balance.
#2: quit and find one where I can keep learning and grow to my fullest potential.
Luckily, that’s when Rabbut swung by (a startup dedicated to sending emails through RSS). Ever since I’ve jumped onboard to this blooming startup, I (still) have not, on any day, regretted my decision. Because what I’ve learned in 3 months at my staffing company, I’ve learned in 1 at Rabbut. And now, I am what people have achieved in 2+ years.
If you’re wondering about joining a startup, I’ll tell you this: you’ll be out of the ordinary. It’ll completely transform the way you think, the way you cooperate with others, and make you finally realize what you truly want. You might not notice at first, but people around you will. And that’s when you’ll feel so amazed of yourself that you might never want to go back to a 9–5 job. At least I don’t, and this is why.
Why Startups > 9–5 job
You become the jack of all trades
Because of the limited manpower in startups, everyone must take on every role that’s given to them. Sure, it’s more work, but look at it from this perspective: you work hard to acquire valuable skills. These are skills that boost your personal value, usually measured in the form of hourly wage. So the more you know, the more confident you can set your rate at the next interview you go to. Because unlike the majority of people who live to “perfect” one or two skills in their entire career, you’re fully equipped with a ton.
You keep learning (it never stops)
Unlike corporate jobs, startups have leeway to steer off to a whole new direction — whether that’s tackling down a new project or trying a different outreach approach. This is when you need to dip your toe in the water and figure out on your own what you need to do to bring success. It’ll be tough, but whatever you contribute, big or small, brings more ideas to the table. And that’s when the best ideas come bouncing between you and your team. At this pace, you’re learning unbelievably fast.
When I started with Rabbut, I knew NOTHING about the digital world. I couldn’t Google right. I didn’t know what plugins were or did. All I knew was the basic stuff people have used in the mid-1990s.
But now, I can find people’s real email addresses. I can make email aliases for my company. I can even get CEOs, bosses, and respectable people to respond to my emails. If anyone asks, they’d be surprised how many things I picked up, given a few days for each task.
My word of advice? As long as you keep your mind open and your determination strong, nothing can stop you from achieving what you want to do.
People in startups mingle very well, maybe too well. And I think that’s because in startup culture, people are more accepting of and actually love discovering every unique piece of your character. Spend a few weeks there, and people will know every little thing about you — the passion you have for cooking, your habit of scratching your head when thinking, the fact that you’re never a minute late to work. You get my point. 😉
To me, I never saw my ‘co-buddies’ as just people you struggle to deal with on a daily basis. No. If anything, they are my team, my friends, my “second” family. If times got tough, we stuck and fought together. If we made the slightest bit of success, we’d celebrate by taking a trip to eat good food.
Takeaway: if you have a team who enjoys working and wanting to hang out with you, the speed at which you can achieve goals triple-folds.
Flexibility and freedom
Most companies want an employee who keeps working with no complaints. And it sucks, because jobs today are still scarce — which means you pretty much have to go “on-call” or stay in past 5pm, unless you’re not afraid of getting fired. They say they honor “work-life balance,” but the sad truth is more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work.
That’s how I felt at my staffing company. I felt disgruntled, knowing the fact that anytime I needed to go to the doctor’s or rush to my loved ones in cases of emergencies, I had to pass them a written note. Even the times I showed up to work and left, it had to be written on paper.
In startups, it’s different. You could tell your boss at the very last minute that you have to go out, and you’d be excused without being penalized or labeled as a procrastinator. Even if you needed a day to freshen up from work, it was okay. Because they understand you have a life — you have family, appointments, bills to pay, errands to run. They understand work-life balance. And they’ll do everything in their power to make you feel at home. Because in the end, happy employees mean faster productivity.
Should I join a startup?
I believe anyone can work at a startup. At the same time, not everyone can work at a startup.
There are certain traits that set you aside from the ordinary. That 5% is what all great startup founders seek in their team. If you think you got what it takes to be in a startup, ask yourself these questions first:
- How fast can you hustle?
- How much shit can you take before you break down (because you WILL break down)?
- How willing are you to get back on your feet after failing?
- How driven are you to push yourself and be better?
Because at the end of the day, your performance directly impacts how far your startup can grow.
So if you got the hustler blood in you or are the type that constantly craves to learn, startups might be your thing. But remember, before you make the final call whether to stick with your 9–5 job or take the leap towards a new direction, make sure you’re fully prepared to experience failure (a LOT of it) before you start seeing extraordinary results.
Wish you the best,
Creator of Rabbut