After attending several career fairs and seminars at Copenhagen Business School, I was convinced that the best way to build a career in Denmark was to find a student job or become part of graduate program in one of the recognized international firms. During my semester abroad in the US, however, I was astonished to see how many business school students are taking up internships in startups or building their own businesses while studying. Seeing their passion and excitement, I was surprised why I never considered joining one given that Denmark is a very entrepreneurial country.
Not being able to decide between the two options, I decided to try out both. I wanted to see what it is like being part of a startup but at the same time I was excited about the opportunity to work for one of the big companies. So during my last year of Master studies, I found a job as a student assistant in Novozymes, a Danish bio-tech company. At the same time, I was lucky to meet an independent consultant who wanted to establish his own consulting firm. Having classes together with two part-time jobs wasn’t easy, but looking back I can say that it was the most rewarding and fascinating period of my higher education. I couldn’t imagine one can learn so much in just one year!!! While I took a corporate path and after graduation continued working in Novozymes, I believe that is was my experience working in a start-up that shaped me as a professional and helped me to develop the skills that make me stand out.
As I mentioned previously, I never considered myself as a startup material and instead focused on building my career “the right way”. I was a good girl who followed the rules and wanted to do as good as possible in whatever was expected from me. Yet, living in the US changed my perception about startups completely, so when I got offered an opportunity to join one, I said “yes” to it.
Let me be honest with you, even though I was really excited about this experience, I had a hard start. The first challenge I had to overcome was my own stubbornness. I have always been a nerd (ok, maybe I wasn’t too bad, as I had good social skills). Yet, I thrived best in a structured environment with detailed plans and established frameworks. As you can imagine this was not the case in this startup. So I had to step out of my comfort zone and embrace the uncertainty. I also had to accept the fact that I will have to take risks and I will fail once in a while, but this is just part of the process.
Another aspect of working in a startup that I found challenging, but at the same time extremely rewarding, was taking responsibility for things I had no clue about. I performed tasks ranging from drafting a vision and a strategy for the company to preparing consulting reports for our first client. And with the help of Google and willingness to make it work, I was actually quite successful most of the time.
Apart from the above mentioned challenges, there were a lot of things about working in a startup that I absolutely loved. First, I had a power to influence the way company will work. As a 22 year old, it felt really unusual to be asked for opinion, especially when you know that your opinion will actually be taken into account. Second, I had a chance to try many different roles and discover what I am good at. Finally, once I got comfortable working without a clear plan and job description, I realized that every day brought something new so I was always looking forward to go to work as I knew I will try out somethings exciting.
When I reflect on this experience, I realize how much it shaped me as a professional. I became very agile and open for challenges and I easily accept new and difficult tasks. So if I could give an advice based on my experience, I would highly recommend everyone to try working in a start-up as it is a great way to learn new skills and understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
Work and progress,