Overcoming stage fright: Why mid-career professionals need startups

In my role at Scripted, I meet a lot of mid-career professionals in their 40s and 50s who feel like they’re stuck in boring positions that don’t challenge them anymore. Despite this, they’re hesitant to join startups like ours because they think we’re too risky. We’re at the wrong stage of growth for them and they have stage fright.

I understand this fear, but I think it’s misguided. In fact, I think people in the middle of their careers can benefit a lot more from startups than traditional companies. Hear me out! I have some good reasoning behind this.

Hiring Managers Don’t Look Down on “Failure”

People in their 40s and 50s basically tell me that they don’t want to work for startups because there is a high risk for failure. They’re worried about listing a company that went under on their resumes. If a business flops, they think hiring managers at other companies will look down on them as damaged goods.

Let’s get rid of this myth and acknowledge that good hiring managers, the kind of hiring managers you want to work for, are smarter than that. They know that one person can’t control a business’s destiny. When I see a failed company on someone’s CV, I ask what they learned from the experience. I’m often blown away by the knowledge people gain by falling down.

Failure has become something that I look for in potential employees because it shows they’ve tried new things and learned from the experiences.

You know what I don’t look for? A resume that boasts huge successes. It’s great that your previous employer’s client base grew by 300 percent while you were there, but I don’t believe you were the sole reason for it. People work, succeed, and fail in teams. What matters most to me is that you learned something from the experience.

In fact, taking a risk on a fledgling company that didn’t succeed doesn’t make you look weak at all. It makes you look brave. By entering the startup ring again after a failure, you’re showing me exactly the kind of drive we want on our teams.

Startups Offer Great Opportunities for Experienced Pros

I’m still pretty young, but even I have fallen into ruts when I’ve become bored with my work. There are few things I hate more than trudging into a job where I do the same thing every day. It earns money, but it feels like a waste of time.

If you’re 10, 20 or 30 years older than me, you have almost certainly had the same experience. You might hate your job right now because you never get to solve problems in creative ways. There’s something to be said for job security, but it can’t compare to passion, exploration and challenge.

At a startup, you get to bring your experience to a young company that’s willing to take chances. They need your experience to guide them toward success. If you want a challenge, work for a startup. It will open your eyes to a new world of possibility.

Working for a Startup Offers a Lot of Perks

We all have responsibilities that require us to go to work and earn money. Startups offer a lot of perks that few established companies can compete with.

At Scripted, we work from home every Friday. I spend that time coordinating with my colleagues on Slack and hanging out with my daughter in between phone calls. It’s hard to slap a price tag on that.

When it comes to payouts, though, you have a lot of opportunity with young companies. The stock you get at a startup isn’t worth much now, but it could explode in the near future. Don’t you wish you had one of the early positions at Microsoft or Google? Yes, it’s a gamble. But people gamble because they just might get lucky and strike it rich. Does GE even give stock options anymore? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Don’t let stage fright dampen your career. If you see an opportunity that excites you, take it. Just because I’m youngish doesn’t mean I can’t understand your concerns. I have a mortgage and family, too, but I love taking risks. I just hope I’m brave enough to have the same perspective a couple decades from now.

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