Signs of Wall Street Withdrawal at a Startup

Startup Institute applicants and alumni come from a variety of professional backgrounds. This is the second post of a two-part series about leaving a Wall Street career for a startup job by guest blogger, Rebecca Jackson of @AfterWallSt. To read part one, click here

What should a former banker expect as a new employee at a startup?

Eric (of Viggle) cautioned that the first couple of months post-banking life can feel like a drug withdrawal. The contrast between startup culture and a bigger bank culture can be jarring. Within smaller, high-growth companies culture truly matters. Since every new employee impacts the dynamic of the team, cultural fit is often a determining factor in the development and growth of a team. People work differently and day-to-day operations can sometimes seem, or simply be, unstructured. Learn to embrace this fluidity.

Roles can change rapidly! While you might be C-suite when the team is bootstrapping, someone may join the team at a higher level than you as the company matures.  With new employees, new duties, and new offices, the culture of the company will likely morph and if there’s any struggle to raise capital, you will see changes in management. On the other hand, anyone on Wall Street who lived through the last few years has probably seen more than one regime change in quick succession!

Despite the challenges, everyone professed to being happy on this side of the Wall St-Silicon Alley divide.  Danielle (of Take the Interview, Inc.) enthused that “no day is the same in a startup…[and] there’s a lot more autonomy to figure out how you can add value”. Moreover, Will (of Homepolish.com) noted that at “startups you can do one amazing thing and that can parlay into something bigger” whereas in banking, tenure and level drive so much.

A final word of advice - even if you do not find the perfect role at the outset, do not be disheartened.  From Eric’s perspective, the primary goal is to find someone who will take you under their wing.

The hardest part is making the leap - once you’re in, it’s all up to you.

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Rebecca Jackson is a former Wall St professional who left Investment Banking in December 2011 to undertake a process of career discovery and turn her attention to early stage startups and small businesses. She has since worked as a consultant and advisor on a number of projects including a global women’s week, a peer-to-peer talent marketplace, an events discovery platform, a women’s personal finance website, an executive coaching company and a new venture services firm, among others.

Rebecca also coaches current and former Wall Street professionals who are interested in making their own seismic career shift. You can find her on Twitter @BKLYN_Brummi.