You’ve probably heard the analogy that working at a fast-growing startup can be like a rocket ship—exciting, fast paced, full of potential. It can be easy to think, “If I put in the work at this startup, then my career will skyrocket too.”  

It’s a good thought—but in reality, it’s not that straightforward. 

Luck can play a big role in any startup’s journey. And it’s true that joining a company on track for a successful exit can help boost your career. 

But what happens if the rocket ship you’re on veers off course? When the daily whirlwind of tasks obscures your career path, and you start to feel a little lost?

Working in any role at a fast-growing startup, whether in the product team or the revenue team, is demanding and stressful. Striking a balance between short-term company objectives and your long-term career aspirations can be frustratingly difficult.

In this article, leaders from the Powderkeg community and wider startup scene share their best strategies to help you chart a course toward your desired career while navigating the thrilling but unpredictable startup landscape.

1. Understand How Your Company Makes Money

“An understanding of how tech companies make money is an essential skill. It’s so important to really understand the money-making model of the business you work for. Particularly if it is venture-backed. Without that knowledge, you likely won’t deliver the same value you could and, therefore, could miss out on reaching your full potential. You’re also more likely to get frustrated at times when you don’t understand why more resources aren’t available or why leadership is making certain decisions.“

Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and Co-Founder at Casted

2. Learn How to Speak With Executives 

“Learn to adjust your language and level of detail you share to your audience. For example, our SaaS analytics offering serves the contact center industry. The supervisors and managers in operations have slightly different language and needs than their leadership. IT has different language and needs. Only go into detail with leaders if you know they want and understand it, otherwise you risk losing them. Go deep with the frontline folks and anyone else who asks as far as they want to go.“

Rick McGlinchey, Co-Founder at PureInsights

3. Be Adaptable 

“One unique skill to develop for long-term career growth in the tech industry is ‘Learning Agility.’ Learning agility refers to the ability to quickly adapt to new technologies, methodologies, and industry trends. In the rapidly evolving tech landscape, those who can continuously acquire and apply new knowledge and skills are better positioned for sustained success. This skill enables professionals to stay relevant, tackle emerging challenges, and take advantage of evolving opportunities.“

Emily Finkelstein, Founder and CEO at VentureXpert Advisors 

4. Set Time for Reflection and Goal Review

“Regularly set aside time for reflection and goal review. In the fast-paced tech world, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks. By dedicating moments to assess alignment with long-term objectives, efforts, and decisions remain congruent with aspirations. 

This technique has been crucial in the serial entrepreneurship journey, where balancing immediate needs with long-term goals is paramount.“

Jay Toy, General Manager, 88stacks

5. Master One Skill as a Career Foundation

“It’s easy to get diverted and try to do a bit of everything when working in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment. You might think that this is the best way to stay ahead of the curve, but in reality, it can be counterproductive. Concentrate on getting really good at one thing, and use that as your foundation for your career path and future learning.“

Scott Orn, Chief Operating Officer, Kruze Consulting

6. Prioritize Constant Learning

“To not lose sight of your long-term career goals, it is important to prioritize constant learning. In a fast-growing technology company, it is possible to get deterred from one’s future career goals. By using learning resources and training sessions, greater focus can be realized.“ 

Brandon Rubinshtein, Founder, Howdy

7. Practice Affirmations for Focus

“Before starting my entrepreneurship journey, I had lost my spark and confidence, being trapped in job security for years. My long-term career goal was always to start a blog of my own and partner with brands that I looked up to during those job times. Out of all the strategies to stay focused on my dreams and goals, one thing I practiced the most was affirmations.

An affirmation is nothing but telling yourself that you’re capable. Even during my software engineering job, there were days when I felt I was deeply trapped in my job security, and that I would have to work until I die because that’s how the world worked. But affirmations helped me realize how far I’ve come in my professional life and that there’s always a way possible.“

Alex Mastin, CEO and Founder, Home Grounds

8. Maintain Goal Alignment and Adaptability

“Amid the rapid pace of a burgeoning tech firm, a crucial strategy for upholding long-term career aspirations is deliberate goal alignment. Regularly reassess and refine personal objectives to harmonize with the evolving company landscape. Allocate time for both short-term tasks and enduring ambitions. 

Employ the “Pareto Principle,” dedicating 80% of effort to immediate responsibilities and reserving 20% for advancing long-term goals. Engage in open dialogue with mentors, managers, and peers to garner insights, create accountability, and sustain motivation. 

Remember, adaptability is key—remain agile and willing to recalibrate goals as the company evolves. Striking this balance cultivates enduring success and preserves focus on the broader career trajectory within the dynamic tech industry.”

Vikas Kaushik, CEO, TechAhead

9. Develop a Personal Presence as a Thought Leader

Many tech workers find some solace and consistency in developing a personal presence as a thought leader in their field. Newsletters and blogs are the most common approach. YouTube channels and podcasts are also popular. Setting aside this personal media asset is a good way to make progress on a long-term goal while responding daily to the much more in-the-moment needs of the workplace.

Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench

10. Adopt a Strategic Curiosity Mindset

Reflecting on my tenure as CEO, I’ve discovered a unique, yet effective, method for securing long-term professional goals in the fast-paced, digital industry. This method is called “strategic curiosity,” which is a mindset that promotes both knowledge and adaptability.

Consider cultivating a mix of in-depth knowledge and broad curiosity. The recommendation is to continually explore adjacent domains, even if they seem unrelated. By expanding your knowledge base, you equip yourself with the ability to conceive original solutions and identify opportunities that others might overlook.

Embrace the unknown, delve into subjects outside your expertise, and integrate diverse perspectives into your career trajectory. This approach ensures that you forge a unique, multifaceted path while navigating the storm of technological progress.

Percy Grunwald, Co-Founder, Compare Banks 


It can be so easy to get lost in the daily grind of a startup and lose sight of your long-term career goals. However, by setting clear goals, managing your time effectively, and investing in your own learning and building a network, you can keep your career goals on track—while also contributing to your company’s growth. 

Ready to explore some of the fastest-growing tech startups? Look for companies in hot industries with room to grow. Take the time to research each company by reviewing their website, product reviews, and online profiles.

You can browse all of Powderkeg’s Best Tech Companies to Work for, follow them for insights, or request an introduction to plug into your next big opportunity.

Read more about working at a startup:

How to Succeed at a Startup or Fast-Growing Tech Company

Why Work for a Startup? 11 Great Reasons to Consider for 2023

How to Thrive While Working at a Startup with Christopher Day & Matt Hunckler

11 Reasons Why Working at a Fast-Growing Company Is Good Career Growth Opportunity