Two years ago, I joined a startup. I was the first employee, actually. I had absolutely no clue what to expect and even less of a clue as to what I was doing.

The truth is, joining a startup kind of feels like joining a crazed gang. You aren’t entirely sure what’s going to happen next and how you’re going to pull off the job you just pitched, but gosh darnit, there is so much excitement.

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There is something really special about a startup family, but just like all families, it has its ups and downs. I’ve learned some important lessons over the last two years — a few things that I think people should know about before leaving their comfortable jobs to live the startup life, and a few things that might encourage others to take the leap.

Give it time, everybody is learning

The one thing I’ve had to diligently teach myself is that my boss is learning, too. Just as this startup adventure is new for you, it’s also new for them. You need to be prepared for a bumpy ride as the processes and structure take time to fall into place — usually on the second or third attempt. Always remember that as the business grows, so do you, and you can accelerate your career path if you’re willing to wait out the startup rollercoaster.

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The startup world is perfect for those who want to carve their own niche

Working at a startup, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many new people and try so many new things. Being in a large corporation often leads to your roles and responsibilities being boxed in and strictly defined. If you are confident enough to stand up and carve your own niche, the startup life can be really exciting and rewarding. If you’re not, then you might feel a bit out of your comfort zone.

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Loyalty is key

This point is directed more towards the bosses than the employees, but it’s a value I’d never really considered before. Having loyal staff who believe in you might just be your startup’s greatest resource. This takes time and personal effort to accrue, of course, but sewing this seed is what leads to a productive office. If you’re considering the risk of a startup life, then make sure you’ll be working for someone that knows how to lead.

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Be prepared for change

The small changes affect your life much more than in a larger environment where they might go unnoticed. The addition of a new employee, the mistakes of a colleague, a change in the business structure: You need to learn how to deal with these changes, quickly. There is no time for pity parties.

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You need to believe in the end goal

If you don’t, you will hate your life. This is a fact. You will grumble to yourself about how hard you work compared to your friends — and for what? If you do believe in the bigger picture, though, then even the smallest achievements in your day will make you feel like this:

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I have absolutely no regrets about joining Retroviral two years ago. It’s completely changed my life and I still wake up every day excited to go to work. But startup life is not for everyone, and that’s ok. It can be completely ridiculous, risky, and often not what you expected. But if you’re willing to work hard and go the extra mile to get noticed, you might just make it to the big screen like The Channel 4 news team.

Kirsty Sharman works for Retroviral Digital Communications. Follow her on Twitter to see where her journey takes her.

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