Crafting Your Onboarding Experience at a Startup: An Empowered Approach to Success

Joining a startup is an exciting journey, filled with opportunities for growth, innovation, and making a real impact. However, startups, especially young ones, may lack formalized processes such as onboarding. Yet, as highlighted by a study from SHRM, effective onboarding can lead to a 69% more likelihood of a new hire staying for at least three years1. So, what do you do when you’re hired into a startup that lacks a structured onboarding process? You create one for yourself!

Understand the Company and Your Role

Embarking on your startup journey begins with understanding your company’s mission, vision, and values. As Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, once said, “It’s very important to like the people you work with, otherwise life [and] your job is gonna be quite miserable”2. Get to know your colleagues, the startup culture, and the ethos driving the organization. Additionally, seek clarity about your role, responsibilities, and what success looks like for you.

Ask for Essential Information

Startups are known for their fast-paced environments. If you haven’t been provided with the necessary paperwork, systems access, or company policies, take the initiative to ask for them. Ensuring you have everything you need to perform effectively is a crucial step in your self-onboarding process.

Request a Meeting with Your Manager

A one-on-one meeting with your manager can set the tone for your working relationship. Use this opportunity to understand their expectations, the current projects of the team, and how you can contribute. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, notes in her book, “Lean In,” communication about one’s role and expectations can greatly impact one’s career trajectory3.

Reach Out to Your Team

Building relationships within your team can foster a sense of belonging and support. Take the initiative to introduce yourself, understand their roles, and communicate your eagerness to collaborate.

Find a Mentor

Having a mentor can be a game-changer in a startup environment. A mentor can provide guidance, answer your questions, and help you navigate the company culture. As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Every one of us needs a mentor”4.

Seek Out Training Opportunities

If your role requires specific training, don’t hesitate to ask for it. In the absence of formal training, leverage online resources, webinars, or books that can help you upskill. Continuous learning, after all, is key in a startup’s dynamic environment.

Set Personal Goals

Defining your goals for the first few weeks and months can provide a sense of direction and purpose. As Tony Robbins, the renowned life coach, puts it, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”5.

Regularly Seek Feedback

Active solicitation of feedback is crucial for your growth and development. If feedback isn’t forthcoming, ask for it. This proactiveness shows your commitment to improvement and success.

A well-executed onboarding process, even if self-driven, can be the difference between feeling lost at sea and skillfully navigating your new role. Remember, your onboarding experience is not just about learning the ropes. It’s about taking charge of your journey, making meaningful connections, and setting the stage for a successful tenure at the startup.


1: SHRM, 2023
2: Musk, E. (2013). Elon Musk: The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity. TED Talk
3: Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Knopf
4: Zuckerberg, M. (2016). Facebook Q&A with Mark. Facebook Live
5: Robbins, T. (1991). Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical, and Financial Destiny! Free Press