4 Smart Questions to Ask Before Joining a Startup

4 Smart Questions to Ask Before Joining a StartupStartup founders need more than investors, education, and resources. They need employees. They need talent that will help their company grow. They need you.

Whether you’re a marketing magician, a prolific accountant, or at the tip-top of your graduating class, there’s a lot to consider before jumping into the startup life. Ask yourself these four questions. Assess the risk, then decide if you ought to say yes.

1. What will I actually be doing at this startup?

There’s a lot of excitement and pressure in entrepreneurial settings to get in on the ground floor of a new company, says Scott Meadow, clinical professor of entrepreneurship at the Chicago Booth School of Business. But if you’re well into a career path, be cautious. A fresh start might seem tempting, but startups are a meritocracy. Dashed CEO Phil Dumontet played double duty as his first bike-delivery guy in a business of one. Mark Zuckerberg was his own first developer. There’s a flat structure in startups that isn’t right for everyone. Be very clear on what you’ll be doing ? and ask yourself if you’re okay with it.

Many startups offer the opportunity to learn a lot, make mistakes, and be really involved in all aspects of a fledgling business. If you just graduated, joining a startup might be the right move. Just know that it’s the first of a lot of moves. You almost certainly aren’t going to become an instant millionaire or get promoted to CEO within a year. And remember, as the startup grows, you might not grow with it. For example, if the company is sold, the new owners might want to bring in their own staff. You’ll probably have to build up your experience over time with multiple businesses and startups.

2. How will this startup make money?

Don’t feel uncomfortable ? it’s fair to ask about the startup’s cash flow status before you join.

The startup might be backed by venture capitalists, in which case you could ask about how much capital they have (or how much is left). Ask about other investors, too.

If the founders are footing the bill, it might be worth a little more soul searching. On his popular blog OnStartups.com, CTO and founder of HubSpot Dharmesh Shah says, “There is no real substitute for cash in the bank.” He cautions that passion from investors is a positive thing, but it won’t buy your groceries.

Read more at The Week.