I have been in a startup for around 1.5 years. I am getting very less money (below industry average), and almost no career growth. Sometimes there aren't enough projects to keep me busy, while other times the salary that I receive is delayed by almost 15 days, because some other huge client hasn't paid yet.

So, I decided to focus on upskilling myself, so that I can switch to a different company. I bought some online courses. But, I want to upskill as soon as possible. Should I focus more on upskilling and less on company's work, or learn new skills only when I have free time ? I am very new to this, so I don't know how people do it?

By focusing, I mean doing less of company's work.

  • What is you company doing? Consulting? Your own product? To me it seems weird that there is nothing to do in a startup. What prevents you from proactivly do work that is of value to the company and help the company grow alongside you?
    – lijat
    Jan 19 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


If you are "on the clock", your time belongs to the company. So you are not free to do what you want during that time. That said, if there is not enough work to do for you, it is a good idea to use that time to sharpen your skills. But you always need to keep your manager / lead in the loop with this. a short: "hey boss, I'm done with client project A. If it's OK for you I would like to use the time to freshen up my skills in topic XY" should be good. Of course, if your boss tells you to do something else, its unwise to disobey.

You even can bring up your excess time proactively and ask for training. No one needs to know that you train to get out of here. But check the conditions for the company paid training. Often they require you to pay some of it off by yourself if you leave the company shortly afterwards.

You can also start burning some overtime by leaving early, if you are in a flexible working time arrangement.

  • 1
    And of course, I would only study "topic XY" during work hours if it's beneficial, or potentially beneficial, to your current role. You don't want your boss to start assigning bullshit tasks just so you are not able to make yourself more employable. Jan 18 at 7:03
  • Well, any upskilling even required by the company would come from my pocket. Even when a new skill is required, I have to do everything, including payments. At times, even I have to handle a project and learn new skill. So, I dont think I have to pay them back, if I am upskilling.
    – Skumar
    Jan 18 at 7:04
  • 1
    @Skumar well then your company is a real sh*tshow ;) good to hear that you want to get out.
    – jwsc
    Jan 18 at 7:08
  • @jwsc Yeah! Most of the work stuff that the company follows are either outdated, or below the industry standards. So, I am finding it difficult to switch to a new skill.
    – Skumar
    Jan 18 at 7:11
  • 1
    @Skumar How does a startup end up using outdated tech in 1.5 years?
    – Nelson
    Jan 20 at 7:08

Speaking from experience, start looking for a new job and do your online courses concurrently with your search. When you start looking, I think it will provide the impetus you need to work hard on your online courses. As you speak to recruiters you'll learn what skills are most in demand. There isn't much to gain by waiting. It's also fine to say to recruiters that you're studying a particular skill even if you've only done a few lessons - completing a course isn't a cut off point where you can now say you have that skill where you couldn't before.

For your existing company, I suggest just doing the work you need to, and if you have some free time I would be open and say that you made good use of it by doing some online studying - but it's best if it's at least tangentially related to what your company does. I think if you say with confidence (rather than evasively) that you've achieved all your tasks and then you've used the extra time productively, not many people will shoot you down.

  • Speaking from experience, start looking for a new job - On it. Which is why I need upskilling. Also, the courses that I have taken (which interest me) are not much required by the company, as the company does not have a lot of skills that are required by the outside world. They are happy with old techs.
    – Skumar
    Jan 20 at 12:10

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