The How-To: Choosing Between A Job At A Startup Or A Corporate
Here's a closer look what you need to consider before taking a decision that will mark your first career milestone.
Graduating from university is a thrilling time for many young millennials as they prepare to enter the job market for the very first time and kickstart their careers. According to research, they represent a cohort of new talent who have different sets of demands, preferences, and beliefs than previous generations.
However, fueled with ambition and enthusiasm, many find themselves puzzled between choosing whether to join a startup or a well-established company. These two choices lead to extreme differences in their future career and personal goals as well as in the quality of life. As a millennial myself who has been on both sides of the fence, here’s a closer look at some important factors to consider before taking a decision that will mark your first career milestone.
Startup Versus Corporate: Stability
While joining a startup can be an incredible experience, the downside is that this rollercoaster ride may surprise you with some sudden falls. According to the Wall Street Journal, “only about 50% of startups make it to their fifth birthday. Even fewer make it into adolescence or adulthood, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Therefore, while a decision of joining a startup can offer extraordinary promise, you will still have to take into consideration that great risks are also associated with it. If you are someone seeking stability, the viability of having a long-term job may not be as feasible in this case when compared to working for a well-established company. Regardless of whether you hit all your KPIs and continuously overachieve your objectives, you may still lose your job just as quickly as you have found it, due to many different reasons associated with startup failures. Great products and ideas are not enough to ensure success in the dynamic and unceasingly changing world of startups which makes stable employment sometimes hard to maintain.
On the other hand, well-established corporations tend to be more stable because of their bigger cash reserves, among many other things. The odds of waking up one day and finding that your position has suddenly disappeared are quite low, and if it does happen, your chances of getting a nice severance package for the layoff will be quite soothing. Therefore, if you find yourself feeling anxious by uncertainty, then this is an essential indicator that the intense startup atmosphere may not be ideal for you. Nevertheless, do take into consideration that as you get older, it may become harder to take on the type of risk inherent in the exciting world of startups because of the different responsibilities acquired along the years. Therefore, if you are up for an adventure, you may want to jump into that rollercoaster ride and see where it takes you. Its rewards can be fruitful if the business succeeds, offering you access to its spoils that could exceed one’s expectations.
Startup Versus Corporate: Roles And Responsibilities
Despite being hired for a specific position, wearing multiple hats is the norm when working in the startup world where roles and duties are in a constant state of flux. One day you may find yourself working on specific tasks listed on your job description, the next day you may be assigned responsibilities that you will learn to become familiar with. If you are keen on trying out new things and have an appetite for curiosity while getting out of your comfort zone, then this environment will see you blossom. It is an optimal experience for a “fast and furious” growth if you are not daunted by diversified ad-hoc parachute assignments, never-ending to-do lists and perpetual change.
This opportunity will give you direct access to learn from visionaries, enjoy a more personalized approach to the business and push you towards broadening up your set of skills that will help improve future career prospects. Moreover, if you ever decide to go on your own and launch your own business, this experience will come in handy as you will have witnessed and learned by trial and error many of the do’s and don’ts that may have impacted the startup you have once worked for.
On the other side of the spectrum, well-established companies have defined roles and specific responsibilities for each member of the team in order to help them thrive in their niche. This grants employees a more structured path for career advancement where new joiners are set to start off their journey by attending well-defined training and mentoring programs. Those will help them hone their skill bases and increase their knowledge towards a defined and specific orientation. As such, clearly defined positions make it easy to identify the required skills and experience levels an employee of a well-established company needs in order to receive a promotion. However, contrary to startups, the pace of career advancement is known to be much slower in larger companies due to their complex structure and hierarchy, while acquiring new skills outside of your job description may be challenging. It is nevertheless important to mention that larger companies offer a more stable and less of a fast-paced environment if you prefer to work in a more systematic and organized setup.
Startup Versus Corporate: Involvement And Recognition
When employees are involved in the business, be it in a startup or in a larger company, a strong sense of commitment is ignited. Thus, the fruits of such a phenomenon will brilliantly materialize in increased productivity because of the higher achieved levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction that can be interpreted in better figures for the company itself. Think of it as a synchronized cycle.
Passionate entrepreneurs driven by problems to invent creative solutions and identify ways to overcome obstacles will jump on any opportunity to embrace their team members’ innovative ideas, especially if the business is still at its very beginnings. In other words, employees’ individual contribution in startups is much more tangible and has a direct impact on the overall success of the business.
With the close-knit culture of most startups, you will immediately be able to take pride in your achievements and receive recognition in a matter of weeks if not days as opposed to larger companies where it can take months due to their lengthy processes. Since most startups today tend to be mission-driven businesses instead of just existing for the sake of profit, your say will not just have value but your contribution will help shape the path to success of the new business and consequently in making a difference in so many people’s lives. Therefore, you will be pushed to think outside the box and will be inspired to take your sense of creativity to a whole new level because of the receptive nature of the startups’ environment.
In well-established corporations, team effort is what will influence the success of the business rather than individual effort. Despite outperforming your peers which can be an indicator of your progress and evolution at work, it may be sometimes challenging to quantity your own impact in a large-scale establishment. Without a doubt, there are many unique and exclusive disciplines, including skills that can only be acquired when working in a large corporation. On the downside, its solid foundations and processes may slowdown the speed of your growth. When it comes to thinking outside the box, many large corporations may not favorite it due to the stiffness of their structures.
It is nevertheless important to mention that larger companies offer unique opportunities such as working with international multicultural teams that will push you towards developing a global mindset and having access to a larger diversified network. As such, you will be able to exchange knowledge with a diversified workforce from different backgrounds and seniority levels.
Startup Versus Corporate: Work-Life Balance
While the allure of working in a startup may seem glamorous from the outside, it is hard work in reality. The difference between your weekends and your weekdays will become a blur while the possibility of disconnecting and going on holidays will become a wishful thought. As many things will be dependent on you, your working schedule will never be clear-cut, and your tasks will never be limited to a defined job description because there will never be a shortage of tasks to be done. Working in a startup will require that you excel in your multitasking abilities because you will have no choice but to wear multiple hats. In other words, there is a high chance that you will end up married to your job as startups will demand a higher level of dedication at any time of the day from each member of the team unlike in large corporations. Therefore, if you are someone who prefers a 9 to 6 kind of job with a predictable agenda, then the startup experience may not be compelling to you.
After all, according to research, there is a strong correlation between work-life balance and the level of employee engagement. Large corporations usually invest heavily to create a work environment that promotes and facilitates work/life balance through many benefits, initiatives, programs, and so on. As such, employees are able to clearly separate between their professional and personal life and avoid reaching burnout. This will help facilitate an environment where members of the team are more engaged at work, hence more productive. It is important to mention that having work-life balance reduces the stress levels employees may face. When spending the majority of their days on work-related activities, employees may feel as if they are neglecting or missing out on many different important aspects of their lives which will eventually result in higher levels of disengagement and unhappiness. However, for some, that high stress environment found in startups with minimal levels of work-life balance marked with an abundant amount of caffeine and sleep deprivation can generate great invention, creativity and mostly value and reward.
Startup Versus Corporate: Perks And Pay
Generations are shaped by the context in which they have emerged. For instance, Generation Y got its start in an era of economic prosperity and a focus on the self. Therefore, their choice of employer will highly depend on what matters to them the most in terms of financial remuneration, benefits, work-life balance, leadership, purpose and mission, and so on. With that said, because startups usually offer a lower pay than larger companies do, they compensate that difference by an accelerated pace for growth, a mission-driven existence, a close-knit culture, a skyrocketing learning curve, and an access to many interesting perks to keep their employees happy.
Large corporations, on the other hand, can afford to offer more comprehensive benefits and a better pay. It is important to mention that while the sound of better pay and financial security can may make a position with less flexibility look more appealing for some, it can sometimes stifle keenness, motivation and growth that will ultimately negatively affect your career prospects down the road.
Working in startups may not be easy or as financially rewarding as in larger companies, but it will undoubtedly offer unique opportunities to acquire many skills and a faster growth momentum, even if jobseekers with corporate experience acquire an advantage of having big names mentioned on their resumes that they can carry throughout their careers.
In conclusion, according to a survey by the Future Workplace, “91% of millennials surveyed expect to stay in a job for less than three years”. This means that in both cases, change is likely to happen when landing your first job. Whether you choose to join the startup fast track or the corporate track, this first position will be a steppingstone to your future career success.
There is a quote from Marsha Sinetar that might help keep you on track “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” I would also say, “Do what you love, and the rest will follow.” Choose wisely.
Farah Bousaleh is a fully-fledged HR generalist with a diversified experience across various aspects of progressive strategic and HR ops management. Besides being a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)- Certified Professional (CP), Bousaleh is always seeking new opportunities for knowledge and growth through hard work, educational achievements, and curiosity.