It’s a question many twenty-somethings have to ask themselves when going through the job application process. Never mind trying to figure out who you are, what you like, or what you want to do. Now the biggest question is, “Corporate or Startup?” Recently, rumors of what a startup culture is really like have reached the ears of all eager, fresh-out-of-college graduates. While the startup world can be an exciting place to work, it's not right for everyone.
Out of my circle of friends, which includes men and women, business and liberal arts degrees, I am one of the few that ended up at a startup. We swap stories about office politics, vacation time, dress code, and that word everyone seems so focused on: culture. Through our conversations, I have been able to pinpoint the key factors that make a corporate work experience completely different from a startup work experience.
To find out if you are better suited for a corporate job versus a startup job, first consider how important each of these 4-differentiating key factors is to you.
1. Guidance. If this is your first job, how much guidance will you need to get started? An established corporate company will have a formal orientation and a training program to prep you for your new role. Many before you have presumably filled the position you are taking, so you will be given clear guidelines of what is expected of you and how to succeed. A startup company will have a much smaller team, and not as many resources to allocate towards spending time to train you. There is no guarantee that the role you are filling has been held before. In this situation, someone who is resourceful best fits this job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be proactive enough to figure out the basics on your own. This might require a little research or exploring on your end, but when you arrive at that “a-ha” moment, the satisfaction will be so much higher if you are able to get there by yourself.
2. Influence. How important is it for you to have a strong influence in your company? The cool thing about a startup is that most of them are trying to make a difference or solve a real problem. In a small team, your opinion matters. In a startup position you will have the opportunity to sit in on product development meetings and contribute in the decision making of what direction your company is headed. In a corporate company, you will most likely enter at entry-level. While your position contributes to the overall running of an effective, cohesive organization, you will have little to no say on the mission or goals of your company. The perk of this is that you will know exactly where you’re going, which brings us to the next key factor, career goals.
3. Career goals. At 23, 24, and 25 years old, I don’t think we are expected to know exactly where we want to go in our career. However, at this point you might have an idea of how you want to get there. The security of a corporate job can be comforting to some individuals who want to know that there is a plan in place for them if they decide to follow it. They can work their way up the ladder and check off boxes as they gain more power in the hierarchy. In a startup, the potential for reward can be greater and reached much faster, but the percentage of risk is much higher. In reality, most startups fail. This could be for a number of reasons including they run out of cash, they get beat out by competitors, or they cannot grow fast enough. Adding to your resume that you watched your startup drive itself into the ground and this is what you learned from it; isn’t the worst thing to have on there. In fact, it is a great conversation starter that will set you apart from the competition in your next interview.
4. Logistics. I say logistics because it would be ideal if every new graduate could choose a company to work for based on passion alone. Unfortunately, most individuals have to think through logically if the payment offered is something they can afford. With a corporate job, you know you will be offered: a set salary, hours, vacation time, and benefits. It’s a different scenario in the startup world. Often the salary is lower and the hours are longer. But what startups lack in salary and benefits, they make up for in culture. It is typical for most startups to have a casual dress code, the flexibility of letting you work from home, and even let you drink beer (on Friday’s or special occasions)! There is always the opportunity to negotiate commission or equity in the company in exchange for the missing benefits. In the right case, the payout of a startup can be much higher than a corporate salary if you put your mind to it and work hard enough.