Startup vs Corporate: Which Job Offer is Right for You?
Are you considering whether to join a startup or a big established corporation? Consider these factors first!
Most of us spend at least 45 hours each week working, so your work environment is critical. Choosing between a startup and a big firm means looking at yourself, as well as at the company. Sure, the startup may have great perks like crash rooms or cool furniture, but does it fit your personality?
In a startup, your responsibilities will change frequently, as can your manager and your daily tasks. There’s an ‘on your own’ approach to prioritizing, problem solving, finding information and solving problems. Innovation and flexibility are critical, and broadly defined. Expect constant change: one day you could be working on the product prototype, another on the fundraising pitch. Startups often walk a financial tightrope, without a lot of spare money to spend. You will, however, have lots of access to senior management, giving you some great lessons on life at the top.
Long established, ingrained processes are the norm here. Expect to hear ‘that’s how we do this.’ You’ll have ‘wise owl’ colleagues you can ask for help. Big companies have big hierarchies. Layers of management can mean a clear career ladder; they also limit contact with the executive level. Innovation and flexibility may be restricted; you will have to stay within the confines of those established processes. Even in these tight financial times, big companies will have more money and resources available, for training, travel, and more. And a corporation can be a good name to have on your CV: work at P&G in Marketing for 2 years gives you great credibility as a marketer.
Oversight vs Autonomy
In a big company, you will have a manager. And she will have a manager. And so on, up to the CEO. Each will want to know what his or her team is doing. That’s a lot of oversight, and a lot of time spent reporting and managing up. If you like a clear hierarchy, you will be comfortable here.
At a startup, you might work directly for the CEO, who probably won’t have time to check the details of your work. You make sure that the important tasks are done well, and that your work advances the company’s goals. If you like to work independently, this could be your ideal environment.
Our Way vs. Teaching Yourself
Along with the hierarchy of a big company come the processes: long lists of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), rules and standards. Whatever you are doing, someone has probably done it before. Downside? Not much freedom to innovate. Upside? You can always find out how the company expects a job to be done.
A startup will have few written procedures, if any. If you are the one person in Marketing, your way is the company’s way. That means lots of self-guided learning. If you prefer to figure out the best way to do something as you go along, instead of following someone else’s rulebook, you will love this aspect of startup life.
Risk vs. security
There is usually more security in a big company than in a startup. Startups can suddenly fail, leaving you with nothing but memories. Big firms are more likely to go down slowly, being bought or merging. Big firms are more likely to have a separation package. But a startup could offer you the chance to get a piece of the company when it’s small, with a big payoff later if it takes off (think Steve Wozniak at Apple). Decide which is more important for you: the startup adventure with its potential big upside, or the security of the well-established firm.
Everyone is different
We’re all unique, with different personal, financial, and career goals. The perfect fit for your closest friend might stifle or terrify you. Look at yourself, the job and the company, then go for it!