How to Decide between a Startup or Corporate Career

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How to Decide between a Startup or Corporate Career

Deciding whether to pursue work with startup or corporate company can be difficult if you don’t have prior experience with either to guide you

Deciding whether to pursue work with startup or corporate company can be difficult if you don’t have prior experience with either to guide you. There are pros and cons to both work environments, and where you decide to go will depend on many things, including your career goals. That’s why it’s important to consider how you value different factors like salary and benefits, recognition, or incentives for employees such as free food (as in the case of a startup) or free travel (which is often typical of corporate companies). One potential advantage of working in a corporate environment is less risk when it comes to job security.  When working for a startup company, on the other hand, the increased risk may come with more opportunity to move up. To help get you thinking about what’s important to you, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself to help determine which work environment is a better fit for your needs.

Are you sure about your long-term career path?

If you answered no, then a startup may make more sense because you’ll have a chance to wear many different hats. When working for a startup company, you’re more likely to work with a small group of people, which means you’ll have to take on many different roles out of necessity. And one of the advantages of a business environment at a corporate career is having a specific role that is well-outlined, which makes sense if you know exactly where you want your career to go. So, if you crave stability in what you do, a corporate company make more sense. But if you prefer having the opportunity to discover exactly where your interests and strengths lie by trying out new things, you may want to pursue a career with a startup company.

Is mentorship important to you?

Corporate companies tend to have more regimented training procedures, readily available resources, and access to experienced professionals that can pass on their knowledge. But when working for a startup company, your boss may not have as much experience, or the time, to serve as a real mentor. So you need to figure out how you learn best. If you prefer taking initiative and learning from trial and error, then a startup company could be the better option. However, if you prefer having more guidance and training, you may do better working in a corporate environment.

How much do you value transparency?

Transparency refers to how open leadership is to employees about what is going on in the company. Startup companies tend to be more transparent than larger corporate companies, in part because upper management generally more accessible. To that end, leadership at a startup may be more likely to give employees insight into things company performance, changes in business strategy or large-scale organizational decisions. Corporate companies, on the other hand, may keep company info closer to the vest. And in some cases, businesses may have to defer major decisions to board members, which can further limit access to information for employees.

Do you prefer set or flexible hours?

Depending on your preferences, one of the advantages of business environments is having set hours—such as 9am to 5pm—which can give you a more ideal life-work balance. When working for a startup, although the hours are more flexible, your work day is likely going to be much longer. You may also be expected to respond to calls or emails outside of working hours. As we previously mentioned, there are generally fewer employees working at startup companies so there will be more pressure on the team to meet tight deadlines, which can lead to irregular hours. However, you may have more flexibility to work from home with a startup, than you would with a corporate company.

How important is recognition to you?

The reality is that you are more likely to be able to make a greater impact at a smaller, startup company than you would working in a corporate environment. Not only will you likely have access to more opportunities to build different types of skills and experience, it may be easier to impress your boss and get credit for good work in a startup environment. That can also backfire if your work is not up to par. Whereas, in a business environment, you may not always get attention from your boss or recognition for a job well done, but your mistakes may be more likely to go unnoticed. So it’s definitely a trade-off.

How do you like to work?

For example, do you prefer working in small teams or with large groups? Is it important that your company’s culture aligns with your beliefs? These are some of the things to consider. When working for a startup company, you may benefit from incentives for employees such as a more fun and laid-back culture—including a casual dress code—and a more exciting and creative environment. However, you may have to settle for lower compensation, and a lot more pressure, at a startup than you would with a more established corporate company. Incentives for employees at a corporate environment may include better salary and benefits, a more structured and predictable work environment, and more autonomy and job security.

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether working in a corporate environment, or for a startup company, is the best option for you. Now that you’ve asked yourself some questions about what you value in the workplace, you may be better equipped to make that decision. And sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  One of the best ways that you can prepare yourself for any work environment is to earn the proper skill and qualifications –and a great place to start is by earning your degree!