With internet and social startups gaining attention in the media over the past few years, lots of people would expect that joining a small business is the best career move. And while there are lots of benefits in working in a startup environment, large companies also have a lot to offer. So which is better? Let’s begin with the benefits of working at a startup.
- Atmosphere. Most startups are well known for having a fun, laid-back atmosphere. You won’t find a formal dress-code policy or thousand page employee manual at a ten-person organization. Instead, startups typically offer casual dress codes, a fun environment that often blurs the line between work and fun, and lots of employee morale boosting activities…most often involving drinks. Not so bad, especially for those right out of school. But don’t let the casual dress code make you think it’s all fun and games. Successful startups employ people who are highly motivated and innovative, and will expect the same of you. This is a good thing. You want your boss and colleagues to have high expectations so you’ll achieve your best.
- Opportunity. Startups often operate at lightning speed. They’re constantly trying to win customers, build technology, operationalize processes, hire employees and pitch investors. Along with that comes more projects per person than you’ll find at a large organization. And if there’s a lot of responsibility, that means there’s a lot of opportunity to shine.
- Ownership. At a large organization it may take five or ten years before you’re able to lead an important initiative. In a startup environment, that may happen your second month on the job. On top of that, the entire company will know who led the project that made the product better, won a big client or improved a bad process. So you’ll be recognized for your work. Just make sure it’s good, because the recognition works both ways. Ownership also means learning how to do more with less. Startups don’t have war-chests full of cash, so any project you lead will need to be on the cheap. You’ll learn how to get the job done on a budget, which is important both in your professional and personal life.
- Financial. Sure, most start-ups don’t achieve the dreams they set out to. But for those that do, the employees who joined at the beginning can make out well financially. This can happen in a few ways; faster promotions within the company, stock options, and a better job down the road at a different company. After all, companies want to hire winners and if you’ve been part of a successful team other companies will take notice.
Don’t jump ship from your big company job to find an up and coming startup just yet. Like anything, there are pros and cons to working in a startup environment, and big companies can offer a lot of benefits startups just can’t compete with. Here’s a few reasons to work at a big company.
- Training. Want to learn a new technology, attend a seminar, or get reimbursed for further education? Good luck getting that done at a startup. A large company, however, has the cash to fund these types of training. Starting a career at a big company can offer long-term value by boosting your job skills through education and training. In addition, large organizations can teach business rookies the basics of organizational policy, discipline, execution, and how to play politics. These skills can be invaluable in your career.
- Large workforce. This means you’re more likely to find a lot of smart, creative people to learn from and network with. Having that network down the line in your career is critical. Plus, finding mentors to guide your career moves either within the large company or after can make or break your career. Along with that, the number one reason people leave their job is because of their boss. At a large company you’ll have more flexibility to switch departments and leave a tyrant instead of having to leave the company altogether. And the likelihood of having a crazy boss is slimmer thanks to stricter hiring policies and stronger Human Resources involvement at a large organization.
- Perks. Expense accounts. 401k plans. Health insurance. Some of these are unheard of at a startup business, but in large organizations these benefits are standard. For employees that need strong benefits packages and like to enjoy the finer things in life on the company’s dime, a large organization is the way to go.
- Startups are tough. Let’s face it, if working in a startup environment was easy, everyone would do it. The hours are long, benefits are slim, and the risk is high. Employees who are looking for a stable environment and a “cushy” job shouldn’t work at a startup, because those things just don’t come as part of the package.
Deciding whether to work at a startup or large company can be tough. There are pro’s and cons of both. Anyone considering a job change from one type of company to another really needs to understand what’s important in their life, and then figure out if working at a startup or big company can help them achieve their goals.