Startup vs Corporate: Which One?

Startup vs Corporate: Which One?

Startup or Corporate?

The grass is always greener on the other side, right? Those working in startups get jealous when they see the huge holiday parties their friends at corporate companies are going to. Those corporate employees are upset when they see their startup friends getting higher titles in a shorter time frame.

If you work in the business world, chances are you’re going to be looking into jobs at both startups and corporate companies. You probably know the workplace basics of each – large companies have set hours and are more strict, startups have more flexibility but more work.

So what’s better?

The answer to that question is different for everyone. The real question to ask is, what are you working for? Are you looking to get a check and go home? Do you want to be trained and grow your skills? Or are you looking to get your hands dirty and actually build something?

But what’s not talked about quite as often is whether a startup or corporate job is better for your career in the long run. Well, let’s talk about it! A corporate job may be the perfect place to get structured, on-the-job training, but will it really make you more valuable than a startup will? A startup may give you better overall experience into how to build a company, but will it give you the ability to move up into a senior management position in the future?

Corporate

Pros

A name that speaks for itself. Larger companies are usually a household or, at the very least, an industry known brand. It’s a good feeling to tell people where you work and they already know all about the company.

You can master a role or skill. Corporate positions tend to have more direct roles: If you’re in sales, you sell. If you’re in customer service, you respond and help clients. And so, if you already know the role you want or the direction you want to go in, this type of environment can really help you grow and hone those skills — without having to focus on a bunch of other responsibilities.

Fixing problems is a breeze. With these highly specialized roles, everyone knows who to reach out to when a new problem occurs: the team that is skilled in this industry. If you try to solve a problem that isn’t “owned” by your department, you’re likely to step on some toes. Trust me – if that’s the biggest problem you have you’ll be just fine 🙂 Those in Startups wish they did have these teams to reach out to!

Bigger benefits packages. Come on, of course these companies have more money to spend. They can usually offer their employees excellent perks such as private health care, pensions, childcare and corporate discounts. Sometimes, a bigger company can mean a bigger salary, too. Although I’ve seen the opposite happen as well 😛

Cons

ZERO Influence. You know, what hurt me the most working at a corporate company was my lack of influence. I truly cared about my first company and wanted to do everything in my power to make them more successful. It’s honestly just tougher to get things completed or adopted in a large company.  The reason why leads me to my next point:

No Risks! Corporate or large companies are afraid to take risks. You can walk into the VP’s door with an idea that has the potential to increase income by 20%. But if there’s any degree of risk involved, the idea will never make it to fruition. Nine times out of ten, the decision will be to continue growing what works. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it is the smartest move. Trust me, it’s difficult to imagine the pressure C level execs face to please shareholders!

Less job satisfaction. As a tiny cog in a massive machine, it’s hard to truly see the value of your work. You’re just one part of the process, or contributing a small amount to a massive end-result that you might not see for months or years! This can be frustrating for those who really like to see the impact they make at work.

Growing Pains. You may crush your role and beat everyone else around, but that doesn’t guarantee you that next promotion you’ve been wanting. If someone with more tenure to the company goes for the same role, you just might find yourself out of luck. They also may hold you off on getting a promotion you deserve just because that’s the career track, even though you’re more than ready!

StartUps

Pros

GAINS, and I’m not talking about the gym! If you have no clue what you want to do, a startup role can help you gain skills and insight into multiple positions. You will gain skills you never thought of having, simply because you have to! Working for a startup is the best way to gain as many skills as possible.

Equity! Sure – large companies will give you stock options, but trust me they’re capping those as much as possible due to having to give them to so many employees. Get in early with a startup who makes it big and you’ll never have to worry about money again! This is why so many people are so inclined to put in the hard work for a startup, because they know the payoff it will bring them later on!

More Responsibility/Learning Opportunities. Generally speaking, the smaller the startup, the more frequently you’ll be picking up new responsibilities because there are simply fewer people to tackle any given challenge. That is one thing I can assure you is that you will face more problems in a StartUp. That’s also the beauty of it. Like everything in life, Startup struggles build character and help you find out what you’re truly made of. Prepare to be a significant part of the decision-making process.

You’ll have the opportunity to experiment. Identifying and solving problems has one major professional upside: it allows you to grow your skill set and try new things. If you technically work in marketing but want to gain experience as a programmer or designer, jumping in where you see the need can be a great way to learn and grow (as long as you keep up on your core responsibilities). This is a staple of the silicon valley startup job.

You can innovate – Startups need to grow fast, and this comes from employees innovating and trying new things. No good CEO of a startup will hold you back from trying something new. This is how companies deliver results with fresh designs and new concepts that their competition can’t.

Cons

You’ll need to solve problems on your own. There will be no teams you can defer to, or at least not the ones you have at corporate companies! Again I still look at this as a strength because of the value it brings you in the long run.

The workload is heavy. Expect to work long hours, with few holidays and vacations. Startups must capitalize on trends quickly, and early growth is vital. Work-life balance is a struggle. You will work longer hours to keep up with the larger companies, so stress and burnouts are something to be aware of. The startup life truly isn’t for everyone.

Job stability/security. You’ll love your job, but you never know how long it will be there. If a startup company doesn’t have the money, you could be next to go. Also, if the Startup is smart, they will only keep those around who are adding maximum value. A+ players!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD CORPORATE EMPLOYEE

1) Dependable

The #1 trait needed to succeed in the corporate world is consistently following through. From the day you apply, showing a commitment to completing tasks on time, as assigned, demonstrates the behavior of a leader.

2) Ambition

Ambitious employees are willing to go the extra mile to achieve company goals or make their way up the corporate ladder. They will not shirk putting in their best because they set goals and high expectations for themselves. They also strongly desire to progress in their career. Ambition triggers openness, creative ideas, and a go-getter attitude – all of which are good for any company. However, your ambitious rep should have a sensible amount of emotional intelligence as well 😉

3) Culture Fit

Finding a candidate suitable for your office culture is easier said than done. First, make sure you know exactly what your company culture is. Think along the lines of the characteristics and values that you and your existing staff hold important. Your hiring team should be well-versed with your company culture. Decision-making, language, and daily workplace practices also show workplace culture.

When you hire a non-culture fit, they honestly tend to feel alienated and do not perform as well. I’ve personally made this mistake and watched this firsthand. When a big company starts hiring a large number of people, it becomes pretty obvious what type of person makes a good fit in the company to create an effective team

4) Team Spirit/Positivity

We’ve all seen that person who is completely negative about everything. Quota raises, they’re immediately in the kitchen b*tching. This talk can spread faster than you think, especially in a large company where there are many cliques. This is a recipe for trouble and must be nipped in the bud quickly.

The best way to fix this is by surrounding them with people who eat, sleep, and breathe their company. Rocking their T-Shirts on the weekends, participating on the company softball team, and working after hours to better themselves and spread the good word of their company. This phrase is overused, but you want to find someone who drinks the Kool-Aid. They’ll always support your changes (which there will be many), no matter if they hurt or help the employee!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD STARTUP EMPLOYEE

1) Grit

Grit is a requirement for innovation because most innovation is created during a startup’s darkest times. When a startup faces struggle, it is forced to evolve. It is also during these times of struggle that a small company’s stars shine the brightest. An A-level player will not be discouraged by failure – instead, he or she will be a part of an innovative solution. You must be able to keep up with a fast-paced environment longer more efficiently than those corporate employees with “full-time jobs.”

2) Effective Communicator

Successful startup employees are strong communicators – they just have to be. Sure, an employee who isn’t strong at communicating may be a fantastic individual contributor, but they will not be a great leader within the organization. Everyone thinks that being an effective communicator is all about likeability and charisma. Nope! I learned this the hard way when I first joined a startup.

Communication is about getting accurate information to the right people in a manner that is easy to digest and is timely. Communication and transparency helps startups grow quickly. Leaders with poor communication skills are a liability to any company– they will not be able to maximize their team’s potential and will ultimately slow your startup’s growth.

3) Get Sh*t Done Mentality

A plan is great, but sh*t happens, and most entrepreneurs don’t make it past the first three action items before adapting to reality. I’m confident in saying no company looks exactly like what it’s original business plan showed.

Pure startup employees spend a little time planning and a lot more time doing. If they’re unsure, they do something… then react appropriately. They know they’ll have plenty of time to ponder, weigh, evaluate, and assess the company’s mistakes if they go out of business.

4) Curiosity

This one is KEY! Just walk into any startup and you will realize that I can’t be more spot on with this one. When an employee dives into something due to their curiosity, that’s when magic happens. Curiosity is part of the passion that startup employees embody. A drive to learn more and improve yourself will lead you to success. Why do you think founders and startup employees once successful, move on to other companies or missions?

I’ve said this multiple times, but you will wear many hats and there are always new skills you can obtain to help reach your mission! You never know what line from a book or article can be help you make a process more efficient, improve a product, or even bring in a big deal!

KEEP RESEARCHING

After working in both environments, I’ve been exposed to the benefits and imperfections of each. My overall advice is to get a taste of both and decide from there. Yes – there are both great startups/corporations, and TERRIBLE startups/corporations. Do you research and dive in. As long as you work hard and learn all you can, you’re not going wrong either way!

I’m biased, but I think starting at a large well known corporation to learn your talents is the perfect way to start. You’ll be around a new hire training class that also has no idea what they’re doing, and you can learn together! You’ll make some great friendships as well. Then take your skills to a startup environment and work hard to build your own large well known corporation! I’m still on the path though, so I’ll let you know if it works in a few years 😉

Much love and best of luck!

  • Garrett P.

    We’re a startup and realized that employees coming from more corporate roles typically don’t work out or end up staying long due to a completely different environment and mentality. Will definitely be sharing this on our job posting site! You guys rock

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