Corporate or Startup: Where Should You Start Your Career?
If you’re a college senior cramming for your final final exams, stealing longing glances at your cap and gown hung teasingly on a hook in the corner of your dorm room—daring you to daydream of the light at the end of tunnel—there’s a good chance you’re wondering what’s next?
You may have had enough of academia and are ready to dive into the workforce. If this is true for you, you’ll need to do some soul searching to decide what type of work will best enable you to achieve your goals and accelerate your career. Too often, new grads rush blindly into roles, accepting the first job offers they receive to begin paying off student loans. The important thing to remember is– when it comes to your career—there are no right answers. As you consider the options, the best you can do is to experiment, push your boundaries, and then reflect purposefully to inform your next moves.
Many recent grads looking for jobs after graduation decide to get their starts in corporate work but, for some, smaller companies offer more opportunities for growth. Ask yourself these questions to determine if a corporate job or work for startups will offer you the experiences you need to thrive:
Do you need structured training to learn?
Corporate work is all about structure. You’re likely to go through a formal onboarding process, and there may be company trainings that you’re required to participate in.
Generally speaking, startups don’t have the resources and training programs that larger companies do, but the loads of responsibility and creative freedom at startups offer a more immersive kind of education than multi-day orientations and professional development trainings.
Are you the self-starter type or do you learn better through formal training? If you like a lot of structure, a corporate environment would be more likely to support your learning needs, while comfort and confidence with a trial-and-error approach is critical to success at a startup.
How much influence do you want to have?
Coming into a company at the ground-floor, you’ll have a hand in shaping company culture, operations, and developing the product from scratch. You’re likely to work closely with company executives and every choice you make will have an impact. Are you comfortable with that level of responsibility?
Conversely, recent grads coming into corporate jobs after graduation are probably coming in at entry-level. Your responsibilities will be far less weighty, allowing you to build experience before you take on a key role.
Can you work under ambiguity?
Startups are constantly in flux. Whether you’re in hyper-growth mode or pivoting in search of greater success, startup employees need to expect the unexpected. It’s up to you to manage the chaos and work through problems on the fly with limited information and resources. Larger companies, on the other hand, tend to have more stable infrastructures and procedures in place.
What are your career goals?
Larger companies often have siloed departments and established career paths. You always have the opportunity to move around and change direction, but your specific role at any point will be very focused.
Alternatively, employees at startups often have to juggle a number of diverse responsibilities while working closely with teammates of all disciplines. If you’re interested in getting your hands dirty and exploring all aspects of the business, startup work may be a great choice for you.
Startups aren’t for everyone, but neither are large corporations. If you’d rather find the best of both worlds– the innovation and dynamism of a startup with the structure of a large company– you may want to look at employment opportunities at scaleup companies. Whichever way you go, do your research to decide if it’s the right choice for you.