Published on July 21, 2019 | Employment
WHERE SHOULD YOU WORK? IN A STARTUP OR A CORPORATION?
Startup or Corporate: Which is Better for Your Career?
Young professionals, recent graduates and experienced experts seem to juggle between either working for a startup or a large corporation. While some prefer the security of working for a big corporation, other individuals prefer to ‘risk it to get the biscuit’. Let’s go over the pro’s and con’s of working for either.
At a large corporation, regardless of the field, most entry-level jobs look similar: an assistant or associate-level title, a manager who knows exactly what you’re working on, and consistent, predictable, often repetitive work—tasks that closely resemble the bullet points on the job description.
If you work at a startup, it’s a lot harder to know what’s coming your way. Startups invoke images of employees playing foosball during brainstorming meetings, riding through hallways on scooters, and drinking endless coffee from the workplace kitchen. While all of it might be true, startup culture definitely has a certain appeal to several job seekers. The startup culture, internet and globalisation have popularised the phrase ‘working for a startup’ even beyond the Silicon Valley. However, for job security, a run-of-the-mill corporation will most likely offer security, better benefits, and structure.
Until recently, big corporates were the undisputed leaders of the job market with the best-in-class salaries, stability, and a predictably growing career graph. However, with the modern-day internet and its associated software-tech industry, the dynamics have changed rather significantly. Startups are giving these established corporates a run for their money in attracting top talent.
Let us look at what both startups and big corporations offer.
- Startups take huge risks and reap huge returns. But not all the time. According to an article on Forbes Magazine based on a report by Bloomberg 8 out of 10 startups fail, because of lack of funding, intense competition, mismanagement, failure to adapt and evolve and many other reasons. But the enticing factor is the chance of success. With the right idea, every startup has the potential to become the next Uber or Snapchat, though both are facing turbulent issues. The chance of success is more than enough for many to take the plunge and learn to swim or drown trying.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
- It’s more than just a 9-5 job if you work in a start-up. Every day is a challenge, an uphill journey of impossible tasks. You are always trying to meet product deadlines or get that venture capitalist to invest in your startup. You will be an active member affecting the growth of the company. Also, belief in the startup idea, that it can lead to something better is a driving motivation force to join a start-up.
- Startups also make up small teams, so every member will be impactful to the functioning of the startup. Taking on multiple roles and tasks is paramount to the sustainability of the entire team. That means the pressure on you to keep up with the pace of the entire team will be huge. Be prepared for a few 18-hour shifts and working through weekends just so you can meet deadlines. This is also why most startups have a lax atmosphere around their workplace, because many of them subscribe to the ‘work hard, play hard’ school of thought.
- Startups lack structure. What this means is that every employee is their own boss/manager. Within a startup they encourage you to take up more responsibilities and duties. Discovered that your office requires administrative help, but the role doesn’t exist yet? It’s yours for the taking if you’re up for it. You could have a talk with the management and explain why an administrator is required and how it would benefit the company. If the needs outweigh the costs, congratulations you’re now an administrator! Just as startups undertake high risks to reap rewards. Those working within startups are rewarded for undertaking risks too. It’s as the saying goes ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.
- Startups need to keep tuning their product/service according to the needs of the market while also keeping in mind the efficiency and productivity of the startup. Popularly known as pivoting. It’s the search for an identity that is the most marketable. Pivoting with deftness and acute strategy is necessary for the expansion and sustainability of a start-up.
The final product/service of a start-up might not be what they had started out with. The challenges, constraints and feedback they faced along the way shape the product to what it will be. It’s imperative for a team member to identify these markers that signal the need to pivot.
- Startups are innovation centres where the members believe that they have the best solution to a problem. Most of the time in a start-up is spent trying to make the product (your solution) better and convincing the masses the same. An innovative idea is one that can disrupt the market at the right time. While the rest scramble to catch up. Therefore, team members are constantly brainstorming how to make their product better and think of ways to market the solution efficiently.
- Startups are always fundraising. To disrupt any field, one needs to do it in the biggest way possible. Publicity, marketing, renting servers, logistics etc all require large-scale finances. There are many models of startups and fundraising depends on the model. But since almost all new startups are using the internet as a platform, most of the processes remain similar, while differing in scale and target markets. Team members will need to assess the financial situation of every operation and keep making adjustments to make the startup more financially self- sufficient.
- Working in a startup is the best atmosphere for seeking vindication for your work. Since teams are smaller and tasks are endless, it’s possible that what you’re working on is the final product. Unlike, in corporates where it’s a common occurrence that several projects end up never seeing the light of day. Hence in startups, your work is your reward. Everything that you do is out there on display for the world to witness. Be it amazing or otherwise. It’s as Author Dan Ariely highlights in his book “The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic” there is only so far that a carrot and stick principle drives results. If a task seems pointless after a while we are bound to lose interest and give up. Value of work always takes precedence irrespective of the size of the carrot or stick.
- Corporations, having increased in size, start running risk assessments on every decision they make. They fear failure and keep chasing success in their comfort zone. Corporations worry about aspects of the company such as maintaining a healthy workforce, public image, branding, and maintaining a constant growth. With so much to lose big companies focus more on research and development than disruptive innovation. They try to use the data they have to measure their profits and work towards increasing their bottom line and margins. The only validation for work is incentive based.
- In a big corporation that employs thousands of new workers every year, you are more invisible and consequently less accountable. You will get to take home a standard and secure paycheck at the end of every month after having done a requisite amount of work and having met your targets for the month. However, such a low-risk career can lead to a stagnant lifestyle.
- Corporations employ thousands of people to fulfil a variety of tasks from administrative tasks to operations to research and development. They can provide job security because of their size. Because of their solid financial foundation, working relationships with the governments, they are not likely to fail as much as startups do. Since major policy decisions rest upon the board of executives, the contributions an individual employee can make to the company is limited in scope. They have to be satisfied with the contributions they make to their team assigned task.
- Big corporations develop a product or a product line and then keep improving the product over years, adding more features, cutting down production costs and increasing profits. They may diversify their product line to meet different demands but they don’t feel the need to come up with a completely new product or indulge in groundbreaking innovation. This makes the scope for research and development in such companies restricted to certain fields. These corporations would rather buy a successful startup than invest in in-house research.
- Corporations have huge pools of readily accessible funds. This is one of the stark differences between startups and big companies. Startups face huge cash crunches on a weekly basis, sometimes even daily. While a week of no sales or fund influx could break the back of any startup, big companies can afford to shrug it off. Look at the case of MoviePass. The startup tried to emulate the Uber model which is an emulation of the Amazon model. But such emulation doesn’t pay off in every field. The nuances and decades-established business models play a major role and this is where corporations have an edge over the startups. They have the financial heft to hire the best talent, mass media advertising, and to expand across the country or even internationally. Growing big allows corporations to make up for loses faced in one country’s markets through profits in another. Startups have to walk a tightrope between hiring new people or paying for more servers to handle their increasing traffic. This makes them fragile and dare devilish, while companies have the thick skin to rebound from mistakes.
While startups are often cash strapped and big corps aren’t. You must ask yourself what your appetite for risk is and how important financial security is to you at this moment.
So, which Environment will really Help You Succeed?
Do you do better in a constantly evolving, “think outside the box”-type environment, or prefer a structured environment that allows you to methodically work toward your goals? Neither is better off than the other—just different. Preferences are personal and biased towards your personality, work style, and current requirements.
Whatever be the case. Whether you decide to work for a hot new startup or a larger, more established company. Either case is full of its own unique trials and tribulations. Just remember what your goal is and what you seek to accomplish through your work and in your career. It will keep you focused, help you make sound decisions and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.