8 Reasons To Choose A Startup Over A Corporate Job

FlakieBear's picture
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Some of you have read the thread where I expressed regrets for missing the opportunity to get a job with a start-up that was recently launched by ex-Facebookers/Googlers. Some of us are not afraid to take the risk with a young company instead of going with an established white collar firm.

The following article, which explains why it is good to work at a startup might be a good read for some of you. Enjoy!

8 Reasons To Choose A Startup Over A Corporate Job BY EXPERT BLOGGER KERRIN SHELDON | 03-13-2012 |

Sure, a corporate gig might (initially) pay more than a startup and come with cushy benefits, but there are real, career-defining reasons to heed the siren song of a startup.

You've graduated from college, diploma in hand (or in the mail), and you have a couple of job offers on the table. Other than being one of the lucky graduates in a weak economy, you have a choice to make. On one hand is a high-paying entry level position at a reputable brand in your field. On the other hand is a job offer from a small startup that is just kicking off. You've seen their product, believe in their mission, and like their approach, but aren't sure you want to take on the risk of working at a startup. You're leaning toward that corporate job and good pay with nice benefits. The smart choice.
Or is it?

Here are 8 reasons why you should take the plunge and enter the startup world instead.

  1. You'll have more responsibility.

Working at a startup probably means you're part of a small team, most likely in the single digits. Because of the nature of having such a small team, there is probably nobody else in the company who has the same skillset as you, approaches problems in the same way you do, or even thinks the same way you do.

When I joined Wanderfly, the core team was pretty much already in place, with directors of business development, marketing, and site production already on board. However, graduating with a writing degree and having extensive travel experience, I was able to join Wanderfly as a writer, traveler, and content manager to make sure they had a voice and a direction in the travel field (they had the tech-savvy swing taken care of). After just a few weeks, I became the de facto man for writing, editing, and blogging needs. A few weeks later, I was part of a content management division that included me and myself. Content needs, upgrades, and management all came to me and my little island of responsibility.

This pushed me to be more versatile, more reliable, and more productive than in any other project I'd undertaken--in other jobs or at any time during school. At a bigger company, I may not have been given the same opportunity or had an entire company rely on the work that I did. Was I the most important part of the team? Definitely not. But was I an integral part of it? For sure. And that's an empowering place to be right out of school.

  1. You'll be given more opportunities.

I probably don't need to tell you that most startup jobs won't pay as well as some of the bigger corporate and business jobs. You (or your degree) may be worth more than a startup is able to pay. But working at a startup offers a different type of reward: an incentive-based system that isn't based on dollars, but rather in skills attained and opportunities seized. The experience will outweigh the pay cut. I (almost) guarantee it. When I first started at Wanderfly, all I had to my writer name were a few pieces in local publications.

One year on, and I've had a column on the Huffington Post, been featured on National Geographic, published over 150 blog posts for Wanderfly, and (look, Mom!) an article on Fast Company. Other than being a thinly veiled explain-a-brag, this convinces me that I've had more opportunities to grow as a writer and build toward any future undertaking. I know that if I would have sought out a smaller position at a higher-paying and recognizable travel company I would still be reading through the slush pile of submissions. No thanks.

  1. You'll be able to do a lot of different things.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from peers who have entered into a more-structured, corporate position is that they are generally stuck with their main task and don't get to branch out into other areas. Whether it's writing, designing, filling out spreadsheets, or any other task, it's usually a one-person-fits-one-task kind of position. If that sounds like your startup job, then, I hate to tell you, but you're doing something wrong.

Working at a startup will allow you to try on a lot of different hats, even that weird one that you didn't think you would ever like, but find out that you did. Looking back on the past year that I've worked at Wanderfly, I've lost track of all the different tasks that I've been able to take part in, from video editing to destination categorization. I came into Wanderfly as a writer, but now I feel comfortable in a lot of different areas, even explaining to the developers how I broke their site and need their help to fix it. All in code-talk.

  1. You will learn from true innovators.

People who start their own business have a different mental and professional makeup than those who have never gone off to create something of their own. Entrepreneurs are defined by seeing a problem and thinking of an innovative and original way of addressing it. Because of this innovative nature, entrepreneurs are some of the best people to learn from. They approach problems differently, are constantly finding solutions, and are driven to make the most out of their time and work.

The Wanderfly cofounders continually challenge me when I present a problem because they often view it from a different perspective than I do, giving me a wider appreciation for the different avenues that exist for finding solutions. Innovation is more than creativity. It's action and reaction, solving problems in a new, enlightening way. Every successful startup has true innovators, and if you find the right ones, you'll learn plenty.

  1. Your work will be recognized (as will your failures).

If I've learned anything from watching TV shows and movies, it's that if you work at a big company, chances are that all of your hard work is going to be ignored by the boss or someone else is going to snag the credit. But at a startup, it's nearly impossible not to notice a job well done or to give credit where credit is due. If you succeed, the small team will recognize it instantly, and the praise and glory is yours to bask in. Spread your arms in glory, my friend, your work has been recognized. On the flip side of that coin is that it's also really easy to see when you've screwed up.

For two reasons, this is a good thing. The first is that it's nearly impossible to slack off to. Within a few days, your coasting and slacking will be noticed and the rest of the team will wonder why they are working harder than they have to. That keeps you focused and on your game. The second reason is that because failure is easier to notice, you'll make sure to eliminate mistakes in order to avoid disappointing your colleagues. Stay focused, startup employee, and your successes will be recognized and your failures minimized. And when the rest of the team says "We couldn't have done it without you," you can be confident that they mean it.

  1. You'll work in an awesome atmosphere.

Let me count the ways:
I wear jeans to work. In the summer, I wear shorts and sandals.

If there isn't at least one really good joke in an hour, it's probably a slow day.

Everyone else who works at a startup has the same drive and excitement for creation as you do.

The startup community (and, in Wanderfly's case, the travel community) is a great, close-knit group. All around you, people are coming up with innovative solutions to age-old problems or making that new tool that simplifies or enhances your life in some way. That entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, and if you don't feel it or catch it, then you're actively avoiding it.

You can drink beer at work. But only on special occasions. Wink.

  1. You'll learn to be frugal.

Working at startup probably means that money is tight. Whether you've been showered with investor love or the founder has a really wealthy uncle, the company will still be thinking of ways to do more with less. No extravagance, no frills, no extraneous booze cruises (heartbreaking, I know). Instead, the business development intern will learn how to design and code the blog, the writer will sometimes do the dishes, and at the start you'll find a way to fit nine people around an eight person table (hint: extra chair).

This frugality and monetary responsibility will undoubtedly bleed into your own life as well, and you'll end up finding new ways to find fulfillment other than burning the money you earn. Instead, you'll probably discover a joy in creating and doing, rather than consuming. You'll find happiness in being part of a team that is trying to make other people's lives easier, more fun, and more manageable. Your entire life will take on a meaning of creation, and you'll be more energized, both physically and mentally, to take on new hobbies and start your own personal projects. In the startup world, it's all about creating more and consuming less (this does not apply to Thai food or burritos).

  1. You'll be instilled with the value of hard work, ownership, and self-sustainability.

Maybe more important than any other benefit of working at a startup is the realization that hard work, creative thinking, and tenacity are worth a whole lot. Once you've created something of your own, something tangible and whole, something you can touch, feel, or use, you really begin to appreciate personal ownership. For those who do not actively create, or are continuously creating for someone else's benefit, it's difficult to understand the great importance of personal ownership and the liberty needed to pursue that ownership.

Working at a startup and spreading the news of your team's product, a product that you helped bring into existence, instills the value of that ownership and gives you pride in your work. It is this pride, in your team's hard-work and ability, that teaches you the importance of protecting those who do create innovative solutions and take risks.
Working at a startup also means that you and your small team are the only people responsible for your success. For some, that may trigger a response to go crawl into a corner and hope someone comes and spoon-feeds them their paycheck. For others, it's the greatest motivation there is.

To be cut off from relying on others to provide for you will undoubtedly surface skills and a determination that you didn't know you had. At a startup, that natural wish to be self-sustainable is magnified and multiplied, triggering the do-or-die attitude that is often the difference between success and failure. No matter where you go after your stint at a startup, and especially if it is to go off and create a company on your own, that need to be self-sustainable, and the skills you picked up to make that possible, will power everything that you do.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1824235/8-reasons-to-ch...

Comments (36)

Mar 15, 2012

love it - great article.

We're always looking for new interns to join the WSO team. I've moved several interns into more prominent roles over time (until they found a ft job) and that has given them experience and a good reference.

i am always looking for strong people so if you're ready to work with the (small) WSO team, we have more work than we can manage, so any help would be awesome. We've been able to get some great people over the years this way and I'm always happy to serve as a personal reference for the interns that kick ass.

If interested, contact [email protected].

Mar 16, 2012
WallStreetOasis.com:

love it - great article.

We're always looking for new interns to join the WSO team. I've moved several interns into more prominent roles over time (until they found a ft job) and that has given them experience and a good reference.

i am always looking for strong people so if you're ready to work with the (small) WSO team, we have more work than we can manage, so any help would be awesome. We've been able to get some great people over the years this way and I'm always happy to serve as a personal reference for the interns that kick ass.

If interested, contact [email protected].

Yeah I agree great post - as someone who has interned/worked for several startups, I couldn't agree more that it's a great learning experience and would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to do it.

And yes if interested in interning for us definitely shoot me your resume as there always new opportunities opening up.

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Mar 16, 2012
WallStreetOasis.com:

love it - great article.

We're always looking for new interns to join the WSO team. I've moved several interns into more prominent roles over time (until they found a ft job) and that has given them experience and a good reference.

i am always looking for strong people so if you're ready to work with the (small) WSO team, we have more work than we can manage, so any help would be awesome. We've been able to get some great people over the years this way and I'm always happy to serve as a personal reference for the interns that kick ass.

If interested, contact [email protected].

I will contact Andy. Show your love for the article with 2 silver bananas

Power and Money do not change men; they only unmask them

Mar 16, 2012

Do you have any suggestions for finding jobs at startups?

Mar 16, 2012
helpmepleasethx:

Do you have any suggestions for finding jobs at startups?

Yes. The big VC's have job listing for the startups they invest in on their websites.

Kleiner Perkins:
http://www.kpcb.com/careers
Sequoia:
http://jobs.sequoiacap.com/
A smaller VC:
Union Square Ventures (which is headquartered in NYC)
http://www.usv.com/jobs/
and I am sure that there are many other VC's that also post their portfolio companies' open positions , so look around.

"Sincerity is an overrated virtue" - Milton Friedman

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Mar 16, 2012
OhYeah:

A smaller VC:
Union Square Ventures (which is headquartered in NYC)
http://www.usv.com/jobs/

I'm not sure Fred would be too pleased with that characterization, lol. USV has one of the hottest hands in tech VC.

Mar 16, 2012

Yeah, i'd love to go join a start up but it's not like they do a great job advertising positions....ever.

Mar 16, 2012

ventureloop.com

Mar 16, 2012

startuply.com

Mar 16, 2012

This is kinda tangential to the conversation, but can you believe that Kevin Rose sold Milk for $15 million and he's now a Google employee? Talk about going in the wrong direction. I'm absolutely stunned that a serial entrepreneur like Rose would sell out and go work for "The Man".

http://www.siliconbeat.com/2012/03/15/hiring-of-ke...

Mar 16, 2012
Edmundo Braverman:

This is kinda tangential to the conversation, but can you believe that Kevin Rose sold Milk for $15 million and he's now a Google employee? Talk about going in the wrong direction. I'm absolutely stunned that a serial entrepreneur like Rose would sell out and go work for "The Man".

http://www.siliconbeat.com/2012/03/15/hiring-of-ke...

yea it came as a surprise to me too...but Google has a pretty relaxed office culture...doing laundry at work, casual clothes, pets, plus hes got nothing to lose, he can tell them to shove it and go any day

Mar 16, 2012

nm

Mar 16, 2012

This is a great post - I have some thoughts and add-ons I will be adding when I have some time to do so.

Mar 16, 2012

The temptation to jump to a start up is very strong in the Valley - I have three friends who made the jump during or shortly after their first year as an Analyst. They rub it in my face all the time haha.

To provide a little more color, one of the associates at my firm actually was staffed on a deal and ended up getting hired away by the company after the deal closed because they liked him so much.

It's a completely different lifestyle and mindset.

Mar 16, 2012

Yes I understand that a startup would lead o an overall better quality of life. I have a roommate interning at one right now and he loves it.

But for some reason I seem to hate myself and have an irrational desire to work in banking. Can't explain it, but it's just what I want to do.

Mar 16, 2012

I have worked at an IB and now I am working for a small private tech firm..the culture here is relaxed as fuck...we pull pranks on each other all the time, go out to lunch almost everyday and have fun happy hours...at the same time like the OP mentioned..your success and failures are magnified...i see people here get fired all the time...no job security...but if you are aggressive and a rain maker you'll be a king. I love technology and i love sales so I love waking up and coming to work..believe it nor not Im depressed on weekends cuz i cant work! the only thing sucks is compensation. I dont have a nice ride and run out of money at the end of the month. But hey, 20's is the time of struggle right? If you guys are passionate go to the start-up route and sacrisifce prestige for a few years, if it doesnt work out ..hey you can go for an mba and join any bank...but Im all in.....im going big or going home

    • 1
Mar 16, 2012

How about this, I work in finance AND the environment is relaxed as fuck. BOOM!

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Mar 16, 2012
happypantsmcgee:

How about this, I work in finance AND the environment is relaxed as fuck. BOOM!

thats pretty dope

Mar 16, 2012

any noteworthy VC's post all of the portfolio companies and jobs directly on their website

Mar 16, 2012
JimmyDormandy:

any noteworthy VC's post all of the portfolio companies and jobs directly on their website

I figured so. Do you know of any site out there that list jobs for really early stage startups, like with less then 10 employees, where they are only at the angel stage?

"Sincerity is an overrated virtue" - Milton Friedman

Mar 20, 2012
OhYeah:
JimmyDormandy:

any noteworthy VC's post all of the portfolio companies and jobs directly on their website

I figured so. Do you know of any site out there that list jobs for really early stage startups, like with less then 10 employees, where they are only at the angel stage?

I will say some of the more formal angel/superangel groups that have a centralized site will sometimes post jobs to companies, but this is not common. At this stage, it is more about networking and knowing the right person, right time. However, it is going to be very difficult for angel funded companies to hire top talent as they typically lack the capital until a real institutional (or very large angel round) has occured. At this stage, it is typically the founding team, and maybe employees that can afford to work for sweat equity.

Mar 16, 2012

great points! loved reading it. its very inspiring and i think we all should take risks at some point in life.

Mar 16, 2012

How to find a job at a startup?

Option 1: Go to a startup-specific career fair. For all the finance kids in NYC, there's the Silicon Alley Career fair during the summer, along with another big one in the Spring. That's how I got my internship at Sonar.me

Option 2: Go to a VC site and search for jobs within its portfolio companies. I got some FT and internship phone interviews that way, and often times those sites don't have a cover letter aspect so you can blast away at applications.

Option 3: Search up information on the founders of small startups and cold message them. They're startups that want to promote themselves, if you couldn't get access to them then they'd be doing their jobs wrong from a marketing perspective.

PM me if you'd like more tips/wanna talk further :)

Just my .02

Mar 16, 2012

Very nice reading. Thank you FlakieBear. I'm considering leaving all the finance stuff that i'm learning and go the entrepreneur route or try to get a job at a start-up. I'm bored doing so meaningless things everyday.

Mar 16, 2012
TheSquale:

Very nice reading. Thank you FlakieBear. I'm considering leaving all the finance stuff that i'm learning and go the entrepreneur route or try to get a job at a start-up. I'm bored doing so meaningless things everyday.

You are welcome. Good luck!

Power and Money do not change men; they only unmask them

Mar 16, 2012

Glad that some of you enjoyed the post. Thank you OhYeah for posting the links to VC recruiting...

Enjoy your weekend y'all

Power and Money do not change men; they only unmask them

Mar 19, 2012

Is it realistic to get a decent gig at a startup without a technology/engineering/programming background?

Mar 20, 2012
Aero:

Is it realistic to get a decent gig at a startup without a technology/engineering/programming background?

Well, that depends on what the start-up is, of course. There are also roles in business development, sales, etc. - but all of these roles (just as tech, engineering, etc) will require previous experience and a network. That is not to say it is impossible, but I don't see how a recent college grad can add any value in a business development role or a sales role.

Apr 15, 2012
JimmyDormandy:
Aero:

Is it realistic to get a decent gig at a startup without a technology/engineering/programming background?

Well, that depends on what the start-up is, of course. There are also roles in business development, sales, etc. - but all of these roles (just as tech, engineering, etc) will require previous experience and a network. That is not to say it is impossible, but I don't see how a recent college grad can add any value in a business development role or a sales role.

That's true. Wonder what good entry level positions are out there to build the business development / sales skills valued by startups.

Mar 19, 2012

good question aero

Apr 16, 2012

Good points. I completely agree. After my Bachelor in Economics and Mathematics, I started working for a startup technology company.

Though the compensation was not that great, I took on many hats from Job Costing, to Inventory Management, to M&A, to Financial Modeling.

I enjoyed the Business Development/Strategy more, but I am glad that I experienced other areas. I recently acquired a Certificate in Accounting. I feel more well-rounded.

May 1, 2012

Awesome post. I've interned at an e-commerce startup and it was a great experience.

May 2, 2012
Nachos:

Awesome post. I've interned at an e-commerce startup and it was a great experience.

Awesome post should get silver bananas from you :)

Power and Money do not change men; they only unmask them

May 1, 2012
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May 17, 2012