Joining a startup out of undergrad?

Currently a 3rd year at a "target" UG business school, doing Corp finance this summer for a 10 week internship. I'm at a bit of a crossroads in terms of where I want to steer my career path, and I want to figure it out fast so I can have a better idea of how to position myself in the short term for the roles I want.

I don't know what I want to do obviously, but I do have some general ideas of what I want to accomplish and where I want to eventually go. On one hand, I like finance, but I'm fairly confident I will not want to be in it long-term. I don't find my finance classes very interesting and i did a Corp finance internship last year which I thought was quite boring. On the other hand, I have a very strong interest in entrepreneurship, learning by doing, and consumer products. I've thought about starting my own business but am fairly reluctant to do so. I also very much value living a healthy life, settling down at some point with family and kids, and being financially stable by the time I'm in my 30s. Thinking long-term, I do want to find a role that I am passionate about and can make a big difference to the business that I'm in.

So I have a couple of ideas. First is pursuing Corp finance full-time, progress my career a bit and then probably switch out after a few years. No idea where I'd go after that, but I'm ok with not knowing.

Second is pursuing strategy consulting full time. Consulting provides a lot of benefits like industry exposure, networking opportunities, great exit opps, etc. If I went this route, I'd probably want to go into some kind of business strategy role at a high-growth/mature company afterwards. Definitely would not do consulting my whole career.

Third, and what I've most recently started to consider, is working at a B2C startup right out of undergrad. I feel this could offer an amazing learning experience and it's something that I think I would be much more likely to be passionate about.

I know y'all have experience making these types of career decisions, and I'd love to hear what you have to say about these different routes I could pursue. I'm most interested in hearing advice regarding the startup route, as that seems super appealing to me, but I understand it could be a bad place to start my career as well.

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Comments (5)

Apr 2, 2021 - 9:43pm

When presented with difficult choices like this, I like to think in terms of best and worst case scenarios. For example:

You choose option 1 (corporate finance). Best case scenario you make $80-120K (estimating) out of college and then leverage it into something better. Worst case scenario you hate it and struggle to pivot out (and of course there's the opportunity cost of not pursuing option 2 or 3).

Best case scenario if you were to join the startup is getting equity and making a lot of money down the road. The worst case scenario is a lower salary (I assume) and the company failing.

There is rarely a "right" answer - there are only trade-offs and probabilities of success that you need to do your best to evaluate.

When I graduated college I was strapped with debt, so I took a F500 and grinded like crazy to get out of that hole. Now that I'm not in that situation, I'd be more apt to pursue a higher risk / higher reward option like a startup.

That was a trade-off I was willing to make at the time. My upside was limited at the F500, but it was very secure and provided a sure way out.

I obviously don't know the details of these particular companies, but that's the mental model I like to use to make decisions.

I would say that if the startup is something you really believe in and can see succeeding, go for it. If it were to be massively successful, the regret of not taking that leap will haunt you. You can get another entry level corp finance or consulting job later.

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  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Apr 2, 2021 - 10:40pm

out of college you should take risks. Most people on this forum are risk-averse pussies. If you go to a target and have a strong gpa. Work at the startup, take a risk. Worst case you have a good story and with a decent GMAT can get into a top 10 MBA program. 

Life is too short to play it safe

Apr 3, 2021 - 1:28am

Yes, this.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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