Sell your soul or sell your TV: Working in a startup v working in a corporation
When you’re starting out your career in IT, you might give some thought to the prospect of working in either a startup or a large corporation (or something in between). Even for those of you further down your career paths, you may still be curious about what life is like in the other type of organisation. In this post we’ll compare the main advantages and disadvantages of working in a startup and a large corporation so that you might make a more informed choice.
A small disclaimer: Let’s take it as a given that a lot of the aspects about working in startup versus working in a corporation will, to a greater or lesser extent, apply to the other type of organisation too. It would be remiss to think that creative people only work in startups or corporations are the only place you can find structure. This article, by its very nature will contain some inevitable generalisations.
Working for a startup is fashionable right now. It’s the hippest, hottest thing that all the cool latte drinking, mustachioed kids are doing. Who wants to work for The Man and be a servant to the Capitalist machine when you can sit on beanbags, play table tennis, and have no job security?
Of course, working for a startup is great. I mean, hey, we are one and we’re pretty great. It is also a big challenge, but that’s how you find out about yourself. You’ll be given responsibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to grow super, super fast. If it all comes off, you may even get a piece of the company for your trouble.
You’ll need to be proactive and flexible, there won’t be a great deal of structure and your working hours might be a bit messed up. Generally though, you’ll have the chance to work on something genuinely interesting in an organisation where you can make a tangible difference.
You’ll work with bright, smart people who have ideas and want to change the industry they’re in. Some of that drive and passion will definitely rub off on you too and once you start working in a startup you might never want to go back.
All that said, startups are not for everyone. Despite being flavour of the month, there are some serious downsides. Limited benefits, lack of job security, unfavourable pay, and long hours are just some of the downsides of working for an early stage startup, not to mention more abstract things such as a lack of structure, routine and set protocols.
Large corporations are, we guess, slightly unfashionable these days. Often seen as the enemy of society, big organisations have a slightly unfair and rather undeserved reputation. Corporations can be a fantastic place to learn and grow, with the opportunity to change jobs without even changing company. With a high numbers of roles and often with offices in different countries, large corporations allow you flexibility as you grow in your career but within the structure and security of a stable organisation.
It’s also a fallacy that smart people only work in startups, I mean, those corporations got to that size for a reason, right? There must be some pretty smart people working there. In a company of that size, you will come across people from all walks of life, backgrounds and not to mention, ages. It sometimes feels like if you’re over 30 then you’re too old for a startup, but that doesn’t apply in a corporation.
Of course there are downsides. You may feel limited, stifled, or that you’re unable to make a big difference when working as a small cog in a large machine. You might not enjoy the structured working hours or wearing a tie (of course not all corporations insist on formal wear).
But to think that having fun at work is only possible in a startup is simply wrong, corporations can be fun and exciting places to work as well as providing the peace of mind that your job is reasonably safe, not forgetting probably paying you a higher salary than a startup could.