When you are deciding where your next place of employment will be, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of joining a startup versus going to an established company. This is not always an easy decision to make because different factors play a role in what determines the best fit for you. Your decision is dependent on your career trajectory, the city you live in, and many other things that must be considered before making a final decision. Therefore, you need to learn the tradeoffs for both options, so you will be in a position that works best for your needs and wants.
Let’s put industry preferences aside and your feelings about the products being built by the company. The differences between a startup and mature company are pretty obvious to observe. An established company will provide you with more role models to gain specific knowledge, more experienced teams to collaborate with, a clear direction of where the company is headed, and seasoned leadership. Your role within the company may have a more narrow range, but it can offer more potential for intensive learning, greater benefits, well-paying compensation, and more security. You will gain insight into how a large scale business operates at its best (or worst). Furthermore, working for a corporate brand is a great addition to your resume.
Startups provide you with an entirely different world since these are companies that are just starting to gain traction in the marketplace. Therefore, you may not have many peers to collaborate with, since the company is in the beginning stages of the building process. Also, you may have to look outside of the organization for mentors. And of course, you are working with a limited budget, which can affect the company’s ability to operate effectively. One great thing is that a startup forces you to act as an entrepreneur. You can use the knowledge you have acquired to start your own business or be seen as a great asset to a bigger company.
How leadership plays a role
When considering a new job, you must look at the leadership in place within that organization. This is very important information to know because it determines how that company is run and the expectations that will be placed upon you. Serial entrepreneurs will approach operations differently than someone who is learning how to build a business for the first time. What often comes with an established company are leaders who are stuck on doing things a certain way. The tradeoffs between a startup and mature company must be factored into your decision-making process if you want to place yourself in the environment where you can function best.
Serial entrepreneurs as leaders
If you want to work within a startup where the leader knows how to pivot and adjust according to the circumstances, a serial entrepreneur is a leader you want. They understand how to raise funding since they know what information investors like to hear. These individuals are very selective about who they allow investing in their business and who sits on their company’s board. Due to past mistakes or failures, they know how to set a clear strategy and implement the right approach to execute upon the designed plan.
One negative thing about serial entrepreneurs is that they are driven to correct their past mistakes. This pursuit to be right can be both a good and bad thing. At times, they may overcorrect in problem areas they experienced previously, which means being overly critical on decisions, being afraid to spend cash on growth, or trying to scale too fast before the product has even gained good traction within the marketplace. When interviewing with a serial entrepreneur, ask questions about the lessons they learned from their previous endeavor and how they plan to apply them to their new venture.
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Experienced corporate veterans doing their first startup
A founder coming from an established company with no startup experience can be a hit or miss. They are often times incredibly skilled at hiring the right people and leading them. But on the other hand, they do not possess the resourcefulness to build a minimal product into one that gains sizeable market share.
Also, these leaders are used to having teams and systems in place that handle each function of the business. Therefore, getting involved with processes outside of their role is not what they have much experience in. But once they hire the right people to handle the necessary processes, they can push the startup towards quick growth.
Limited leadership experience in a startup
It can be exciting to work with a group of skilled individuals who are leading their own team for the first time. The experience of building something from the ground up and learning as you go can provide tons of knowledge and new insight into how different businesses work. But the process of learning things as you go can also be very frustrating since it delays your ability to do your job effectively. If you need someone with more experience to help guide you in the right direction, seek mentorship outside of the organization.
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Inexperienced leadership within a mature company
Any person who has made it to the top without much experience is either very smart or knows the right people. In most cases, these individuals have surrounded themselves with strong leaders who have helped put them. The opportunity to learn from these types of companies is very rare. This is because when a company expands too quickly, people are often put into roles where their experience is not sufficient enough to get the job done.
Experienced leadership within mature companies
These are the organizations that you expect to run like a well-oiled machine. But this comes with a lot of politics and process that are not found at a company just starting up. Though, if you join a company like that, you will benefit from a great leadership learn about seasoned practices.
What is best for your journey?
If you are just starting your career path, you may be wondering what type of company you should work within first, especially if you want to experience working with both. Hiring managers at early startup companies can become very wary when they come across someone who has spent more than five years at an established company since they are uncertain if the individual can adjust to the startup grind. If you fall into this particular category, it is suggested that you highlight any ground zero work you have done; this demonstrates your ability to take risks and work among ambiguity.
On the other hand, an individual with only a startup experience may not be able to adjust well to the structure of an established company. Hiring managers in this position will be apprehensive about whether an individual with only startup experience can handle the complex structure of a mature organization, which requires them to have savvy communication skills. Due to your startup qualifications, you may have to sacrifice pay to work within an established company, since you will be working with people who have more experience than you. What makes an individual with startup experience a great addition to an established organization is their desire to take risks and push the boundaries. Those who are willing to take calculated risks often move up the organizational ladder fast.
In the end, no decision you make is right or wrong. It is just the option you choose to pursue. Your final decision will be based on your skills and how you fit within the organization that you choose. It also comes down to the manager who is tasked with hiring you and their management philosophy. You can try each of the two types of companies out and then decide which one best fits your personality and professional ambitions.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself
Whether you’re an experienced worker or recent graduate, here are a few questions you should consider before making the leap to a startup or mature company:
- What skills do you want to add to the set of skills you already have? Will the new position allows you to improve the skills you already have or develop new ones?
- Who makes you most excited to work with them? Are company size and team culture important to you? These are the people you will spend the majority of your waking hours with, so you need to be sure you can enjoy being around them on a consistent basis.
- What do you consider to be valuable? Be sure that whatever decision you make is reflective of what makes you happy. This is all about doing what is best for you as a professional.