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Should You Take a Job With a Startup or Big Company?

Should You Take a Job With a Startup or Big Company?

Startups invoke images of employees playing foosball during brainstorming meetings, riding through hallways on scooters, and drinking endless PBRs from the kitchen fridge. Whether it’s the truth or not, startup culture has a certain appeal to plenty of job seekers. But when it comes to job security, a run of the mill corporation will most likely offer security, better benefits, and structure.

There are certainly a number of perks that come with taking a job at a startup, especially if it takes off. If you get in at the ground floor you will be able to rise up the ranks as the company grows. And if the startup succeeds, you will most likely hold a significant stake in the company, which will pay off for the lower salary you will have to take.

However, are these potential pay offs worth the risk of taking a job at a startup? Here are a few things to consider when debating whether to take a job with a startup or a big company.

It’s hard to predict if a startup is viable

Established corporations have a ton of data to fall back on and you can easily research a big company to get a feel for how well it’s doing and it’s trajectory. You will also be able to find reviews from other employees to get an idea of whether or not it’s a good fit for you and if the company has a solid future. Startups aren’t so easy to research and it's impossible to know whether or not you are taking a job with the next Facebook or Twitter.  

However, if a startup is offering you a job in something you are passionate about, even if it fails, it will be a great way to craft your resume with the skills you want for future job opportunities. But if you’re just thinking of taking the job for the sake of the free lunch and flexible hours, it might not be the best choice. Plus, you might be surprised to find a number of big companies offer "startup perks" such as working from home, flex time, on site gym facilities, and more.

If you aren't sure about a startup's future, FastCompany has a list of questions to ask yourself to better determine the potential success of a startup.

Startups require a lot of dedication

Any job you take will require you to work hard if you want to succeed, but at a startup you may be required to do more than you were anticipating. Since startups generally have smaller teams, there aren’t as many people to help out on new projects or to troubleshoot when problems arise. At a startup you might have to go far outside your job description or work late hours since you will be a critical part in the company’s potential success. Eric Johnson wrote about his experience at a startup in an article for Forbes, and states that while he gained valuable experience from his four years at a startup, he isn't sure he'd be able to do it again. 

At a big company, you can still go above and beyond, but there are more people to help you get projects done and there will already be structured procedures in place. If you need more structure and a predictable schedule, a big company will probably be able to offer you that more than a startup. But if you're passionate about what you do, and don't mind putting in the extra hours and doing whatever it takes to succeed, a startup might be right for you.

Successful startups become large companies

If you take a job with a startup, you will want to see it grow and succeed so you can keep your job. However, the more success a startup finds, the faster it becomes a large company. And with that growth, you will see many of the startup perks start to disintegrate. In the end, you might end up working for the large company initially set out to avoid.

Three out of four startups fail

Taking a job with a startup can be a huge risk, especially considering the startup fail rate is three out of every four, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even 25 to 30 percent of venture backed business fail, according to the National Venture Capital Association. The truth is – behind the free lunches and scooters – successful startups take a lot of hard work and passion from not only the founder, but the employees.

Ultimately, deciding whether or not to work for a startup will depend on your experience and personal goals. For one person, startup culture might be a great fit, while another might thrive better at a big company. The key is to do your research on both avenues and figure out if a startup or a big company suits your career goals best. 


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