The decision to join a Startup vs a large corporation - and the associated pros and cons are not a static set - they vary greatly based on where you are, what your skill set is, what stage of your career you are in and so on. There are of course some that are universal (like being part of something new that might change the world) - but I’ll focus on some that are perhaps less obvious.
I’ll give you 16 points to consider looking at two points within the career stage spectrum - they are by no means comprehensive.
Just getting started
If you are just entering the job market - right out of college (or not) a startup provides some really interesting opportunities:
- Greater involvement / visibility in decision making.
- Wider skill set use / development opportunities.
- Greater opportunity for responsibility growth and promotion.
- More flexibility in lateral moves within the company.
It also comes with a unique set of potential downsides:
- On the job training? Better be a self starter.
- Amazing salary and benefits? Someday, maybe.
- Uncertainty and instability of the business.
- Resume implications.
Seasoned industry pro
Similarly, there are enticements at the startup level that make it a great choice for those of us with a few extra notches (and maybe holes) in our belts:
- Leverage existing networks / partners and deep industry knowledge to accelerate success in the position and the company.
- Elevate to a new strata of management (i.e. VP to CxO).
- A chance to expand your personal brand.
- Leverage market value for a larger equity position within the company.
And with the rewards, come the risks:
- Salary may be less than market rate.
- Resume implications (can be seen as a step backward - depends on outcomes).
- Stability / long term security concerns.
- Wildly different work environment / comfort zone issue.
In summary - Startups are awesome for a lot of reasons, and as a serial entrepreneur who can’t imagine doing anything else, my personal opinion would skew heavily towards the opinion that everyone should join a startup at some point. As with all decisions in life, being informed, entering into them with eyes wide open, knowing the benefits and risks and managing for them is required to make the right decision.
I’m more than happy to chat with anyone considering joining a startup and tie it directly to their own situation.
It does depend on what you value the most: learning and risk or security and safety.
Having been through 4 startups and 2 corporates - nothing beats the range of things you will do and learn in a startup and the speed at which everything will happen. You'll make some amazing friends and see something grow (hopefully!)
If you can't handle change and uncertainty then stick to corporate, else startups all the way....