The workforce landscape has changed drastically. In recent years, we’ve seen some household names and companies that have dominated for decades take a backseat to fresh, innovative startups. Then again, there are those brand-new companies that grow too fast or do not live up to their early potential while more established organizations keep on churning away as they learn to innovate. It can go either way depending on a variety of factors, which bodes the question: should I be working at a startup or an established company?
Recognized name with a known reputation versus the potential greatness. It’s not an easy decision to make. For example, take into account this Super Bowl. In one of the most anticipated matchups in recent memory, we have the established, living legend Tom Brady vs the up-and-coming stud in Patrick Mahomes. History will tell you, don’t bet against Brady. Having been to 9 Super Bowls (10 counting on Sunday) and winning 6 of them, you’d have to assume he’s the odds-on favorite, right? Wrong. While his name still holds weight in the NFL (in the form of 4 Super Bowl MVPs), the advantage lies with the young start-up: Patrick Mahomes. His one-of-a-kind talent along with all the necessary variables (coaching staff, teammates, etc.) have him as the favorite.
But in the end, that’s just a game that you don’t have control of. This is your career. What you need to do is a deep dive to determine which type of company is right for you. In some cases, you may even decide that you want to try both out. Nevertheless, here is what you can expect from working at a startup and an established company.
At startups, everyone is expected to pitch in. Since the work can be fast-paced and ever-changing, startup employees need to be flexible, accountable, and self-sufficient. For instance, one day you can be focused on the role you were hired for, and the next, you could be helping your team prepare for a sales pitch. This type of environment gives you insight into a variety of positions, which can help you diversify your skills and explore new career paths.
Impact + growth opportunities:
By working at a startup—especially in the early stages—every employee has a powerful impact. With a lot on the line, your accomplishments (and mistakes) will be highly visible throughout the organization. You could also have the opportunity to influence key decisions as founders and other leaders of startups will often turn to their employees for inspiration and insight. However, growth at a startup can look a lot different. While you’ll have many opportunities to expand your skills and diversify your experience, the horizontal hierarchy may make it more difficult to move into leadership positions.
Startups tend to cultivate fairly relaxed cultures where employees may enjoy “perks” like food stipends, flexible hours, and generous vacation policies. In such a close-knit environment, many of these companies also try to place an emphasis on team building activities. These may include things like virtual or in-person happy hours, trivia, or volunteer opportunities.
At bigger companies, where roles, hours, and other internal processes are more clearly defined, there tends to be a greater sense of order at work. On most days, for example, you may know what is specifically expected of you—giving you a more predictable schedule and set of day-to-day tasks.
Impact + growth opportunities:
Corporate jobs tend to be focused in one specific area, making this a great environment for those who know what direction they want their career to go in. As an “expert” in your specialty, this allows you to hone the skills needed for growth without needing to split your time between unrelated responsibilities. Regarding promotions, corporations also tend to have formal policies in place—giving you opportunities throughout the year to meet the criteria. However, there is sometimes more red tape to get through in order to climb the ladder.
In addition to health insurance, corporations can offer some pretty significant benefits like gym reimbursement, retirement plans, childcare, and corporate discounts. In fact, many large companies are continuously evaluating their benefits to improve the employment experience for top talent and remain competitive.