Is a startup right for me?
The words "startup company" may invoke the image of nerds-turned-millionaires who made the impossible happen. Think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg. But this romantic idea is unrealistic. While startups are sexy and exciting, they also require hard work and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done (even those things that are most certainly not sexy!)
The thought of joining a startup may sound more appealing than "working for the man." But, before deciding whether to work at a startup in lieu of a more established company, examine the pros and cons working for a startup. Ask yourself the following questions:
You'll wear a lot of different hats at a startup. Your job description may change from one day to the next, as you may be asked to help out with a bit of everything that needs to get done.
You'll work on tasks that are outside the scope of your knowledge and experience at a startup. You'll learn on a trial by error basis, and you'll be accountable for leading projects. The variety and responsibility can be exciting, and it's an excellent way to become knowledgeable about a lot of different areas. It can also be more stressful than working at a larger company where you have a more defined job. Roles at larger, more established companies tend to be very focused, which allows employees to become subject matter experts. There are also more resources and training programs at more established companies.
Startups generally offer an untraditional, more relaxed office space, although they may not be able to afford the newer workspaces and more modern equipment typical of larger companies.
Startup cultures are often more laid back than their corporate counterparts. You'll probably have more control over your schedule and less structure around your job requirements. Startups are also more likely to offer flexible working arrangements (e.g., working from a home office) than larger corporations. You may put in longer hours at some startups due to a fast paced work environment and/or limited resources.
The staff at a startup company can be very small, and the corporate ladder is virtually non-existent. This gives you the chance to have more influence over the projects you work on. There's less "red tape" at a startup because employee levels are less distinct. You'll have more access to your CEO. You'll interact more with high-level colleagues, key clients, and vendors.
There's a more distinct hierarchy at big companies, where you would be part of a larger team and have access to a greater number of experienced mentors. Your colleagues would have more combined industry knowledge and more time to help you strategize when a challenging situation arises. This luxury generally isn't available at a startup, where you're one of just a handful of people on a team.
You might spend a good deal of your time as a rainmaker at a startup if you're working in a business role. You may be asked to find (and retain) new clients. This entails hours of phone calls, lunches, and after-work meetings. Be prepared to hear a lot of "No's" before a client is willing to take a chance on your company. Established businesses have the benefit of reputation and industry experience. They also have more resources from a staff and financial standpoint. This allows them to respond to client demands more efficiently and effectively.
Most startups can't afford to offer competitive salaries or comprehensive benefit packages. They need to conserve their capital, especially if they are in the early stages of funding and have limited cash flow. They may need to pour their cash into marketing and business development activities rather than employee compensation packages.
Your salary will be lower than what you'd get paid to do the same job at a bigger company. You may not get pay raises or bonuses initially at a startup. However, if the startup is successful and you do a good job, your pay is likely to increase quickly (as they will want to keep you!)
You might be paid partly in stock and partly in salary at a startup. Keep in mind that equity compensation is a long-term investment, and it has some associated risk. But, it could also lead to a big payoff down the road if the company is successful.
Benefit packages are also different at a startup. Many early stage startups are unable to offer comprehensive benefits such as large companies do. Be prepared to find alternative health, dental, and life insurance plans if you work for a startup. You'll also need to set up your own retirement savings plan.
It depends on the company, the type of work you'll be doing, and your own personality and interests. Your lifestyle preference, ability to handle stress, and your risk appetite are other factors to consider.
Startups allow you to gain a wealth of valuable experience in a short amount of time. You'll have more responsibility for projects, and you'll learn a host of new things out of sheer necessity. You'll be kept on your toes and work on new tasks virtually every day. You'll also have greater access to your CEO, higher level employee