Looking to trade corporate politics for passion and personal growth? Try working for a startup.
After I graduated from university, I worked at the headquarters of a Fortune 500 company just outside Boston. It was a global company with over 20,000 employees and offices in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The dress code was business formal, and the office was laid out by rank with the fourth floor dedicated to the C-suite. With each promotion you would move from floor to floor all the way to the top, as though you were literally climbing the corporate ladder.
My boss gave me a lot of autonomy to help improve efficiency and spread culture within our department, and this kept me incredibly engaged. I put in long hours because I had the freedom to learn and I felt valued. I realize now, I had it good.
But despite how good it was, I had no upside. While the company benefitted from my work, I had no hope of reaping those benefits and I had very little say about the company’s direction. My boss had to jump through a lot of hoops to get things done but he didn’t mind; he was a lifer. I, on the other hand, wanted more. So, I traded in a shot at the fourth floor to be part of a promising startup, and I haven’t looked back.
Every day, startups are looking for people who are looking for more. So if you’re seeking your first job out of university or considering your next career move, here are 8 reasons why you should choose a startup over the Big Co’s of the world.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that life’s too short to not like your job. Find a startup where you can work on what you love - every day. If your passion is education, gaming or improving collaboration among teams, I guarantee you can find a startup that shares your passion and is creating solutions in that realm.
Passion is not always related to the problem you are trying to solve. I care more about who is sitting around the table trying to solve that problem with me than I do about the problem itself. I look for people who are humble, have the desire to make an impact and share the company values. The initial idea always changes based on the people who are sitting at that table. If you don’t like and respect who you work with, you might as well be in it for the paycheque.
Beliefs, vision, core values, foosball tables - company culture is the unseen fabric within an organization that unites the team, and drives them to achieve the company’s goals. “Culture may not be a line item on a balance sheet, but a strong culture is the key to success and attracting the best,” said Danny Robinson, founder of Perch. “At a startup, you have a chance to help shape the culture and create a company where you want to work. It’s harder to make change or affect the culture when you join an established company.”
4. KNOWLEDGE SHARING
At a startup, you get the chance to learn about all facets of the business. “I like to hire entrepreneurs,” said Dan Martell, founder of Clarity. “Let’s work on making the biggest impact possible, and I’ll teach you about fundraising, managing teams and growing a company. If you want to leave to do your own thing after 2 years, I'll support you 100%.” This is in contrast to working for a bigger company, where the focus is often more siloed. “You can work for Facebook, but you will only learn how big companies work.”
5. PERSONAL GROWTH
The knowledge shared and the challenges you face at a startup allow for tremendous personal growth. In a young organization, you will likely have greater responsibility, the opportunity to learn a cross-section of skills and contribute directly to the company’s success. Kenshi Arasaki, founder of A Thinking Ape, believes “People tend to underestimate the tremendous improvement one undergoes when sufficiently challenged. When people go to the larger, more cushy jobs they don't realize the cost of accepting that job. If they're not in a challenging environment then they're being compensated (with an easier job, or higher pay, or more perks) in order to accept a lower growth rate.”
Startups carry very little technical debt, so you get to work on the latest tech and deploy fast. At Plenty of Fish in Vancouver, Markus Frind says: “People who join POF work on problems with some of the smartest people in Vancouver - our research team alone boasts 5 PhDs. We get to build things very quickly which people love - there are no "levels" to go through to get something approved.”
A more established organization comes with process and politics. The best startup teams are transparent about where they’re headed, what they’re doing well and how they can improve. And everyone has a voice. There aren’t usually a lot of hoops to jump through to share an idea or get things done, which enables you to test ideas quickly and have the ability to affect the overall strategy.
When you work at a startup, you have got to be in it for more than the money. That said, you can’t get rich working for a big company. Everyone who makes millions makes it with stock options. It’s nice to know that the hard work you put in has the chance for some financial upside. When that does happen, you can turn around and invest it another venture or take a much needed trip!
Startups offer a chance for a truly enhanced work experience: an opportunity to work on big problems and get your hands dirty with the latest technology and learn from a group of people as passionate as you.