Startup Vs. Corporate Job

One the common conundrum current generation is facing is asking themselves the same question – startup or corporation? Maybe this is the reason why lately, an apparent tussle between these two working environments seems to have emerged so vividly. You might want to work in a corporation, but does that suit you? The same goes for startups!

How can you know what is the best choice for your career? The answer is that no one can’t. You can’t really tell what is more beneficial for your professional and personal life, especially if you have just landed in the working field.

Happiness at work is a factor which depends on more than one element

If you are asking yourself whether  these two concepts are completely opposite to each other, allow me to pitch in ( no pun intended) right from the start and tell you that they couldn’t be more different! How contrasting are they really? Let’s take a look!

Flexibility

Since in startups all the work is produced through individual initiatives, it only makes sense that it is more demanding. So, if you are not an initiator, maybe a corporation would be a more suitable choice for your career.

Which leads me to my next point:

In the corporate life everything is less demanding because the work is generated by clients or by the managers. The only thing the employee has to do is to solve them, while meeting some previously established objectives and targets.

Safe Heavens

When there’s plenty of money, resources, and expertise in the building things feel a lot more controlled. Startups are full of people with a lot of ambition and creativity, but often not tons of real world experience. And managing money definitely rules the roost…

So what’s the tradeoff?

Liberty

The biggie. The one I probably have the biggest love / hate relationship with. When you work for a big corporate there are lots of people, teams and a well defined structure. That ultimately creates hierarchies, decision-making groups — just frankly a bigger pool of people that are interested or affected by what you want to do. More people and more processes = less freedom.

I always wanted role where I could do whatever I want, in the way I could creatively devise the logistics. A blank sheet of paper and the freedom to get visionary and execute. This is where startups make a big difference. They provide you freedom and liberty to design your own version of the solution. But on the flip-side, having someone tell me what to do makes me irrationally burn with childish rage. You see the dilemma?

The difference here taught me a lot about doing stuff for myself and flipping the planner brain and the executor one. The latter though is also much harder in startup land because of one big thing…

Control

A pretty clear one really. In a big company, you’ve got power. It comes from the brand perception, big budgets, and an established presence. You never have to sell for your supper, really. You can focus on doing things in the most optimal way possible without too much compromise, which ultimately means output is more ‘polished’.

With startups or self employment — nobody knows who you are. You’re a salesperson. There’s no money. And getting people (externally) to work with you takes a whole lot more effort. I learnt a lot about selling from carwow — it’s just part of how it works. You have to sell, almost all of the time, and you have to compromise and flex to get what you want. It affects how I behave, and how the people I work alongside behave too.

On which vein, the last and probably the biggest difference is in people.

People

Quite a sweeping statement, but the collective of people at a big company versus a small one, is different. People will find happiness and fulfillment in different environments — with neither being in any way better (depending on the strategy and goals of the organisation).

In a big place with lots of people, there are hierarchies and networks that make people behave a certain way. Perhaps more tactfully, with a view to preserving networks and maximising chances of making it up said hierarchy. People are more diplomatic, and because there’s not as much time or resource pressure there’s more scope to nurture relationships, think carefully about actions, and plan properly. The stakes are often higher too, definitely in financial and reputational terms.

In startup world there’s just you. You and a team of passionate members, typically with company success at the forefront of minds. There are scraps and upset regularly, but they’re finite and they’re behind the same purpose.

One common empirical observation however: Shared passion (over self interest) fades as the company gets larger.

Finally

There are highs and lows to both, but ultimately it’s about congruence. It’s about feeling happy and fulfilled. It’s about feeling like the “real you” can fly.

What fills one person with deep dread can be another’s happy place. And vice versa. It’s in the interest of companies and people to figure that out. Ultimately, a lack of congruence between culture (the collective way of doing things at a company) and a person will leave both sides unhappy.

When I walk through the door in the morning to work, I check — do I feel ‘up’ or ‘down’? Breathe in, or let out a big sigh?

If it’s consistently the latter then something needs to change, and it’s time to work out what that is and where to find it.

If we’re going beyond CVs, then we should be looking at human qualities and behaviors as part of job search and recruitment at the very early stages. Not subjectively and randomly after 4 interview stages. Identifying where’s there’s cultural congruence early on — openly, and honestly, for both parties — will make a difference to mid/long-term happiness on both sides.

Flipping the process on its head a bit then? Sure.

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