Differences Between Corporate And Startup Work

If you’re contemplating moving away from your buttoned up corporate gig to a more relaxed-fit startup (or vice versa), here are six questions to consider first.

1. Do you champion a good underdog story?

If you can quote every line from RudySeabiscuit, or Rocky, you might just be an underdog junkie. If that’s the case, working for a startup is likely right up your alley. The theme all great underdog stories share is taking something or someone and pitting them up against a more talented, more connected, more skilled counterpart. However, it’s the tenacity, gumption and voice to stand up and become something greater that makes the underdog so powerful — and so lovable. Working for a startup is going to feel a lot like round 15 did for Apollo Creed. It’s risky, hard work and you’re going to have to deal with — let’s keep with the theme and say — a lot of punches. Failures will seem crushing, but successes will feel like winning the big race no one believed you could. Like all great underdogs, and great startups, it’s the passion and determination to overcome it all — dare I say to prove naysayers wrong, which makes them so appealing.

2. Are you a jack-of-all-trades or a master of one?

Some people are able to identify what they want to do professionally very early in life — researching and perfecting their skills until they are known as the “Spielberg” of their industry. For those lucky and determined enough to become highly specialized in a trade/knowledge base, working for a larger corporation might be better suited for you. The reason being, established organizations have the capital to hire more employees who can focus on more specific tasks. Furthermore, with the monetary advantages, comes the ability to hire top-notch, experienced talent — a fact that provides excellent mentorship opportunities for those entering the workforce. For the “professionally indecisive,” startups will likely yield greater opportunities and flexibility to move around departments and discover what areas you are most passionate about. If for example, you’re a designer but are also interested in social media, sales and marketing, a startup is going to give you the chance to potentially work in each field. Both skill sets are crucial for any type of organization and neither, for the record, are mutually exclusive. However, innovative-starry-eyed “Jacks” are likely to prove their value much easier in a startup rather than a larger corporation.

3. When was the last time you won the lotto?

The last time I bought a lottery ticket and won was sometime around… never. Jumping the corporate ship and joining the start-up train, and expecting success, is like calculating your future lottery winnings into your monthly financial plan. While there typically are a lot of attractive incentives, don’t get too close to the startup sirens without doing your research. The fact is, 25 percent of startups fail within the first year and more than half fail in year five. Passion alone won’t yield results. Make sure there is a concrete business plan in place before deciding to trade in your corporate job for the riskier alternative.

4. What are your political stances?

Are you the kind of person who’s first in line to vote in the primaries? Or, does the idea of participating in any kind of political conversation make you sick to your stomach? There are opposing viewpoints on this stance — like most political debates, but in my experience working for a startup is much more politically driven that working at a larger corporation. The reason being, people involved in startups have a lot more invested in the company and passions are usually much higher. While there is perhaps a bit more bureaucracy at larger corporations with more stringent policies in place, the existence of “office politics” as a whole tends to be lower due to the fact that employees tend to want to get in, do their job, do it well and go home to their other lives. Again, not necessarily true for all organizations, but in my experience this tends to be the case.

5. Do you crave transparency?

One of the greatest advantages of a startup, IMO, is the access you’ll gain to senior leadership. Unless you’ve been with an organization for many, many…many years, the likelihood of having the ability to pop into the CEO’s corner office to suggest the addition of a Keurig® machine in the break room, is highly unlikely. However, at a startup, you might have a little more say in what morsels end up in your common area and ultimately what occurs within the organization. Additionally, leadership is likely to give insight into organizational decisions rather than expecting blind obedience, and might go so far as to ask for input before implementation occurs. That being said, I think it’s important to note that in recent years there has been a big shift for executives to humanize themselves regardless of organizational size. Utilizing tools like Glassdoor, will give you insight into a CEO’s ranking prior to accepting a position, allowing you the opportunity to discover if your values align with that of the CEO’s.

6. What do you value most?

Is it establishing an organization’s culture? Is it working with a small intimate team? Or are you more monetarily driven with a desire to work with the best-of-the-best? Neither is better or worse than the other. It is however, important to identify what you value most so you can discover a company that aligns with your core beliefs and desires. While, startups offer a bit more flexibility, innovation and transparency than their more established counterparts, the fact remains that deciding to move forward with a startup is a risky move that may or may not pan out at the end of the day. Therefore, do your research and know the facts before accepting an offer with any organization.