There is something special about a startup founder. Time, creative thinking, and passion — to make a company a success, the startup founder heavily invests all of these into the fledgling company to make it succeed.
But there’s also something to be said about those who work in the corporate world. They, too, have plenty of passion and skills to contribute, but they want more structure to their day and a clear path forward. Which path is right for you? There are a number of factors to consider, of course.
Both startup and corporate life have advantages. For those who think they are too old to establish a company … and those fresh out of college who believe landing a corporate job is a long-shot, think again.
Opportunities exist for anyone who is willing to put the time and effort into crafting a true career path that fits their needs and skills.
What It Takes to Be a Startup Founder or Employee
Even if you are not the startup founder, but work as an employee in a startup organization, you’ll encounter a world very different from others around you. If you think working in a startup might be the right path for you, there are two specific aspects of that life that you need to consider.
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#1: You Thrive on Change
Not just change, but ongoing, never-stopping, fast-paced change. In a startup world, there is always the need to move faster than the competition. Those working in a startup have to juggle a variety of roles. You may even have a clearly defined list of tasks to complete each day, but you wind up spending half the day putting out fires started by a new concept you created that morning.
In short, if you like change, and can handle a fast-paced environment, startup work may be right for you. If, on the other hand, you want more stability and a clear list of assignments, the corporate world is a better fit. Don’t underestimate challenging this type of environment is, and it can be challenging. The simple truth is, many people simply do better in the organized world of corporate life.
#2: You’re a Leader That Isn’t Afraid of Taking Responsibility
It is also important to consider your ability to thrive under pressure. In a startup, especially one just getting off the ground, there are going to be instances when someone needs to step up to handle a task or to take on a problem. Individuals who thrive in this way do best in this type of environment.
Those who are willing to step up and maintain leadership roles do well in startups because of how fast they can move up. Yet, in a corporate world, there is the promise and opportunity to advance. It just may come at a steadier pace with fewer risks along the route. The key to remember here is that startup life comes with risks not everyone wants to take on.
What It Means to Work in a Corporate Setting
The corporate world is no longer as rigid as it used to be, but it offers far more structure to an employee or a leader than most startups can offer. At the same time, many people thrive in a corporation because it offers consistency and clearly defined paths forward. Here are a couple of key factors to keep in mind if you are thinking about working in a corporate world.
#1: You Value Your Work-Life Balance
Let’s be clear – corporate life is still demanding. Late night phone calls may be less often, but long hours can happen when there is a need for it. Yet, most people find corporate life gives them an even 9-to-5 lifestyle they can appreciate.
If you don’t want to give up time from raising your family or you want to be able to take weekends away, the corporate life is a better fit for you.
By comparison, startup life means longer hours, less flexible schedules, and more time spent focused on those ever-changing tasks. Some people simply are not cut out to handle those types of situations on a routine basis.
#2: You Want to Earn Well
Another key advantage that’s hard to overlook for those who are working in the corporate world is compensation. In a startup, there is always the chance of the door shuttering behind you.
In a corporate world, your paycheck is a bit more set. And, that means you have the opportunity to rely a bit more on your income here and plan your life and finances accordingly.
Another way to look at this aspect is with passion. How passionate are you about the company you work with?
Do you want to be passionate about your business (whether you own it or someone else does) or do you want to be more passionate about your family and life? This can help to clearly define where you should be when it comes to your career path.
#3: Having “Certainty” in Your Life is Important To You.
One advantage of a life in the corporate world is that job security is usually greater. Often you still have the opportunity to work hard, grow your skills, and accomplish important things but all with a sense that you don’t have to be concerned about the “regular” things in a job; the things that are just “there”; pay, benefits, raises, regular advancement; even paid time to take vacations. In a startup, the risk is part of the reward.
Pulling it off, being part of seeing something new and great take shape; seeing your work make an immediate difference for some, are equally if not more important than money.
#4: Some Change is Okay But a Sense of Stability is Important to You.
Life in the corporate world doesn’t stay the same. For the most part, however, there is a structure and stability in your everyday work life.
You know the What, When, Who and How of your work, Working in a startup is different. Situations change quickly. Funding is increased, or cut. Issues come up with customers, vendors, internal teams that have to be solved now in order to move ahead.
You have to lay aside your plans to solve an urgent problem. Crises (small and big) are part of daily life making each day challenging, exciting and, at times, scary. What is the environment that brings you the most personal reward; not money but joy?
Having Trouble Choosing?
Sometimes the best way to learn what is ideal for you is to give it a try.
First, be sure you have the skills to smooth out some of those rough startup roads. If you have not done so yet, now is the time to consider MBA training and development.
You’ll also want to think about advancing your education for the corporate path you plan to take. Consider pursuing an MBA that gives you the flexibility to adapt your education to your career goals with concentrations in areas like Corporate Innovation, Marketing and, yes, even Entrepreneurship. Many people find, along the path to earning an advanced degree, which career is best for them.
The key here is to recognize your skills and talents and what you want for your life. Enroll in an education to get started. Then, consider what features of a startup life or a corporate life appeal to you the most … right now.
Who knows? In 10 years, you may be on a new trajectory. In every case, focus on what feels like the best route for your needs. Remember, either one can lead to a highly successful future.