Decisions: First Job Out of College—Startup or Corporate?

3D Character and Decision - They have difference of opinions

You’ve finally graduated from college. Well done. All the hard work that you’ve put in will now pay off as you enter the workforce and become an “adult”. But where do you start? While this will probably be one of the most exciting times in your life, it’s also the first time that you will have to make a serious decision about your career.

Many graduates face two choices: find a job with a startup company or go with a more established, corporate job. You could work for a large IT company, or find employment with a small sole proprietorship and nonprofits. There are pros and cons to each one, and different people will prefer different environments.

Here are a few ways to decide if your first job out of college should be a startup or corporation.

Stability or Opportunity

Inherent job security is one of the great things about corporate jobs. Layoffs do happen, of course, but what can be expected from corporate jobs are regular reviews and raises. A benefits package comes with the vast majority of salaried jobs with Fortune 500 companies, and most, if not all processes are fully developed with extensive training programs. If you are the type that thrives in a structured environment where you can complete jobs that are assigned to you, a corporate job is for you. Unless you work as a creative, chances are your assignments will be fully fleshed out before being assigned, meaning that, as long as you can follow directions, you’ll succeed.

But if you are easily bored, want to work on a strategic picture, or have great ideas that you want to see implemented, corporate may frustrate and drain you. Sometimes it takes years to be put into a position where you can make strategic decisions. Until you get the experience to be put in a managerial or directorial position, you’ll most likely be working for a superior who can easily override your opinion.

There isn’t a lot of job security with startups, as they go out of business 50% of the time in the first 5 years. It’s also very likely that the pay will be lower in the initial stages of a startup and you probably will not receive benefits like paid time off or health insurance. On the other hand, with startups there is an immense opportunity for growth within a company. With less employees than a traditional large corporation, there are more opportunities for you to be assigned something significant. Performing in this situation will expand your role at the startup and you are likely to see a significant raise in position and pay. Also, with a smaller, intimate staff than a corporation, there’s an increased chance of having your strategic input implemented.

Work Ethic

Working in a corporate job may seem to be the most brutal, agonizing, and difficult thing ever, but that’s not necessarily true. Corporations typically earn a large amount of revenue and have large departments comprised of of hundreds if not thousands of people. Each task has been broken down and most departments have undergone some level of efficiency evaluation and alteration. Because of this, it’s likely that you’ll only have a couple of tasks to do for your specific department, and if you complete these your workload is basically complete. This depends, of course, on your industry. Jobs in the financial sector, for example are extremely intense and fast paced right out of the gate. For the most part, though, there will probably be extra time in your day to check personal e-mails or surf social media, particularly if you are working in an entry level position.

Conversely, your work at a startup your work will be more scrutinized and important to the overall success of the business, meaning you’re likely to work long hours in order to complete projects on time, regardless of the pay. You’ll have very little time to do anything but work, and if you finish something you’ll likely be given another task, which will improve your versatility. Mistakes matter more at a startup and can easily affect other branches of the business. If you don’t enjoy working hard, working at a startup is not for you.

Structured or Laid Back Environment

With a corporations, there are existing procedures that you’ll be expected to follow precisely. Though they have relaxed in the last decade, there is still a strict dress code with most corporations and you are expected to look professional every day. You’ll also find that communicating to others in a corporation is different. The ability to maintain a good level of tact is required, particularly when dealing with clients or customers.

Most startups have a more laid-back environment, with an opportunity for employees to get to know one another more personally. The dress code is often much more casual than you’d find at a corporation, depending on the industry. Because of the comradery often found in small startups, communication tends to be more open and honest.

The choice between working at a startup or a corporation really comes down to your personality. If you are looking for a fast track to doing important and meaningful things, and can perform under stress and pressure, then a startup is your ideal workplace. However, if you’re interested in a more reliable grind to the top, you’ll find stability and guidance with a corporation. If you still aren’t sure, the best plan is to intern in both environments to help decide which one is best for you.