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Joining a Start-up or Big Company: Which is Better for You?

Do you belong at a dynamic start-up firm, or are you more suited for a stable life with a corporate giant? Take these factors into consideration if you are deciding which type of company to join.

Whether you join a start-up or a big company, both paths can provide you different challenges and opportunities to grow professionally, making it hard to choose. After all, you spend about one-third of your adult life working, so this decision could be life-changing.

Always consider your life priorities, current work and financial situation, and long-term career strategy when deciding to move. The employer you choose must be able to meet most, if not all, of your career expectations and goals.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to decide whether a start-up or big enterprise is right for you.

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1. How do you want to carve out your career?

If you are starting out and don’t have a clear career goal, joining a start-up could benefit you. Employees in smaller organisations tend to have a more expansive job scope due to their smaller teams.

Do you want: Flexibility to make your own career decisions?

Don’t be surprised that you’ll get to try your hand at various side projects and be invited to management-level meetings, even as the most junior employee in the company. Not only will this diversify your work experience and competencies, but the exposure of working at a start-up will also help you to discover your true calling.

Many mid-careerists are also attracted to joining start-ups after spending a large part of their work in big companies. Start-ups could provide new opportunities to work on projects they’ve always wanted to try.

Some people also thrive in a start-up environment as they are highly energetic and motivated to explore the latest trends and innovations. They draw energy and inspiration from their business successes or from working on some of their past ideas that they have not had the chance to implement. The constant rush to learn and create in the closely-knitted community could be what they need to make a name for themselves.

Do you want: Structure?

On the other hand, if you prefer to work in a more structured environment or already have a clearly defined career path, starting or furthering your career in a corporate environment will likely be the best option for you. You’ll be able to hone your skills and develop professionally in a field you choose to specialise in.

Big corporations tend to have very structured and linear career progression paths. For example, if you start as a junior marketing executive, you’ll likely become a marketing director or chief marketing officer if you demonstrate your strengths well.

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2. What impact do you want to have on the business?

Next, think about the impact that you would like to make at work. Do you aspire to make an immediate mark on the company or prefer a more thorough approach to contributing to the business?

Do you want: Fast results?

Employees, especially younger workers, tend to have less influence in a corporate environment than at a smaller firm. If you’re a result-oriented and idea-driven individual, you will bask in the culture of a start-up, where there is more flexibility, making creativity and frontline innovation more valued. Nikola Otasevic, the co-founder of interview practice firm Refdash, quips that when you work for a start-up, “you can have that idea delivered to users by that afternoon”.

Do you want: A thought-out strategy?

On the other hand, the management structure in a corporate organisation is likely to be more hierarchical, resulting in slightly longer processes to get your ideas off the ground. Although this may sound like a drawback to some, stringent rounds of approval are likely to minimise the risk of blunders or failure.

These approvals are also necessary because big organisations have more to lose when their strategy doesn’t meet the mark. A more structured and thought-out plan that includes various perspectives from more people can ultimately benefit more users and the business. A corporation is a right place to be if you’re looking to make a lasting impact on as many people as possible.

3. How can the company support your career growth?

When deciding between a start-up and a corporate job, you’ll need to evaluate the benefits the company can offer you. Are you seeking mentorship from more experienced colleagues? Or would you rather have the autonomy to make things happen?

Do you want: guidance?

Corporate jobs are better suited for workers who prefer the security of having a strong and experienced managerial team. Your bosses are subject matter experts who can help you further develop your skills and become better at what you do. You’ll also be able to reach out to colleagues in diverse roles for useful advice and new ideas to enhance your learning.

Do you want: to learn as you go?

However, if you are an independent problem-solver and wish to become a vital member of a dynamic and close-knit team, a start-up environment is where you would prosper. A start-up workplace will offer opportunities to build more capabilities and drive real value for the firm. Smaller and newly minted companies also often lack the necessary resources to tackle business problems, which gives you the perfect opportunity to impress your bosses and co-workers with your initiative and creative solutions.

There is no right or wrong answer

Depending on your personality and ambition, working at a start-up and in a corporate environment will provide different yet equally attractive benefits to your career.

Chief strategy officer and chief marketing officer at EMC’s Information Intelligence Group Jeetu Patel advises that you focus on the employer – regardless of whether it’s a start-up or a corporate enterprise.

Many global companies are slowly adjusting their culture to be more innovation-led, where every employee can pitch new ideas that support business growth. In fact, some highly attractive employers are global firms but have a start-up culture that encourages ideation and creativity.

Ultimately, it is vital to choose a firm that is not only a good fit for your competencies, values and aspirations but also allows you to enjoy your line of work.

This article is contributed by Randstad Singapore.

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