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Where to Work - An Established Company or a Startup?

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When looking for a job many people are torn between working in an established company or a startup.  This decision depends on your own preferences and comfort level.  Our team at Job Coconut have come up with a number of different facets for you to consider: 


1. Impact

In a startup it’s impossible to not make an impact.  If you’re in a very small or young company, your reach may be small but, you’ll likely be able to make a larger impact in the company because the work is being split between fewer people. 

While at a larger company, you may have a relatively small project (when compared to the entire scope of the company), and so it is much harder to exert nearly as much influence since practices are generally already established. 

2. Training and Mentoring


Large companies have become large businesses by doing what they do well.  Tapping into more experienced colleagues and best practices means you can learn a lot.  They also have experts in each department who, chances are, would be happy to help you.  They also have better funding for resources such as specialist training schemes or additional qualifications.

Startups will generally not have the luxury of these resources.  However, many fast-growing startups want to train in their new hires as quickly as possible and so your learning curve can initially be steep.   While in established companies it can take a few months to train in and start being productive, startups need their new hires to be productive as soon as possible. 

3. Specialist/ Generalist


With a large company comes a huge breadth of departments.  You are normally expected to have a defined job specification, so be sure to know exactly what area interests you before you start applying for jobs.  With this, you don’t learn every aspect of the business in which you operate. 

At a startup there are more opportunities for the generalist (people that have an interest more than one field).  You can be expected to be a Jack-of-all-trades.  For example; handling the sales, marketing, recruitment and finance for the company. 

4. Financial Incentives and Perks


With low pay very much the norm at a startup, chances are the office cleaner earns more per hour than you do.  Working for a start-up requires a long-term view on earning potential.  Except in very rare occasions like Facebook or Dropbox, you shouldn’t expect to make a killing. 

In general, a startup can’t really compete with the material perks of working for established firms.  However, some startups can offer some innate perks such as ownership, transparency, culture and collaboration. 


6. Brand Recognition


Most startups are not recognised as widely as “Dropbox” or “Spotify” so there can be a deficit of brand recognition.  Alternatively, having a well-known

company on your CV can open a lot of doors, especially if you want to move within the same industry. 

For example, if your CV has 3 startups listed as work experience, and then one big one.  Chances are that in an interview they will ask you about your experience in the company they are familiar with. 

7. Environment

Working for a large company is usually a less volatile environment than a start up.  Corporates tend to have a more steady work pace than a start up.  Being more established and slower, drama occurs less often and, even when it does, it’s less stressful being a small cog in a large machine.

Startups work at a much faster and sometimes more hectic pace.  You are generally expected to work longer hours than your corporate counterparts.  A high-energy startup environment can be stressful at times (like when the site breaks) but also more exciting.  This variant environment only appeals to certain people.


8. Risk

Working at a startup is riskier.  The startup likely isn’t profitable, and probably only has at most 12-18 months worth of money in the bank (this is called the startup’s runway).  If the company does well, the CEO will raise more money and extend the runway.  You’ll still have a job and each round you’ll get a salary closer to the market rate.  If the startup doesn’t do well, you’ll be out of the job when the startup runs out of money. 

If you have the stomach for risk, and perhaps favourable health/finance situations, immediately after college can be a good time to start with a startup. The lower initial income will feel natural after college finances, and the long hours can seem like the cram sessions you’re used to. 

Happy hunting from all at Job Coconut!

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