Why it can be better to work for a startup

Admittedly, working for a startup may not be suitable for everyone. The downsides can be long hours, uncertain job security and the risk of failure. But for the right person, helping to create a business from scratch can be the most fulfilling career experience – and in the right circumstances, it can be lucrative, too.

So, what are the rewards of avoiding the big, established corporations and taking a chance on a young company that looks like it might be going places? We gathered some views from business experts and entrepreneurs.

More responsibility and opportunity

However ambitious your startup may be, it’ll probably start with a small team of enthusiastic employees, who have to do everything themselves. That can create a lot of pressure, but it also means many opportunities to step into leadership roles or develop new skills.

All of this means that a few years at a start-up can add a significant boost to your CV, giving you the chance to develop your career in multiple directions. Kerrin Sheldon writes for Fast Company about his startup experience: “Working at a startup will allow you to try on a lot of different hats, even that weird one that you didn’t think you would ever like but find out that you did.”

A greater sense of purpose

Working at a big corporation, you can sometimes feel a bit detached from any sense of mission. But at startups, CEOs mingle with the other employees, everyone can have a voice and you can have a measurable impact on the company’s performance.

As Elena Bajic, founder of IvyExec.com, writes in Forbes magazine: “There’s a big emphasis on team dynamics and work culture—which can facilitate lifelong and meaningful relationships with colleagues and mentors.”

Freedom to experiment

Big corporations are all about executing a tried-and-tested plan with maximum efficiency. But startups are about innovation: they’re usually trying to do something that’s never been done before. That’s a major challenge but also a chance to think differently and get creative.

“You’ll have lots of opportunity to dream, shift directions, and try new things,” says Ralph Specht, author of Beyond The Startup and Building Corporate Soul. “If you come up with a new solution to a problem, for example, often startups are much more open to experimenting than the average company. Employees are expected to bring innovative ideas to the table.”

Potential for a financial stake in the company

“Higher risk, higher return” is how web developer Bahadir Mezgil describes the choice between working for a startup and an established company. Many new businesses fail, and starting salaries are unlikely to match major corporations.

But many startups reward their early employees with stock options instead of high salaries. A few years of rapid growth can mean these stock options become worth “life-changing” sums of money, as Mezgil puts it. He suggests that startups can also be better places to progress your career with less office politics.

An education in entrepreneurship  

There’s no better way to understand how to build a company than to join one just as it’s getting started. Working closely with the founders will give you “an unprecedented look into the realities of entrepreneurship”, says Matt Gavin from Harvard Business School Online.

You’ll get to see what it takes to scale up a business, build a brand and hire the staff to take the company to the next level. As a result, Gavin says, “you’re able to think more like a business owner and come up with ideas that don’t just benefit you and your team, but the company as a whole”.