Do you belong at a dynamic start-up firm or are you better suited for a stable life with a corporate giant? Both paths provide you with different challenges and opportunities to grow yourself professionally, so we know it’s always a dilemma over what you should choose. After all, you spend about one-third of your adult life working, so this decision is life-changing. 

When making the decision to move, always consider your life priorities, current work and finance situation as well as long-term career strategy. The employer must be able to meet most, if not all, of your career expectations and goals. 

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before joining a startup and a big enterprise. This can help you decide which is right for you.

1. how do you want to carve your own career? 

If you are just starting out and don’t have a clear career goal yet, joining a start-up company  could benefit you. Employees in smaller organisations tend to have a more expansive remit as they need to double-hat job scopes due to their smaller workforce size.

organisational structure
organisational structure

do you want: flexibility to make your own career decisions? 

Don’t be surprised that you’ll get to try your hand at a variety of side projects and be invited to management-level meetings, even when you’re 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 silver foxes are also attracted to joining a start-up after spending a large part of their adult working life in big companies. Start-ups provide more work-life balance flexibility and new opportunities to work on projects that they’ve always wanted to try. 

Some people also tend to thrive in a start-up environment as they are highly energetic and motivated to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trends. They draw energy and inspiration from their business successes or to work on some of their past ideas that they did not get 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 have structure or already have a clearly defined career path in mind, then forget about wearing other hats in a start-up! 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 yourself 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 out as a junior marketing executive, it’s likely that you’ll make your way to become a marketing director or chief marketing officer if you demonstrate your strengths well. 

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 wish to make an immediate mark on the company or would you prefer to take a more cautious approach on how you contribute to the business? 

are you results-driven or process-driven
are you results-driven or process-driven

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 would bask in the culture of a start-up, where there is more room for flexibility to work and creativity as well as frontline innovation are valued. Nikola Otasevic, 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: thought-out strategy?

On the other hand, the management structure in a corporate company is likely to be hierarchical. As a result, there will be 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 blunder or failure. 

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

3. how can the company support your career growth? 

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

benefits of a startup vs corporate
benefits of a startup vs corporate

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 and have a full understanding of your jobs, so they’ll be able to help you further develop your skills and help you become better at what you do. You’ll also be able to reach out to your global colleagues for useful advice and new ideas that you can adopt for your role to help speed things up.

do you want: 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 provide you with more 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. 

It is vital that you ultimately 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. 

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. 

We’ve observed that many global companies are slowly adjusting their culture to be more innovative-led, where any and every employee is allowed to pitch new ideas to support business growth. In fact, there are some highly attractive employers that are global firms, but have a start-up culture that encourages ideation and creativity. 

If you’re still choosing between two, reach out to our recruitment specialists for more employer insights of what it’s like to work for your ideal employer. 

related content:

ready to work at your dream company?

browse jobs