The Pros and Cons of Working at a Startup
Deciding between joining an established company or a fledgling startup can be a tough call. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks. Bigger companies generally offer more stability and a higher salary. On the other hand, working at a startup can mean more opportunities for growth, education, and adventure than any long-standing brand.
It all comes down to your priorities and drive.
Here are the pros and cons of joining a startup so you can make an informed decision on whether it’s right for you.
The Benefits of Joining a Startup
There are already plenty of companies out there. In order for a startup to stand out from the crowd, it has to forge its own path. It won’t get far otherwise.
As an employee at a startup, you’ll be taking part in groundbreaking innovation. You can flex your creativity through fresh concepts and strategies. Very little is set in stone in a brand-new company, so you won’t run into the same “shut up and follow the rules” wall that you might find in an older organization.
If you’re the right type of person, that dynamic energy can be exhilarating — even life-changing.
Once a startup is born, it has to grow fast. If you get in on the ground floor, you can grow right along with it. As the company progresses, you’ll have a trajectory for rapid promotion that would be almost impossible at an established business.
In the traditional corporate world, the timeline for advancement is often very structured. Before any promotion, you’d probably need at least a year or two of experience in your current role. This is rarely the case with startups, though. Would you be more useful to the company in a more senior position? If so, no one is likely to worry about arbitrary time limits or even educational standards.
Prove your abilities at a startup, and you could reach job titles that would have been far beyond your grasp at any large company.
In the early stages of a business’s lifespan, every member of the team is critical. There’s no room for dead weight.
By joining a startup, you can expect that your contributions will be more meaningful than they would be at an older company. You’ll probably be involved in launching features, improving designs, attracting customers, and more. You’ll directly impact the progress of the company.
Not only is that rewarding, it also looks great on a resume. Recruiters love seeing candidates with a proven record for moving a company forward and driving growth. Even if you don’t stick around at a startup, you’ll be setting yourself up for much better job prospects after.
In a fast-growing, flexible startup, you’ll be exposed to brilliant minds, an ever-changing list of duties, and countless other learning opportunities.
Unlike at a corporation — where you could work for years without ever once speaking to your CEO — you’ll get plenty of face-to-face time with the whole executive team at a startup. You get a front-row seat to watch how a company operates from the top down.
As you can guess, that kind of insight is roughly the equivalent of getting an MBA.
Then, because startup employees typically end up covering a wide range of roles and responsibilities, opportunities for learning new skills abound. You’ll face serious challenges, and if you can keep going, you’ll only get stronger, smarter, and better at what you do.
Plus, this education is even better than just free — they’ll be paying you to learn and grow!
Just because you don’t own your own company doesn’t mean you have to have a boss breathing down your neck. Because startups generally have fewer levels of management, employees are more independent. Instead of worrying about a middle manager overseeing your every move, you’d have the privilege of taking the initiative and calling your own shots.
If you like more responsibility with less supervision, a startup might be the perfect place for you.
Some people don’t need to feel like they’re changing the world to be happy at their jobs. Many don’t even have to become too invested in their work at all as long as it pays the bills. Just show up, clock in, do whatever you have to, and go home.
But other people would feel suffocated and directionless in that kind of role. For that type of employee, startups can be a new home. At a startup, you know you’re part of something special. You can see how your work drives the company and take true pride in your contributions.
Plus, sharing that sense of purpose with your colleagues will form the kind of tight-knit team you rarely find at companies that have been around for a while. Nothing creates true unity like standing shoulder to shoulder with your colleagues and overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles together.
The perks of working in a startup can come in all shapes and sizes. Those perks may include:
- Flexible work hours
- Remote work
- Shorter work weeks
- A casual atmosphere
- A gym or other health facilities
- Recreational options
- Employee discounts and free services
- Free food (and sometimes drinks!)
There’s no guarantee that any startup you consider will have all of these options, but don’t be shocked if they offer at least a couple.
The Downsides of Joining a Startup
The benefits of joining a startup can’t be denied, but nothing in life is ever perfect. Here are some potential cons of the startup life:
Lack of Job Security
Not every startup is going to make it off the ground. Plenty of new companies go under, and there’s no guarantee that the one you join will make the transition from startup to established brand. Tech startups in particular face the threat of becoming obsolete before they have a chance to plant roots.
If job security is important to you, a startup is a risky gamble.
Still, if you join a startup and it does go under, you won’t necessarily be back at square one. No one can take the experience, education, and connections you gain away from you. Those are bound to come in handy for any future endeavors.
When joining a startup, expect long hours with few vacations. Every second is valuable to a startup, and early growth is vital. Employees often end up working 70–80 hour weeks. As you can guess, that makes having a normal life outside of your career hard, especially if you have a family. Don’t count on much of a social calendar.
But if you’re the sort of person who loves to dive into a project and give it their all, you won’t find many more rewarding lifestyles than the startup game. You’ll get to pour your energy into your work, stick with your colleagues through thick and thin, and watch a sustainable business come to life in real time.
This can be the make-or-break category for anyone considering joining a startup: In many cases, your salary will be lower than at a standard corporate position. This doesn’t have to be the case, but it is more common than not.
It just isn’t always an option for a startup to pay everyone as much as they’d like to. The founders will usually have to pump funds into operating costs, product development, and growing a customer base. They may not have a lot left over for paying staff.
However, many startups will offer equity as part of their employee compensation package. If the company is successful, you could end up earning much more in the long run than you would have with a higher salary upfront.
Joining a startup can feel like building a plane while it’s already in the air. Everything is constantly in flux, and your job description may change from day to day. More than likely, you’ll be called upon to wear many hats.
That can get frustrating and nerve-wracking fast. If you prefer structure, stability, and consistency, then startups may not be for you.
On the other hand, if you’re the sort of person who thrives on the unpredictable challenges that a startup presents, you’ll never want it to end.
Are You Up for the Startup Life?
Working at a startup isn’t all roses and sunshine, but it isn’t all headaches, either. If you have a taste for adventure, then the exhilaration of being part of a growing company can’t be beat. Once the benefits of joining a startup truly set in, all the long hours of hard work will be worth it.
So, are you up for a wild ride? If so, checking out a startup’s public organizational chart is a great way to find the right fit for you. You can find plenty of great tech startups looking for passionate employees right here on The Org. With just a few clicks, you could be on your way to your dream job — and it doesn’t cost a thing.
Let us help you build a career you can be proud of.