Startup Vs Corporate Life: What’s the Difference?

When looking for a new job, the position itself isn’t the only thing you need to think about. It’s important to also consider the type of organisation you’re applying to and the environment in which they operate. Is it a startup or a corporate? Are you aware of the differences between the two? Do you know which one suits you the most?  

Startups are often seen as young, innovative, cool places to work and corporates are seen as formal, hierarchal and slow-moving. There’s no right or wrong when choosing which type you want to work in and there are benefits and downsides to both. While the startup job market has had a significant uplift with exciting new opportunities appearing across various sectors over the past decade, corporates sometimes offer more stability and security. 

This blog will give you an insight into the key differences to help you figure out whether you’re best suited for a job working in a startup or a corporate environment. 

Startup Culture Vs. Corporate Culture  

Typically, startups have a family-like culture in which innovation, creativity and individuality are valued. Many will value a flat hierarchy in which autonomy and ownership are key, and each employee has the ability to significantly contribute to the business.

The culture in a corporate, in contrast, is frequently more structured and formal. Core values are informed by the identity of the company and daily operations are governed by procedures and protocols that have been followed for years. Since there is often a higher number of employees, you’ll rarely get to know everyone in the business, and mainly interact with those in the same team or department as you.  

Common Traits Of Working In A Startup  

Fast pace and unpredictable work environment  

If you want to be part of a startup, it’s a good idea to get comfortable with some spontaneity in your work schedule. Priorities might change frequently, and you may need to be okay with not working set hours, or taking on urgent tasks as and when required. 

On the flip side, you won’t be confined to the typical 9-5 Monday-through-Friday schedule and you’ll have more excitement and variability in your work life.  As long as you get the work done by the deadline, it’s often up to you how and when you do it.  This does however require someone who has self-motivation and discipline without being micromanaged or letting the work consume their whole life.  

Transparent communication and valued contribution  

Due to the smaller size and less hierarchal structure of startups, you’ll often be allowed to freely communicate with the founders. You’ll get to know and work with them on a one-to-one level which will give you invaluable experience that you won’t be able to gain in larger organisations.  

You might be involved in the decision-making processes surrounding product development, strategies or best practices, and the contributions you make will be valued. Startups are always open to improving and finding innovative ways of doing things, so as long as you’re someone who’s creative and likes to think outside the box, you’ll be able to have a true impact on the business. Plus, some startup owners choose to reward staff by distributing equity, which means employees actually become stakeholders within the business. 

More responsibility and independence  

Working in a startup often requires you to wear multiple hats and work independently. A lot of responsibility could be placed on your shoulders and you may have numerous tasks to juggle. If you want to excel, you must be okay with putting yourself outside your comfort zone and learning on the go. Don’t worry if you make mistakes – that’s expected! It’s your resilience that counts, and how well you learn and bounce back from them to improve. 

Opportunity to develop and gain skills  

Working at a startup allows you to gain hands-on experience, and might be exposed to every side of the business, from financial operations to marketing and sales. Your hard work will likely be noticed and valued, and the organisation will probably be ready and willing to invest in your professional development. Within just a few months, you could be promoted to a more senior position! 

Common Traits Of Working In A Corporate Environment  

An impressive reputation 

A corporate will most likely be a brand that has a good reputation within its sector. It’s impressive to tell people that you work for a highly thought-of company, and may make it easier to find work within your sector in the future. If you’re looking for a role that will make an impact on your CV, working for a corporate might be the way to go.  

Well-defined roles  

Corporates will have specific roles for each employee. You’ll clearly understand what’s expected of you, and receive plenty of training. This is great if you are someone who doesn’t want to experiment with tasks outside your job description, but if you’re someone who likes to get outside your comfort zone and have more say in how your work, working at a corporate might not be for you.  

Less employee growth and contribution  

Due to the hierarchal structure of a corporate, there’s not much room for innovation or contribution to the business. They tend to stick with the systems and methods that have already been tried and tested, and are less likely to take risks.  

Career growth is still achievable, however, it might take longer than in a startup. It usually takes one or two years to achieve a promotion, and some corporates have a rigid bureaucracy that employees must go through to get to the next step.  

You’ll also rarely have contact with the executives in the company and communication about the business may be less transparent. For instance, you’ll probably only be informed on the decisions that affect your specific department.  

More job stability and security 

Corporations are often established companies that have enjoyed success in the market for a long time. It won’t depend on things like capital raises, negotiations, and angel investment. For this reason, a corporate job can sometimes offer a greater degree of stability. You’ll also likely have the traditional 9-5 work structure that will enable you to draw a clear line between work and home life.  

In contrast, startups can be riskier. 1 in 5 startups fail in the first year and this increases to 60% within the first three years. On the flip side, however, the rewards of sticking with a successful startup can be huge; you might find yourself on the fast-track to promotion, or be rewarded with valuable stock. Ultimately, it all comes down to how willing you are to take the risk. 

Finding your path  

It’s important to understand the differences between working at a startup and a corporate to ensure you make the right choice in your career. Ask yourself, what do you want out of a company? What factors are important for you to reach your career goals? Do you like having independence in your work and the ability to think outside the box? Or do you work best when you have more structure and clear guidelines to follow?  

The answer will be different for everyone. You need to take the time to think about your work style and goals to find out what type of company is best for you and your future career path.  

At GR4, we’ve plenty of opportunities within Europe’s thriving startup scene. You can search all our positions here, or get in touch with a member of our specialist team for a confidential discussion.   

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