Getting started in a career can be a big step for anybody. Your first job in tech can define your career in the industry or it can be enormously underwhelming or demoralising. So before handing out your CV to any company offering a salary, you have a decision to make. Do you start your life of employment learning the ropes in a startup or do you go through 10 interviews for one job role in a larger corporate company?
We can’t make the decision for you, but we can certainly give you some of our best tech tips when choosing your first job in the industry!
Things To Consider
When looking for a new job, there is usually more to it that meets the eye. You’ve noticed a few job posts that meet your particular skillset, but there’s a few things to consider when deciding on your new position:
Working in a flexible work environment isn’t for everybody. Some employees need structure, while others need freedom. There’s a vast contrast on this factor between corporate organisations and startups.
Corporate companies will have more structure in their processes and tasks and will assist new employees with more hands-on training to prepare the candidate for their new position. Your hours will be fairly fixed and doing well at a big corporate company will look nice on your CV, which will improve your chances of moving up into senior management when the time is right. The thing about a corporate company? The rigid environment has the tendency to kill creativity as tasks get tedious and employees become demotivated.
Working for a startup will see you performing many roles in the company. Each member of the team is expected to maintain a consistent level of contribution to the smooth running of the organisation. This flexibility enables members of the team to become decision-makers, allowing for quicker resolutions to be made, removing the barriers of having to gain approval from the many positions above. This doesn’t work for everyone though, as not all employees can fit the role. They prefer to get on with their duties and stick to it.
The size of a company has a large influence on the type of impact you have on the organisation. It’s often the case when fresh graduates have just completed their qualification and arrive at a company expecting to make a significant impact in some way or the other.
If you want your opinion heard (most times at least), then joining a startup is a great way to express your views. Often enough, your viewpoint on a topic, task or an issue can contribute to the teams’ way of thinking about it. You will also receive valuable feedback from your colleagues that can potentially help improve your own work. The company culture of a startup facilitates a learning and improving environment while also giving employees a sense of belonging.
On the other hand, you might just become another nametag while working at a corporate. Being governed by company policies and seeing different faces each day tends to make people more conservative in the workplace. In order to have your ideas taken into consideration, it needs to pass through several hands before it’s seen as valuable. Sitting in the right seat will help, i.e. managers, supervisors, etc. If you’re looking to work at a corporate company, prepare yourself for a long haul up the ladder as you try to grow your importance in a company.
It’s difficult to find any candidate whose main goal is not to grow within a position as well as improve their own skillset. Everybody starts as a junior, but nobody wants to stay a junior. Learning new skills is important and not every company is able to give their employees their full trust and backing to be able to grow where they are.
You may be looking to stay at a company for several years and perform one specific job role, slowly moving up the ladder in your field. While your responsibilities and tasks won’t change as frequently as it will in a smaller company, working for a corporate will help enable you the opportunity to master your job function. Naturally, corporates have a larger pool of resources which helps break down barriers of having to find the best performing tools at the best cost available. When working for a corporate company, most employees won’t need to worry about decisions regarding costs or anything outside of their role. Even within an employees role, there is usually someone else who is responsible for these decisions, allowing you to focus on the operational aspects.
It’s not to say that employees can improve more effectively in either a corporate company or a startup, but certain individuals tend to thrive in different environments. Not only does a startup teach you valuable lessons about building a company, but you’ll also end up learning a large variety of skills. The size of the company means that there are usually only one or two people in a department, leaving the bulk of the tasks that need to be done up to fewer people. An environment like this can bring its own pressure. Having to juggle many responsibilities and deliver on time will either see you prosper or crumble. One moment you’re a junior web developer, the next you’re designing the full back-end of a platform for your large scale clients.
Startup Or Corporate?
Not everybody has the luxury to be able to choose what company they wish to work for. More often than not, candidates tend to take whatever job they can get, as long as it matches their basic criteria. Usually, this criteria revolves around work hours, monthly salary, location and travel time as well as the benefits and allowance packages that come with the job. Your first job can make you as a professional or it can break you. This can happen no matter what company you work for, you just need to decide which one you would rather have do it to you.
Why join a Startup?
If you’re a young person who is able to work in a flexible environment, yet still deliver quality work in a timely manner, then a startup is a great choice. The lack of structure, as well as the size of the company, provides a great foundation for employees to go on to be able to start their own businesses. You learn fundamental entrepreneurial skills and you can go from being the intern to becoming the Go-To Guy in next to no time. Your accomplishments are more visible at a startup and you have more room for creative freedom. This gives you the chance to experiment with the way you solve problems and complete tasks, serving as one of the many ways you end up learning new skills. Also, startups have relatively flat structures allowing for an autonomous environment and an enjoyable company culture.
While you may learn a variety of new skills and gain plenty of knowledge, doing too many things at once can easily derail your focus. At a smaller company, you tend to learn new skills at a faster rate than you have mastered the previous. This may result in you missing several important steps or lacking key knowledge factors for this new skill to be used efficiently. Joining a startup can be a risky decision though. The company’s future is uncertain and there are many factors that influence job security at a startup. With less structure and micro-management in the business, it’s easy for several members of the team to fall victim to complacency. If all members of a startup aren’t pulling their weight, the impact on the business can be extreme.
Why join a Corporate?
Some of us need structure. We need processes and we need somebody leaning over our shoulders managing our priorities. Not all of us can learn on the fly and it is highly important to some of us that we take baby steps while learning new things – before we end up costing our companies some of their biggest clients. While not having to worry about every aspect of your job department, you will have more time to focus on the things that you’re actually employed to do. You might need to raise the issue with your colleagues in yours or other departments, but you won’t need to do their work just so your work can be done effectively. This allows you the opportunity to specialise in your chosen field and fully develop your expertise.
Being around a consistent professional environment can also be beneficial if you’re looking to grow into a management position. The things you can and cannot say in a work environment will be drilled into your head as you also develop valuable strengths in leading and managing teams.
The issue with this, however, is the fact that becoming a specialist, an expert or an authoritative figure in a corporate company does not happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen over many nights and unfortunately for some people, it never happens. Working for a corporate company can often lead to many long years without making a significant impact. An impact on the organisation or an impact on yourself. Although you may earn tons more money, the constraints on creative freedom as well as the rate at which growth happens at a corporate company will often have many employees feeling like just another cog in the wheel. Not everybody is cut out for it.
Spread Your Wings And Fly
Although a major factor, the decision to join a corporate or a startup shouldn’t only be reliant on your career goals. Choosing the company you wish to work for should also align with the type of person you are. At the end of the day, the chances of you thriving in your role in the company depend on whether you actually like being there. Whether it’s the environment, the people or the work you’re doing, all of these factors have an influence on your daily motivation, regardless of whether it is a startup or a corporate.