Working for an industry giant might be what you want, but it might not be what you need. Don’t underestimate the values of working for a startup company, especially if you’re new in entering the workforce. The experience could shape your career.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Earning an engineering degree will help you for the rest of your life?” They say this not because engineering school teaches you to be an engineer, but because it teaches you something even more valuable. It teaches you how to identify and solve problems, which at its core, is what occupies most of our day-to-day life. So, you enter to learn to be an engineer, and you leave having learned to live. Well… Startup companies are the engineering schools of the business world; the skills you learn outside of your devoted craft are the ones that will aid you throughout all your professional life.
There are a multitude of benefits you get from working at a startup that you don’t get from working at a larger organization. One difference that stands out is larger companies focus on specialization. They train employees to master one craft, and once mastered, to perform that craft over and over again. This approach can be incredibly crippling to an employee’s ability to grow, not to mention their ability to not go all Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” all over their coworkers. The nature of a startup not only encourages, but it requires employees to broaden skillsets. Having fewer employees requires individuals to take on the responsibilities of multiple positions within the company, not just their own. The atmosphere and management of larger companies is the complete opposite; their employees have specific responsibilities and many times cannot deviate from them for legal or managerial reasons.
Another fallback of larger companies is that the structure encourages competition among coworkers, rather than cooperation. This hinders the productivity of the company and the personal growth of its employees. A competitive atmosphere obstructs the channels of shared knowledge because employees see knowledge as power and will hoard knowledge hoping to use as a competitive advantage when the opportunity arises. The structure of the company forces employees to be focused on self, rather than company, which prohibits everyone from growing. A startup cannot afford such selfishness. If the company isn’t sharing knowledge and ideas, it’s not going to last. Startups thrive on shared knowledge and innovation, and when the livelihood of the company is at stake, the camaraderie comes naturally.
It’s also very easy to think a larger company is a safer option for employment. It does seem logical that a company providing retirement plans and health benefits would provide more job and financial security than a startup, but that is not necessarily the case. If you think about it in terms of how expendable you are as an employee, you will certainly be more valuable to the startup company and thus have potentially more job security. Furthermore, even though a company has money, it doesn’t mean it’s profitable; it’s possible they haven’t turned a profit in years, so do your research before jumping on board.
Lastly, and I think most importantly, startup companies are much more personal than large companies. This can be a big benefit to an employee. I often hear founders of startup companies say they are looking for “good” people. What they mean is talented, multifaceted and motivated… but they also mean, “good.” They mean “good” in the sense that, we are going to be working together towards a common goal, and we want people that we like, trust and don’t mind spending hours upon hours working together. The benefit of this more personal relationship is that your employer gets to see some of your more intangible contributions to the company that a larger employer would not notice.
So, if you are lucky enough to be faced with a decision of which job to take, one with an industry giant or one with a startup company, don’t count out the little guy that provides the potential for big benefits.
About the Author: Clayton Williamson, Creative Director – IDC Projects
I am a Game and User Interface Designer with a background in Digital Media and Sports Management. I am the Creative Director for IDC Projects where I lead multiple teams; directing all efforts toward the intended unifying mobile experience each project demands. I have worked for multiple game studios, have contributed to the development of numerous popular apps, and am on the St. Louis IGDA board of directors.