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Should I Work for a Startup?

When looking for new opportunities, you may find yourself considering the call of a startup. Startups are extremely alluring — they're often innovative and different, and they promise an exciting and dramatic atmosphere. But they aren't for everyone.

The Salary Isn't There — But the Flexibility Is

Most startups don't offer much in terms of salary or traditional benefits like a 401(k). But they do provide a certain element of flexibility — the ability to work however you want, where you want, and when you want. Those who don't normally fit into a corporate structure often thrive in these types of environments where they are still able to essentially be their own boss. 

Of course, though the flexible hours and unique benefits may be there, a startup usually isn't ideal for those with families to support. Not only is the nature of a startup unpredictable and unreliable, but this type of work culture often demands long hours, which can cause stress. Startups are usually better for individuals who can truly give their all to the business, without any outside distractions. This is why it's usually an environment fueled by young professionals just entering into the industry.

The Benefits of Getting in on the Ground Floor 

  • Being able to have an influence on the direction of the business
    As someone coming in early on, you have more of an impact on company culture than an employee entering into an established business. 

  • Getting stock options and other early investment opportunities
    If a venture is successful, minor stock options alone could be worth many times your salary and other benefits. 

  • Gain experience and professional development
    You'll be in an atmosphere that encourages growth, and you'll have an employer who's willing to invest in your career.

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Finding the Right Company Culture

Compared to established companies, a startup is an entirely different breed of animal. Startups are frenetic and fast-paced, innovative and evolving. The atmosphere of a startup — regardless of its mission statement and company culture — is going to be different.

Not only will the consequences of every action be exponentially magnified, but there will be a shared goal and a feeling of teamwork and camaraderie. Everyone in the company will be working together for a shared goal — which, at times, may seem very close and yet very far away.

There are reasons that some people are simply predisposed toward working at startups. The startup culture and environment are unique. For some people, it simply "clicks" — it's exciting, interesting and innovative. For other people, it's nothing more than a morass of stress and uncertainty. Whether you want to work for a startup depends a lot on your own risk tolerance and ability to deal with stressful situations. If working for a startup sounds good to you, then it may be a fantastic opportunity.

But if you'd rather have a 401(k) and a consistent salary, a more established company may be the better path.

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