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What are the advantages and disadvantages of working for a big corporation vs a smaller company or even startup?

Hi! My name is Anina and I'm a high school senior interning at Career Village. I'm curious to learn what influenced your decision to work for a big corporation over a smaller one (or vice versa). We don't hear as much about how people go about finding/selecting the companies they want to work for in school, just about finding a career in general. Can you tell me what made you want to work at the company you do? What are the best things about working at a bigger company and what are the best things about working at a smaller one? What about a startup? Thank you very much. #business #human-resources #startups #start-ups

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Zachary’s Answer

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I decided to join a startup right out of university. We were later acquired, so now I've been working at a big corporation for just over a year. There's a few dimensions to think about when making your choice:

Personal growth: At a startup, you'll probably learn a wider variety of skills, but you may not learn any 1 skill as deeply as you would if you specialized at a big company. So far in my experience, at a big company it feels like it's easier to fall into a boring, predictable pattern and stop learning new things.

Money: If you're joining an early-stage startup, you'll probably have a lower salary than at a big company but you'll have significant equity in the company, which can lead to a big payoff if the startup takes off. You should think of this a bit like gambling, since most startups will fail.

Time: Usually, startups are more demanding of your time than big companies (but definitely not always). Since people at startups are so heavily invested in the company, I feel like they are more willing to work long hours to make the company a success.

I personally think it's smart to join a startup while you're young for the following reasons:
-It lets you try a variety of roles and skills to help you figure out what is the most fun for you.
-You have more free time to devote to long hours when you're young than when you're older and have a family.
-The risk of the startup failing (i.e. you lose your job and have no paycheck for a while) is much scarier when you're older and you have kids, a mortgage on a house, and so on.

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Steve’s Answer

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Companies move through three stages: startup, growth, and maturity. In the startup phase, you're trying to find a profitable business model. In growth, the company focuses on gaining new customers and markets. In maturity, the company focuses on profit and costs. Each of these phases has its pros and cons for employees.

Startups are exciting but have more risk. When you're trying to deliver a product to market, everyone pitches in wherever needed. Roles and responsibilities are not well-defined so you get to do lots of different jobs. However, you might not deliver a product on time or with enough revenue to pay the bills--particularly payroll--which makes potential employees nervous.

Growth companies have found their niche. They have a working product and are anxious to gain new customers quickly. These companies are exciting too but they're hectic. Everything needs to be done yesterday with limited resources and time.

Mature companies are stable but often boring. The focus on these companies is maintaining the products rather than creating new ones. Jobs are very specialized so you don't get many chances to expand beyond your current role. Mature companies often have the extras that smaller companies lack like nicer offices and furniture, better benefits, more social events like company picnics, and more flexible hours.

My advice is to go to a mature company to get some real-world skills, move to a startup or growth company to expand your responsibilities. My rule is this: move to a smaller company for titles and responsibilities; move to a larger company for money and stability.

And always try to find a company that you can believe in. You want to be proud when you tell people where you work.

Thank you for the advice! "move to a smaller company for titles and responsibilities; move to a larger company for money and stability. " <--- It makes so much sense when you put it that way. Anina H.

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Rebecca’s Answer

This is a great question! I currently work at a large corporation, but I think there can be great benefits working at any size company. Working at a large corporation like mine can be great for stability and wonderful benefits (salary, health benefits, paid time off, etc.). The downside is that since there are so many people in large corporations, it is easy to feel like just another number, though this depends on the company culture as well. Working for a smaller company can allow you to feel more connected to your coworkers and provide a closely-knit working environment. Working for a startup, while risky, can be a benefit because you are generally entrusted with a lot more responsibilities than a normal company would offer.

Rebecca recommends the following next steps:

Research benefits of working at different size companies

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Hope’s Answer

Working at a smaller company will give you the opportunity to learn and take on more responsibilities than you might at a larger firm where roles can be siloed.. Employees at small companies often find themselves performing hybrid roles that can evolve over time as business demands increase. This can be a wonderful opportunity to go beyond your current skill set and learn more about the industry, as well as grow your career along with the business. The value of working at a small firm usually comes over the long term but if you stick it out, it can be quite rewarding on both a personal and professional level.

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Kieran’s Answer

Hi Anina,
I have worked for both, large corporations and a startup. The biggest advantage of working for a large corporation is stability and resources. With a large corporation you will have the stability that company won't go out of business. You will have resources at your disposal to help you do your job from: Office Space, Office Equipment, Internal Back Office, Marketing , Sales processes, Human Resources, Stock, ability to move up in the company, Medical benefits etc.
Working with a startup is challenging and risky but will offer greater rewards. You will get Stock, you will be tasked with doing many job functions in a startup where most people to everything. So you will learn and grow more. But you will not have the back end resources that most large Corporations offer. You will however, have the opportunity to grow much faster and advance higher in a start up compared to a large corp.

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Richard’s Answer


I have worked for large organizations, small companies, and even a small startup that succeeded and went public and now has hundreds of employees. Each was a good experience and unique.

Things I enjoyed about large corporations. I liked working with many people. There were lots of resources and benefits. They had tuition reimbursement for graduate school. They had more formalized training and you knew about different roles that you could eventually grow into. I had lots of more senior people around to help coach and mentor me. It was a very stable job. What I don’t miss was that things moved slower. There was much more process and procedures. Some call that “red tape.” Sometimes waiting for approvals or the time it took to get things accomplished were delayed by the process and procedures. Ultimately, that is why I moved on to smaller companies.

At smaller companies, I may have dealt with more business uncertainty, but enjoyed getting stuff done at a much faster rate. The pace is faster and to me, it gave the environment more of an energetic vibe.

At a small startup that became a mid-size company that went public, it can be very fast paced. There is a lot of uncertainty, but you accomplish things very fast. You do a lot of different things that just need to be done. It can be very exciting, and there can be a big financial upside, if it succeeds. It is really fun to watch a company in hyper-growth. To watch it evolve and develop at such a fast rate is exciting and you learn a lot about business.

In conclusion, each experience was great, but for me I love the bigger risk with bigger financial upside that moves at a fast pace.

All the best!


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Durga’s Answer

While Big Corporation gives you the platform and visibility of being connected to prominent establishment at the same time leadership presence may become a challenge whenever there in a long hierarchy suppressing the individuals passion. Whereas working for a startup on the contrary can prove very positive in terms of exposure and ownership.