It’s a perennial question for college graduates: Should you cling to the stability of a corporate job or try for your dream with entrepreneurship?
To be sure, many young people today aren’t flush with job offers upon graduation. But for the lucky ones who do have a choice, the question of what to do is no less though. And in these rocky economic times, it’s likely an even more stressful decision.
So what should you do? Besides the obvious questions of whether a company offers healthcare and retirement options, here are five factors to consider:
Structure versus flexibility: Big companies have the infrastructure and policies to keep it running well. Your position would likely be highly structured with specific duties. There will be regular performance measures and goals for every department. Everyone is taught his or her level of authority. If rigidness keeps you focused, this may be a good choice for you.
Smaller firms, particularly startups, invent and reinvent themselves as they grow. Goals are fluid and a new opportunity can completely change the company's direction. If you like to do new things every day and you're not afraid of change, this type of company might be your best fit.
Focus versus multitasking: With a larger corporation, you’ll likely have few dedicated tasks to complete. You’ll only interact with certain people and departments and your work may have a lot of routine. Because of the company's large size, you will be able to focus on one project or responsibility and rely on others to complete their responsibilities.
A startup doesn't have enough people to allow any one person to focus on just one task or problem at a time. You may be pulled out of your current project to help another area that needs an extra pair of hands. Chances are that every day will have more projects and work than you can complete. You will have to constantly prioritize the work that needs to be done.
Plentiful resources versus not enough: Generally, large companies have the resources to meet their goals. Office equipment, supplies and services such as FedEx are available as needed. Someone comes by every day to deliver and collect mail. There's an internal team that can solve any technology problems. Legal and other support is also available.
Startups don't have enough of anything. Every dollar needs to go in about 20 different directions. Often you need to make do with limited equipment and supplies. If you're lucky, there's a computer geek on the team who takes care of problems when he or she has time.
Growth versus survival: Large corporations can go for years before they notice that they're in financial trouble. Six quarters of million-dollar losses can be absorbed without affecting anything much other than stock prices. Eventually problems will lead to layoffs, but not until they trim the travel and training budgets. The focus is on increasing revenue — and survival is assumed.
Startups, by contrast, are always in some form of survival mode. Sales are critical, expenses are carefully monitored and a decision such as attending a conference is carefully weighed. Owners know that they may be only one or two clients away from closing their doors, even as the business progresses.
Risk versus reward: Initially, the large corporate option looks very inviting. Salaries may be bigger, benefits are richer and stability is the order of the day. But over time, the potential for advancement is limited to the capabilities and structure of the firm.
At riskier startups, stability can seem unattainable, while salaries are generally lower and benefits may be nonexistent. There's no guarantee that the company will be around a year from now. But — and this is a big but — promotions can happen quickly, along with raises or bonuses. And if you can get some equity in the company, the rewards could be amazing.
What other considerations would you add? Leave a comment and let us know.