by Katherine Halek
Stability, security, certainty – these are three motivations that trap many corporate workers in their cubicles when they would rather pursue an alternative career path. Opportunity, creative power, and freedom seem to only come at the price of the other three.
Quitting your job to work at a startup often means a pay cut, longer hours, fewer benefits, and no guaranteed longevity. So should you embrace the opportunity to work for a startup? Is the trade-off worth it?
Creative Benefits of Joining a Startup
In small companies, individuals have more of an opportunity to make meaningful contributions. This means getting hired for what you do best, and being trusted to perform that job without strict limitations or bureaucratic protocols. Your work will make a splash in small pool rather than dripping untraceably into a lake.
Not only will you be freer to fill the role you actually want to fill, you will also frequently be presented with the opportunity to take on responsibilities outside your skillset and expand your knowledge. The training comes from jumping in, testing your limits, and receiving guidance from motivated innovators in the industry.
Startups are so team-oriented, with plenty of crossover between departments. Many of them emphasize the importance of collaborating and keeping things exciting by instigating fun office activities and company lunches.
The personal nature of startups not only allows for creative input, but professional advancement. Making a bigger contribution means receiving more recognition. Your clear performance strengths combined with the opportunity to build personal relationships can lead to rapid advancement within the company.
Even if the startup is eventually unsuccessful or you decide to move on, you will have stronger connections and recommendations through working in such a tight-knit atmosphere. The accountability for different responsibilities will prepare you for future positions and will look great on a resume. The fact that you were willing to take a risk on something you believed in will also come across as a desirable factor for other entrepreneurs who are looking for innovative individuals to join their team.
Questions to Ask Before Quitting
Even if you have a burning desire to move on from your current job and seize an opportunity at a startup, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge:
- What is the potential of the startup? How much money is being raised through venture capital, and what is the burn rate?
- Will you be personally invested in its success?
- Do your personal values align with those of the company?
- Will you be appropriately challenged in this work environment?
- Are you working with people who are smarter than you? (You should be)
- What is the worst that could happen if this transition doesn’t go well?
- Can you deal with an untraditional or unpredictable schedule?
- Is it the right time? A little more time with your current company may help you save up and prepare to take a salary cut. Sometimes roles with established companies play an enormous part in preparing you to be a successful asset at a startup.
Why You Shouldn’t Heed the Naysayers
Even if you decide to remain at your current job, you can’t be certain that you will always be financially secure. The people who say that joining a startup is risky are not incorrect—any startup could fail. But if your passion lies in a career and lifestyle that only a startup can give you, you may consider staying in a corporate job that makes you unhappy to be “failure.” It all depends on where your values and aspirations lie. If your career goals are to rise quickly to the top and make an impact, a large, established company is not the place for you.
The truth is that both come with costs and benefits. It’s unlikely you will obtain the benefits and avoid the sacrifices of both. That’s why doing what you personally think is best for your career, regardless of what other people say, is the best move you can make.
Katherine Halek is the chief content strategist at Signazon and Easybanners.com, leading online printers that provide marketing collateral for thousands of startups around the United States. Katherine enjoys writing about small businesses, e-commerce, and the ins and outs of marketing. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.