Every workday for the past 15 years, I’ve spoken with graduating college students and young professionals about “what comes next” for them. How should they approach these important early years of work, laying the best foundation for the decades ahead? In particular, I’m asked a lot about whether it’s better to launch one’s career at a large company or a small company/ startup.
Welcome to Adulthood, where every decision comes with some trade-offs.
If you work for a small company, you’ll typically have more responsibility and be thrust into more exciting roles from Day One. Chances are your hours will be more flexible, you’ll have a closer relationship to each member of the team, and your personal successes will be more visible. No surprise that Wall Street has been losing young talent to Silicon Valley, and that in general, millennials are valuing culture and impact over compensation. I get it. My co-founders and I have all worked in corporate environments and appreciate the more relaxed vibe we’ve now found at our startup.
But don’t discount the value of starting out at a more established brand. At a large company, you’ll have access to more training and on-the-job education. You’ll get pulled into big moments, like photo shoots or company meetings, and learn the discipline and precision needed to make a company successful. You’ll have a larger selection of mentors and connect with a vaster network of peers who, like you, will go on to great things and become valuable contacts. Not to mention, your resume will have a strong base. You don’t have to stay forever, but putting in some time at a bigger company can be legitimizing in a way that working for a startup without name recognition isn’t.
Given my role at QuadJobs, you’d think I’d always advocate going small. And I do think small is a great choice for many young people. If you connect to the mission of a small startup, by all means, jump on board. But if you’re unsure, it may make more sense to work for an established brand to anchor your resume.