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Weigh the Risks When Choosing Your First Job

When it comes to choosing your first job or even your next job, the decision can be overwhelming, especially if being done during an uncertain economic landscape. Is it best to take a job at an establish company or risk the greater upside at a startup? Well, that really depends on where you are in your career.

Established Company  

Role is clearly defined and measured. This clarity means that the structure for promotion and job level are generally more transparent. Companies and brands that are well-known allow for a certain amount of prestige for future opportunities and an unlimited pool of networking circles. These features also lead to more red tape and less flexibility when it comes to moving up the ladder or even changing departments. You will have to search the company’s handbook for the path you need to take and follow it step by step.

Abundant training opportunities. Larger companies tend to have more structure in place for onboarding, with an emphasis put on training programs and reviews. These can be essential to growth both professionally and personally. However, this format might not lend to the opportunity to contribute or provide feedback on new systems or processes if they are already in place.

Mentors around every corner. You don’t have to go outside of your company to learn because established companies allow you to gain knowledge from experienced colleagues and mentors. Having bad role models can also teach you a lot about what not to do, and in turn, as you grow within a company, you can start teaching younger leaders. With this setup, you might not have the opportunity of figuring things out on your own if there’s always someone to mentor you. If you’re patient, navigating challenging situations yourself can be very rewarding.


Learn quickly on the job. With less resources than an established company, a startup is the ideal environment to figure out how to overcome challenges as they come up, allowing you to make impactful things happen and take on more responsibility. With a little less structure, you can explore other fields of interest and develop a broader set of skills. At a more structured company, you might still have the ability to learn and grow your expertise, but it’s going to come on a more formal path and one with fewer lessons.

Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Startups tend to tie your career progression to your impact and contributions instead of having it follow a specific hierarchy format. A 9-to-5 day might not be the norm, and working remotely is something that is offered more often than not at a startup, again at least without all the red tape in doing so. It’s essential to keep in mind that as a small organization or a company just starting out, there’s a risk that can be associated with its success and longevity because every job, and employee, matters.

Add transferable skills to your resume. With how quickly the life of a startup moves, learning a variety of transferable skills comes in droves. Since there aren’t plenty of employees to start, regardless of your “role,” you’ll be working with people who have skills you might not. If you’re someone who helps to grow a product or strategy and can showcase that progress, you’ll be able to put those skills to work across any industry. Business is business. Something is being sold, customers are buying the product, data is associated with the transaction, and operational challenges more than likely occur. Startup employees have a better grasp of how the pieces fit together.

So whether your comfortability lies in structure or learning on the go, having a clearly defined role, or creating your own path, these are important things to determine before choosing an established company vs. a startup.