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Career path – Corporate or Startup World?

Should your first job be at a startup or in the corporate world?
This will be one of the first big decisions you’ll have to make after you graduate. Here’s what you need to consider.

Jon Simmons
Should your first job be at a startup or in the corporate world?
Twenty years ago, your parents would have scoffed at the idea of you graduating college only to pursue a job at a startup. Stability. Benefits. Growth. This is what they’d say to push you into the corporate world. And historically, they’d be right. Working in “Corporate America” does have its upside. Comparatively, starting your career at a startup comes with uncertainty and risk.

But the class of 2015 is ready to take this risk head-on. According to an Accenture survey, just 15% of 2015 grads said they would “prefer” to work for large corporations. Sorry mom and dad.

With about 400,000 startups launching each year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, many first-time workers are faced with a tough decision: Should I go the safer route and pursue a job with an established corporation or sign with a startup?

Of course, there isn’t a “right” answer, but each does have unique benefits and challenges. What’s the better route? We spoke with career experts about what factors you should consider before making this important decision.

Think about the risks—and more importantly, the timing
Here’s what’s at stake: Usually, there’s a higher starting salary in the corporate world, but with less freedom and flexibility; in startups, your work can have a more direct and immediate impact on the organization—but then again, the company could fail.

But for many who have just graduated college, the risk of entering the startup world (lower pay, but higher pay potential and upward mobility) is one worth taking. With relatively few responsibilities compared to older employees, now is the time to take a risk, says Rebecca Cenni, founder and CEO of Atrium Staffing, a New York-based staffing firm.

“When you’re more established and settled in your career, switching to a startup from a place of stability can be a bit riskier as no one knows where that startup will end up further down the road,” she says.

Think about the environment you thrive in
Cenni also emphasizes that roles and responsibilities can look much different between startup and corporate worlds. At startups, due to the typically low number of employees, workers often are exposed to a variety of duties, whereas in a corporate environment people usually have more clearly defined roles.

Which one is for you? Consider what environment you’d be happier in. “You have to go with what feels right and pick what will make you most personally fulfilled,” says Cenni.

Think about what matters most to you
Managing partner at Boston-based consulting firm Cahill Swift, George Gilpatrick trains students across the country on the differences between corporate and startup culture. Above all, Gilpatrick asserts that millennials want to be heard.

“Millennials tell me they want flexibility in work schedule, but they really emphasize professional recognition as a workplace desire and want to be included in the discussions and feel like they are heard,” he says. “This can actually cause clashes in corporate settings as entry-level people want to be included in discussions and strategies that are not necessarily within their job description.”

Ultimately, you will have to make a decision on which path is right for you. Weigh all options, and consider which environment you would be happier in. It’s important to remember that what you choose is far from permanent. “If it’s not the right choice, make a new one,” says Cenni.

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