There was a time when scoring a first job in a big corporation was considered an early career triumph. Today, times have changed, and so have perceptions of success. “I want to promote those who have the courage to fail,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the launch of the Start-Up Action Plan in January 2016.
India is transitioning from a 9-to-5 work culture to a start-up environment, where employees are consciously forgoing stability in exchange for the promise of accelerated growth. According to Nasscom, start-ups accounted for 80,000 jobs in 2015 while the number of active investors in start-ups more than doubled from 220 in 2014 to 490 in 2015. The media is awash with stories of how bright young IIT and IIM graduates are leaving well-paying jobs to turn entrepreneurs.
As a new graduate looking for work, you need to ask yourself – are you ready to take risks or are you more comfortable with safe rewards?
Here’s how to know whether you are suited for a corporate job or start-up:
Are you set on a career path or are you still looking?
Unlike in established companies where responsibilities are clearly defined, employees in a start-up are expected perform several roles at once. With fewer people on the team, everyone is expected to pitch in wherever needed. This can be great when you have no idea what you want in a long-term career. Learning first-hand what you enjoy doing by performing multiple tasks will help you arrive at a more focused job description later on.
However, if you already know the role you aspire to or career path you wish to take, a corporate job may be more suitable. With its structured workflow and specific deliverables, you’ll be able to hone your skills without being sidetracked with additional responsibilities.
What do you need to succeed?
In a start-up, chances are your boss won’t have much more experience than you do. You’ll be thrust into a leadership position before you’ve had a chance to be mentored yourself and may need to rely on your instincts and self-learning to master the tricks of your trade.
In a corporate job, on the other hand, you’ll have a great deal of handholding in the early years.
So ask yourself – how do you learn best? If you’re comfortable with trial-and-error, you may not need a corporate job to succeed. On the other hand, if mentoring and systems will help you advance into the position you want, a big company may be your best bet.
Do you want to make an impact…now?
Do you find it frustrating when you’re not involved in decision-making processes? That’s what happens when you start at the bottom in a strictly hierarchical corporate structure. In a start-up, owing to its size and newness, you’ll be given more authority and visibility.
Are you a risk-taker?
Start-ups are risky because you’re building something from nothing. If the company receives funding, salaries will be raised and you may inch towards your market rate. However if the start-up doesn’t do well, you’ll be out of a job when the company runs out of money. It’s disheartening, but remember – you are in the early stages of your career, so it will be easier for you to move on.
A corporate job, on the other hand, involves little risk. So if you don’t have the stomach for uncertainty, this may be the right choice for you.
Are you flexible about pay?
Compensation is a key differentiator in the start-up versus corporate job debate. Many start-ups offer intangible perks, such as flexibility and a unique culture, in place of a steady income and benefits. And while the likelihood of you being offered equity or ownership of the company is higher with a start-up, to make a financial killing, you need to be among the first few employees. Who could forget Infosys, who is well known for making its early employees millionaires, so much so its drivers, electricians were among the few who made it big.