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Startup or Corporate Life?

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by Sunyoung Kye

At Northwestern University, business means finance and consulting. Recruiting season happens quickly and on a tight schedule. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan come to campus in the fall and McKinsey, Bain and BCG come in the winter, and to some, these firms are the end all, be all. But there are other options.

These firms often serve large clients with similar prestige and name recognition, and these client companies are also hiring. After all, students usually leave consulting and finance jobs after the first two years to go work for these clients. Why not skip two intensive years of long hours or traveling and jump straight into corporate life? Or better yet, become an entrepreneur and pave your own career path at a startup.

Working at a corporation and working at a startup are two very different experiences but rooted in the same principles. When did Facebook stop being a startup and become a corporation? Its goal as a startup to connect students with one another has not changed but has merely expanded to connect more people and provide more value. Is Facebook still a startup? Then what about Google? Or Netflix?

All companies have to start somewhere, and so do college students. Most companies start small, with employees who contribute a little bit of everything in every area of expertise. One employee might research, create and implement a marketing plan, whereas larger companies do not expect one employee to do all three. At a startup, each employee contributes something that affects the core business, but at a corporation, each employee contributes a fragment of something that could potentially affect the core business.

This is the trade-off for the tremendous resources that an established corporation offers. In order to have fully-stocked fridges of food and drink 24/7, extensive training programs and high salaries with health benefits, someone must manage each and every detail without mistakes. This means a structured learning environment, but with bureaucracy and limited mobility.
At a startup, there is no such thing as fully-stocked fridges or great health benefits, and they generally do not have established training programs either. But at a startup, every employee sees the work that they do from start to finish. And the personal development comes from firsthand experience when the company does not have a marketer and the financial officer has to try his or her hand at marketing or the CEO has to run operations with the intern when another employee calls in sick.
So you have to decide, whether the bureaucracy and niched job position at a prestigious company with the salary and structured environment is worth your while; Or whether you want to take the risk of working at a startup that could fail, but with the personal and professional development opportunities of a lifetime.