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Why Going to a Startup Isn’t Risky

Startups!My firm does a lot of work in the startup space. Right now there is a lot of investment capital flowing into startups. That means there is A LOT of job demand at startups. I occasionally have a candidate push back on the idea of going to work at a startup because it is “too risky”. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth! Hear are a few reasons why going to a startup isn’t risky:

  1. Are You In Demand? – If you have a skill set that is in demand, like accounting, IT, programming, sales, etc., there will always be other jobs for you. In big metro markets that have a broad industry base, there are just some careers that are going to stay in high demand for the foreseeable future. If you are lucky enough to have a career in one of these fields, you can always take a gamble on a startup, and then go back to corporate America if the move doesn’t work out.
  2. Big Companies ARE NOT Safe – Ask someone who was a top performer at Lehman Brothers pre-2009 how “safe” they were because they were a top performer at a big company. The conventional wisdom that you are safer at a big company just isn’t true anymore. Large companies are often more short term focused than startups, looking closely at quarterly performance and minor fluctuations in the stock price. Big companies routinely slash big chunks from their workforce to save money. At a startup, each hire is much more “mission critical” to the success and growth of the company. Growing startups often have a vision of where they want to be several years out, and they realize that retaining good employees and hiring more are key ingredients to their success. Moreover, as job demand among startups in places like New York City has increased, startups and big companies alike are all fighting for the same talent. The result is that salaries, benefits and perks at startups are now much more in line, if not better than, big companies! Our startup clients pay aggressive market rates, and their benefits are often top notch. It’s not uncommon to see startups have liberal vacation policies, 100% coverage for medical, catered lunches, gym memberships, and work from home policies. I even have one company that pays for employee vacations!
  3. Startups Get You a Pass – Because startups are perceived as inherently more risky, and their life cycles can be shorter (lose funding, get acquired, etc.), if you have short employment stints with a few startups, you won’t necessarily be labeled a “job hopper”. In fact, I have many contacts who go from startup to startup, staying only for a year or two at each, because they like to do the “set up” work associated with implementing an accounting system, setting up an initial budget, or helping a company secure funding, etc. These people have become serial startup junkies because they like the early stage dirty work, and companies are more than happy to hire them for their specific knowledge and expertise.
  4. Startups Might Just Be More Fun – Study after study about employee satisfaction ranks startups as some of the most satisfying places to work. While not all aspects of a startup are fun and games, they do offer a great opportunity for people who want to have a visible impact on their employer. They are also great places for people who want to broaden their skills and responsibilities. Unlike big companies that have very defined and limited job parameters, startups offer the ability to “wear many hats” and get involved with a lot more. This cuts both ways — some days you might shovel the sidewalks, and other days you might be making a key strategic decision for the company. Many startup employees I know love the idea of working in a casual office setting with a bunch of motivated people working towards a common goal.