Career Advice

Career change: Should I join a startup or a corporate giant?

In this article, we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of startups versus corporate jobs, and discuss how various features of each might suit your personal preferences.

Career change: Should I join a startup or a corporate giant?

Whether you're pursuing a career in project management, IT, or code, considering a change invites a crucial decision: should you opt for a startup or a corporate job? This choice can significantly shape your professional life, impacting everything from your day-to-day responsibilities to long-term career prospects. In this article, we explore the differences between the two dynamics, looking at compensation structures, the potential impact you can have, learning opportunities, and the differences in management styles and career prospects. 


Startups are often smaller and still striving to find their financial footing, meaning you’re more likely to start on a lower basic salary. You are also far less likely to be offered additional benefits such as healthcare, pension, and extras like discount cards. However, depending on how quickly the company succeeds in its industry, there’s capacity to progress through salary bands much sooner than you would in a corporation.

On the other hand, corporations generally offer greater salary security and a range of perks. Although you may not start on a huge salary, it’s more likely that they’re able to comfortably offer more than a small business. The security of working for a stable company and knowing that there’s opportunity for career growth may also be a huge draw. In addition to these advantages, corporations often have a pension scheme in place as well as benefits such as onsite gyms, cycle to work schemes, discounts on food and drink, and even discounted private healthcare.


For newly certified professionals eager to dive into hands-on projects, a startup role could be a great option. Often startups encourage an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality due to the fact that they’re somewhat under pressure to get their business off the ground. This is a fun, inspiring atmosphere to work in for professionals who are keen to make a big impact and use their unique skillset to feel as if they’re making a significant contribution in their industry.

Corporate settings might offer a slower pace where your voice may feel less heard initially unless you’re involved in major projects or occupy a senior role. This can be appealing for those who prefer a structured environment with ample training and a more measured introduction to their roles. Day to day, it may also give you more space to get through your to-do list without being pulled in to perform ad hoc tasks.

Learning opportunities 

When it comes to learning new skills, both startups and corporations are great for professional development, but in different ways.

When you join a startup, it’s likely that you’ll be assigned tasks that aren’t strictly tied to your existing professional skills or job description, due to the collaborative nature of a startup structure. For some, this could be a major drawback. However, if you’re willing and excited to learn new skills, ways of working, and industry idiosyncrasies, startups are a great way of rapidly expanding your technical knowledge and transferable skills.

Similarly, working for a corporation is an opportunity to extend your knowledge. However, it would be slightly different in that you’re more likely to learn within your professional niche and put your existing skills to use in practical scenarios. Corporations are also more likely to have established workflow processes which will give you a good indication of what makes an office department run smoothly in your industry, putting you in a good position for any similar future roles.

Management structure

In a startup role, you may be likely to experience management styles from professionals who have not necessarily managed people before, and the organisational structures might be more fluid, which can be challenging if you prefer a stable and predictable work environment. Lack of structured HR support in startups can also complicate handling work-related issues.

In contrast, corporate jobs are more likely to feature an established hierarchy and management practices that promote a harmonious work environment. You also may be more likely to experience management from professionals who’ve climbed the corporate ladder and therefore are more well-informed and understanding of the nature of your role.

Career prospects 

Working for a startup may mean you’ve had scope and flexibility to move up through different roles in a short space of time, meaning you could well achieve a level of seniority much quicker than you would in a corporate job. However, it’s also very important to remember that on average, almost 20% of new businesses fail in their first year, meaning you may not experience the job security that you could find in a corporate job. If you’re a person who prioritises stability, you might be better suited to a corporate job.

Working in a corporate job will provide you with a clear, industry-specific list of skills and tasks, making it easier to transition to similar roles in the future. The brand recognition of well-established corporations can also reassure potential employers of your experience and training.

Both startups and corporate jobs offer their own unique benefits and challenges. Your choice should be based on your personal career goals, risk tolerance, and the kind of work environment you thrive in. Understanding the differences between the two environments is key to making the right decision for your career path.


Check out Charles' career journey which helped him to land a cyber security role at industry giant, Telefónica.

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