Startup vs Big Company. What’s Best For Your Career?

career growth job search newsletter Feb 17, 2024

Read Time: 5 min


Is a small company or a large corporation right for you?


Whether you’re job searching or considering advancing your career - it’s worth considering which is a better fit for you and how you can thrive in those environments. 


As someone who has primarily worked for startups, I've experienced firsthand the unique opportunities and challenges that come with small, fast-paced environments. 


I’ve had incredible experiences that I never would've had in a large organization.


At the same time, I ran into growing organizational pains, a lack of resources and support, and sometimes, if I’m honest, chaos!


It’s part of the fun, right? 😅


But that’s not for everyone. So, what’s better for you?


In this blog, we will unpack the pros and cons of small and large organizations, questions to gauge fit during the interview, and tips to get promoted quickly. 


Considerations for Your Job Search 


When you're job searching, you want to find the right fit.


Here are the common pros and cons for startups and large corporations:


The Startup Appeal


Pros: Rapid learning curve, diverse roles, significant impact, entrepreneurial culture.

  • Working in a small company often means wearing multiple hats, offering broader experience and faster skill acquisition.
  • The close-knit culture fosters a sense of impact and contribution, where your work directly influences the company's direction and success.


Cons: Organizational flux, resource constraints, potential for chaos.

  • With great opportunity comes greater uncertainty. Smaller firms face financial instability and limited resources, which affect job security and growth opportunities.


The Corporate Experience


Pros: Structured support, abundant resources, clear career paths, stability.

  • Large corporations provide structured career paths, comprehensive benefits, and resources for professional development.
  • The stability and brand recognition can add a prestigious layer to your resume.


Cons: Limited role flexibility, slower pace of change, potential for feeling like a small cog in a large machine.

  • Navigating the bureaucracy of a large organization can be challenging.
  • Your role might be more specialized, which can limit exposure to varied tasks and slow down the pace of personal growth.


To decide the right fit for you, consider (1) what you enjoy, (2) what you can't stand, and (3) what you need to be successful. 


Types of Interview Questions to Ask


Understanding where a company stands on the spectrum of size and culture is crucial.


We covered what you might typically encounter within an organization based on size, but it’s still important to ask the right questions during the interview process to understand what you’re walking into.


Tailor your interview questions to gauge the fit.


For Small Companies:

  1. Can you share an example of a challenge the company recently faced and how the team came together to solve it?
  2. What does success look like for someone in this position, and how is it measured?
  3. How does the company support professional development and growth for its employees?
  4. Could you describe the team I would be working with and how cross-department collaboration is facilitated?
  5. What’s the company's approach to work-life balance, and how is this supported or encouraged among the team?
  6. How does the company gather and implement feedback from its employees?
  7. Can you tell me about a project that really excited the team recently and why?
  8. How does the company celebrate achievements or milestones?
  9. Looking ahead, what are the most significant opportunities and challenges the company expects to face?


For Large Companies:

  1. How does the company's mission align with the day-to-day work of this team/department?
  2. Can you describe the leadership style within the company and how it influences the company culture?
  3. What are the company's long-term goals, and how does it plan to achieve them?
  4. How does the company support diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization?
  5. Could you give an example of how the company has adapted to recent industry changes or challenges?
  6. What programs or initiatives does the company have in place for employee development and career growth?
  7. How does the company encourage and manage feedback from its employees?
  8. What does the company do to promote work-life balance among its employees?
  9. How does the company measure success, both at the individual and team levels?
  10. Can you share a story or example that you think best represents the company's culture?


By asking thoughtful questions, you'll gain more insight into the organization's culture, perks, and challenges. 


Tips on How to Stand Out and Get Promoted


Once you land a job, you've got to consider how to stand out within the organization.


This can look very different based on the type of organization.


Here are tips to succeed in your role and ultimately get promoted faster.


In Small Companies:

  1. Be a Jack-of-all-Trades: Embrace the opportunity to take on diverse tasks beyond your job description. This versatility makes you invaluable!
  2. Initiative is Key: Propose new ideas or improvements. Small companies value employees who contribute to growth and efficiency.


In Large Companies:

  1. Specialize and Excel: Become an expert in your area. Deep knowledge and specialized skills can set you apart in a large talent pool.
  2. Network Internally: Build relationships across departments. Visibility and a broad internal network can open doors to new opportunities and promotions. 


Key Takeaways

  • Fit Over Size: Consider your work style, career goals, and the type of environment where you thrive. The company size does matter, but the fit is paramount.
  • Ask the Right Questions: Tailor your interview questions to uncover the nuances of working in small versus large companies. This will help you make an informed decision!
  • Adapt and Excel: Whether in a small startup or a large corporation, focus on adapting to your environment and excelling in your role. The path to standing out and moving up differs, but the principles of hard work, initiative, and continuous learning remain constant.


Choosing between a small and large company is a significant decision in your job search and career trajectory.


By understanding the pros and cons, asking insightful questions, and applying strategies to stand out, you can navigate this decision with confidence.


Remember, it's not just about where you fit in today but also about where you can grow tomorrow.


Here's to making informed choices and embracing the journey ahead! 


Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways we can help you:

  1. Job Accelerator Program: This comprehensive program gives you the step-by-step roadmap and live coaching that has helped hundreds of people land six-figure jobs quickly
  2. Personalized 1:1 Coaching: We'll work together to give you an accelerated job landing strategy. 

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