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Working For A Start-Up: Pros & Cons

Posted: August 14, 2012

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With the rise of female entrepreneurs in India small-businesses are flourishing like never before. Is working for a start-up good for you?

By Nisha Salim

It is a common belief that working for a start-up may not be as secure as working for an established company. Is there any truth to this? Is working at a start-up a good idea or does an established company offer better job satisfaction? Does the size of the company really matter when it comes to your career? What are the most noticeable differences between working for a start-up as opposed to an established company? A few women who have chosen to work at start-up companies talk about their experiences.

Motive for joining start-up companies

What is it that prompts people to join a start-up company, especially if they have previously experienced the comfort of working at a stable job?

Anne John used to be a Software Engineer with Cognizant Technology Solutions before she joined as the Content Manager at our very own Women’s Web. She was looking for a career change and eagerly took up the offer at Women’s Web though Software Engineering and Content Management couldn’t be more different from each other.

The primary reason for joining this start-up was interest.

Gayatri Goswami, Copy Editor at Fingerprint Press, was a history teacher before she took up this job. “The primary reason for joining this start-up was interest. I had been interested in getting into the publishing sector for quite some time. Therefore, when the Fingerprint Press opportunity came by, I did not hesitate to take it up,” says Gayatri.

Financial compensation at start-up companies

Gayatri is of the opinion that a start-up company salary is not as low as people commonly perceive it to be. “While start-ups do tend to apparently pay less, with me the issue has been a lack of experience in the said field. So not only am I working in a start-up but I am also new to the publishing industry. Having said that, the pay is not that low. It’s not threatening the required level of financial stability as far as I am concerned,” clarifies Gayatri.

Anne had saved some money while she was working for the MNC, so she has a small backup to fall back upon in case she needs it at any time.

Neha Gupta, a general physician who launched her own start-up company, Buzzing Books, feels that women are uniquely placed to take advantage of the opportunity to work in start-up companies. “If a woman is not the primary breadwinner, she can boldly experiment with her career and test new waters. She can put her own aspirations first and financial stability second,” opines Neha.

Does previous work experience matter for working at a start-up?

Those who switch careers from a big corporate to a small start-up often find that their earlier work experience significantly contributes to their new job. “I brought with me a certain degree of professionalism from my previous job. This is very essential to a start-up because given the limited resources, it is extremely difficult for anyone to spend time and money in coaching/training and following up with new employees,” explains Anne.

Benefits of working for a start-up company

Usha Muthuswamy, who works for a start-up called SearchnScore, joined the company because she wanted to improve her skills, for better career opportunities in the future. Start-ups indeed do provide a great learning environment. At a big company, you may have to wait years to get to a position with significant responsibilities and ownership, but not so at a start-up. Start-ups have a flat hierarchy, and all ideas are considered seriously.

I love the fact that my work gets instant recognition. Whatever I do – or don’t – is immediately acknowledged. I can personally see that my work actually counts for something and that I am trusted with a lot of work that directly affects the functioning of the company. There can be no getting lost in the crowd here – because there is no crowd to get lost into! There is also a great level of transparency because the hierarchies are much smaller in start-ups,” says Anne.

Experience is the single-most important value-add that everyone hopes to take away from their stints at start-up companies.

For Gayatri, apart from the fact that she is able to take up multiple responsibilities, the general work atmosphere is also a significant advantage. “Being a part of a small team means that official interactions are also much more open, genuine and honest. The work place atmosphere is cleaner and vibrant,” adds Gayatri.

Experience is the single-most important value-add that everyone hopes to take away from their stints at start-up companies. Start-ups require you to take up challenging responsibilities and learn skills which you otherwise would not have. Employees must be driven and self-motivated to be able to keep pace with that of the company. Naturally, these qualities carry over to the next job and can significantly enhance your performance.

Is everything hunky-dory when working at a start-up?

Are there no negatives in working for a start-up? “The only negative experiences so far while working with start-ups did not have anything with the start-up companies themselves, but were the reactions of some family members and friends. Many people still can’t understand why I would leave a well-paying corporate job and join a start-up and many openly wonder about the money factor,” says Anne.

Gayatri too has had no negative experiences in her stint so far. Moreover, her family was always supportive about her taking up the job.

It feels nice to have other people acknowledge and appreciate the great work that can be done at start-ups. As Anne concludes, “I’ve had several people tell me that they admire my work and appreciate what I do. In fact quite recently, someone whom I respect a lot commented ‘You have a wonderful job! After 8 years of Software, wishing if I had a job like yours!’ Quite a morale booster!

You may get fat salaries and bonuses at established companies, but the satisfaction of working at a start-up company cannot be underestimated. The bottom line is that start-up companies give you a much broader and more challenging work experience and it almost always is worth taking a risk.

*Photo credit: Victor1558 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

Nisha Salim is a self-employed writer and a social media junkie.

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