Should I Work For a Start Up After Graduation?

College is an amazing four years of your life that prepares you for your future. You make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime and learn a ton about yourself and the major that you are studying. When you are in your final year you begin to really feel the pressure to find a job. This can be a very scary idea for many and there is a lot to think about. The biggest decision is to figure out if you want to work for a start up or corporate job. This can set the tone for the rest of your career.

You should join a start up if you are ready to take on some extra risk and want a big return. Start ups have a much higher chance of failing, but if you make it out of the start-up phase you can see huge returns. We have seen countless tech start ups sell for millions or more and you can be a part of one!

Different Types of Start Ups

There are 6 different types of start ups. Each one has a different angle that they are going after and joining the right one if critical. The 6 different types are: large business, social entrepreneur, buyable, scalable, small/medium enterprise, and lifestyle.

Large business

Large business startups are branches of a larger corporation that are expanding into new areas and want to brand themselves under a new name. If a large marketing company decides that it wants to create its own specialized department focusing only on paid online advertising, it can create a separate entity. There would be control from the parent company, but it would still be considered a start up.

Social Entrepreneur

These start ups are created with one thing in mind: creating change in the world. These are normally non-profits, but they still need to create wealth. The leaders of the organization that you may join have a drive to make a difference in the world. These cultures can be very beneficial for breeding great ideas. If you want to make a difference in the world and be in a creative environment, this may be the career path you will love.


Buyable start ups are created with the idea of being bought out by a large organization in the future. These are usually tech companies, such as software developers. They have a competitive edge over the rest of the industry and they use this to get a big payout when they sell. This industry is very competitive and you can make a lot of money if you create something that no one else can.


Creating a start up that is scalable can be a long-term play that grows over time. There is a lot of hard work that occurs in the early stages. Once the foundation is set it becomes a matter of marketing. Getting in on the early stage of a scalable business can allow you to be at the top of the company when it blows up.

Small/Medium Enterprise

This type of start up covers a lot of different businesses. There is not a defined number of employees or annual revenue, but it was created to solve a need. This range can cover everything from painting businesses to IT solution companies. These usually cover a niche area and specialize in that niche. This area may not offer a lot of opportunity to move up if the owner does not look to grow the company.


These start ups are usually hobbies that end up generating revenue for the founder(s). A great example of this is someone who likes writing deciding to start their own blog online. These are very tough to judge because there is so much variation. If the founder or founders do it without growth and money in mind, you might not get the salary or benefits that you could get receiving if you went with one of the other types.

Pros of Joining a Start up

Working for a start up can allow you to fast-track to a high ranking position and awesome salary. You will have opportunity to weigh in on important decisions, depending on the size and leadership style of the company. These decisions will help to shape the company and can help your decision making abilities grow at a fast rate.

Start ups encourage thinking outside of the box. There is a lot less “red tape” involved and communication to the top level decision makers is much more transparent. I personally work for a small team and am in direct contact with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) all day long. I have been able to make key decisions already as a relatively new employee that is changing the way we operate. There is so much that I have learned in the 6 months that I have been here and I know that I will be learning a lot more.

I also am gaining experience in running a business. We work in a small office, which means that all facets of the business are discussed daily. If you want to end up being your own boss one day and starting your own company, working for a start up after graduation is for you. There are so many decisions that need to be made and back-end work that is completed that no one will see. These decisions can make or break a company.

This experience is also going to be learned when you do not have a specific job role. Most early start ups need their employees to wear multiple “hats”. There is a need for each employee to step up when needed and fulfill job roles that they might not have been originally assigned. This can be seen as a negative, but you learn so much more than you would if you were in a set position doing the same repetitive job all day long.

The final advantage of joining a start up is the culture. There are corporate teams who have a casual culture, but there is always going to be stricter rules. Start ups usually do not have these strict rules and allow you to do what you want as long as it is productive and betters the company. There is usually a very casual dress code (you should always look presentable) and the hours that you work could be flexible if needed.

Cons of Joining a Start Up

You are taking a large risk when you work for a start up. According to Fundera: 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. If the company does not have a proper foundation and does not succeed you will need to try to find a new job. This could be challenging because your resume does not have any stand out company names on it.

When you join a large company after graduation you will be able to use the brand to open doors for other career opportunities. A great example of this is working for a large bank, such as Goldman Sachs. If you want to work for another large bank and they see Goldman Sachs on your resume there is a much higher likelihood of getting hired.

Income can also be a disadvantage if you work for a start up right after graduation. Most people graduate with thousands of dollars of debt and the payments come fast. Depending on the industry your starting salary could be lower than someone in an established company. Money is always going to be tight in start ups and it is hard to negotiate a high salary. This could be completely different for people who are joining “hot” companies, like app development. These companies come with even greater risk, but the reward is usually worth it.

Benefits can also be an issue for start up companies. It is very expensive to get benefits for all of the people who work for them. If you do not have coverage from your parents/guardians then the need for health and dental can fall on your shoulders. This is usually very expensive and should be a big factor when weighing the pros and cons.

Final Thoughts

If you are still not sure if you should work for a start up you should see if you can get an internship at one before you graduate. This will allow you to see if you enjoy the environment and culture. If you do enjoy the internship you can use this experience to continue working at the start up that you are in or go to another one with the knowledge that you gained in the last semester. If you think that the corporate life is right for you then you should chase your dreams and find the company that benefits you the most!

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