I graduated from college two years ago, and in that time established the beginnings of a successful career for myself in enterprise tech sales – an area known for being lucrative and having reasonable hours. In the two months since I left my high-paying, comfortable tech sales job in Boston and moved to Silicon Valley to join a pre-Series A startup (with no tangible product on the market,) I’ve received countless questions and rebuttals from friends and coworkers about my dramatic career switch, and the obvious risk associated.
My reasons, I realized after explaining to my family and friends, are relevant not only to me – but to anyone who is willing to pause and think about their career.
It is important for everyone, regardless of their position, to frequently evaluate and reevaluate what they want out of their careers, and be willing to make adjustments based on their current goals and aspirations.
Whether that means joining a startup, changing paths, or staying with the same job, it is important to know what you want and pursue to it.
For me, the decision was about the opportunity, and about the implications that the opportunity could have for the rest of my career.
If you’re like me, and have an itch to become a part of something new and original, and build an idea or change something in society, then becoming an entrepreneur and joining a startup can be an exciting endeavor. If you are in an early stage of your career, and are considering the possibility of joining a startup, here are a few things to consider:
- You are flexible
Once you are older with a spouse, family, mortgage, and more responsibilities, you won't have as much flexibility to take a pay cut, relocate, and accept risks. If there is ever a time to make a life-altering decision, now is that time. You can only “swing for the fences” so many times.
- It can change the trajectory of your career
Climbing the corporate ladder successfully might land you an executive position in the third quadrant of your career. Leaving a startup as an executive in your twenties will put you in a position to achieve that role much earlier. Moreover, the connections you will make in a startup, through an accelerator program, and through other entrepreneurs, hugely outweigh the networking opportunities you will find in a corporate environment.
- You will develop in a much deeper way
The growth you experience in a larger firm will be limited to product knowledge, industry knowledge, as well as various technical and interpersonal skills. In a startup you are faced with more versatile, unprecedented issues that demand improvisation, creativity, and critical thinking. Having to solve big-picture problems and manage branches of a company require a level of executive functioning that is not as frequently tapped into at established companies.
If you believe in yourself, and you believe that you have a unique skill set, and you want to see this skillset brought to an audience, then a startup is a good option. Regardless of your success in a large company, your achievements will be known primarily amongst your company, and perhaps your clients and competitors. A startup provides a platform on which you can receive more press and industry-wide recognition.
If your startup is successful, then the exit (combined with an elevated cash/equity compensation long term) will yield a higher return than the salary you would have received at a larger corporation.