• Laura WP

Answering This One Question Can Tell You Whether You Should Join a Startup

This post originally appeared on my Influencer Channel at linkedin.com/in/laurawp on April 26, 2018.

Yesterday I spoke on a career panel at Stanford with two other entrepreneurs and one of the topics that came up was how to know what type of job to take after graduation. Should students join a big company? A startup?

There are lots of arguments for and against joining a startup vs a large company. For example, with a startup you might get more responsibility and have the chance to get in on building something from the ground floor. With a large company, you might get more stability and the chance to have bigger reach in your work.

But I think the choice can best be made by asking yourself one simple question:

Do you prefer to learn from others or to learn by doing?

If you prefer to learn from others, you should take an opportunity at a large company where you’ll likely have a more seasoned manager, more defined goals and objectives, and the opportunity to seek and find mentors.

If you prefer to learn by doing, you should take an opportunity at a startup where you’ll likely be tackling challenges that are new for the organization, and experimenting, failing and iterating daily as you build.

Most of my career has been in startups because I’m definitely a learn-by-doing person. And along the way I’ve seen really talented people lured by the promise of responsibility and impact at a startup ultimately leave their roles burnt out -- not because they didn’t have what it took to be successful but because they were learn-from-others, not learn-by-doing people, and so found the work draining instead of energizing.

Of course there are roles at large companies where you’re building something totally new, and roles at startups where there’s lots of structure in place. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

So the bottom line is, if you’re weighing your options or thinking about what types of roles to apply for, figure out if you’re a learn-from-others or learn-by-doing person and you’re much more likely to end up in a role and a company that’s a good fit.