Startup vs. Corporate – Which is better for a successful marketing career

Startup vs. Corporate – which is better for a successful marketing career - Elif Hiz

Are you trying to decide whether you should work for an established marketing company or a startup? 

Want to know the pros and cons of working in marketing at a startup vs a corporation from someone who has been there?  

If you’re trying to grow your career and you’re not sure whether the corporate or startup route is the right fit for you, then you’re in the right place! 

There’s nothing worse than spending hours applying for a job, going through rounds of interviews, getting the job, and then realizing that it was nothing like how you imagined it to be. 

Having worked in the corporate world with two large companies in Turkey (very early in my career) for a little over three years, deciding that it really was not for me, then working for startups later on, I’ve had my fair share of experience in both the start up and corporate world – and can say with confidence that working in a startup vs. a corporate environment is very very different. 

So how do you decide which option is better for your marketing career? 

I’m glad you asked because, in this blog, I’ll be sharing what it’s like working in a marketing role at a startup vs. a corporate company and the pros and cons. 

Jump Ahead 

Working in a Startup Environment

Working in a Corporate Environment

Conclusion

Working in a Startup Environment

If you don’t know about my marketing journey and how I went from studying Political Science to working for numerous large corporations and startups, and everything in between, you might want to check out my LinkedIn profile or video on my channel where I talk about my background and my professional experiences – that is, only if you’re interested of course. 

Group of Person Sitting Indoors

But if you’d rather skip ahead and learn more about whether a marketing role at a startup or established corporation is better for you, then read on.

Having to wear multiple hats 

The number one differentiator when you work for a startup vs. a corporation is that you are most likely going to wear multiple hats when you work at a startup

Yes, you will be applying for one role. But, once you enter the company, there is a high chance that you’re going to wear multiple hats and take on additional responsibilities that will require some flexibility. You might also have to work alongside different teams and help them out with what they’re doing. 

Man Wearing Black and White Stripe Shirt Looking at White Printer Papers on the Wall

This can turn out to be a great experience if you’re someone who’s in the phase in their lives where they are just starting out or if you’re really eager to learn a lot of new skills and acquire new skills that you wouldn’t otherwise acquire if you were working in a different environment, like perhaps in the corporate world. 

However, if you don’t pace yourself and end up taking on too many things, wearing multiple hats can get exhausting fast. 

The Fast-Paced Nature 

In a startup environment, things happen very quickly, and people move much faster than they would in a corporate company. There’s often a high turn around rate as people learn new skills, want a raise, they’re offered another job, and move on to the next challenge in their careers. 

In addition, decisions are made faster, and challenges come your way much much quicker than you would get in a different environment. 

Person Writing on the Notebook

Working in a fast-paced environment means that you will likely have the chance to move up the career ladder much faster than in the corporate world, where there are more process structures and a more defined hierarchy. 

If you enjoy the idea of moving up the corporate ladder quickly and hustling, then a startup role may be for you. 

However, if you do not feel like you can make decisions quickly or would enjoy work in a fast-paced environment, then a startup environment might not be the best thing for you and your wellbeing. 

The Ambiguity 

There is going to be a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty in a startup environment, and this often means that you’ll have to figure things out on your own.  

You won’t necessarily be handed reports to fill in and told about tools that have already proven to be the best tool for the company, but instead, you will have to be the person who goes out of their way to do the research, experiments with things that work and things that don’t, sometimes create things from scratch, develop a process from scratch, and also get people on board with that idea. 

Question Mark Illustration

If you’re a self-starter and enjoy figuring things out as you go without much guidance, then a startup environment might be a great place to learn a lot from and grow. 

But of course, not everyone thrives in situations where they have to experiment and go through a lot of trial and error before producing results. If you like more structure and the certainty of knowing what you’re doing will yield results, then a corporate environment might be an environment worth considering. 

Working in a Corporate Environment 

Just like working in a startup environment has its pros and cons; working in a corporate environment has its ups and downs.

Structure & Stability

The number one thing I liked about working in the corporate world was the stability, the sense of stability, and the sense of comfort you get from that stability.  

Unlike in startups where you typically wear multiple hats and get to try different things to see what really works in a corporate environment, your role is generally more defined, you know whom to report to, and you know what you need to be working on when which can create this great feeling of stability. 

However, with that structure and stability also comes the office politics and the hierarchy that can be frustrating, slow, and very boring to work with – at least, that was my personal experience when I joined the first corporate company in the construction industry.

Photo of Three People Smiling While Having a Meeting

Imagine being twenty-one years old, very keen to learn, and ready to change things but discovering that to do that you have to deal with office politics, hierarchy, and hurdles only to fall short of convincing people to agree with your vision for change.

If you’re anything like the twenty-one-year-old me was, and hate the idea of being stuck in a slow-moving environment with a lot of office politics, rules, and systems, then consider whether you would really enjoy a working in an environment that might be more rigid and structured than what you’d get at a startup. 

Resources Available & Opportunities 

The other thing that I liked about working in  corporate companies compared to startups (especially startups in their early stages, which are very restrained in budget and more careful with spending) was the number of resources that are made available to you

Whether that be working with many different team members, working with third-party sources, or the budget that you get to spend on your activities and strategy, the number of resources available in corporate environments is often varied and plentiful

Photo of Men Having Conversation

If you’re not in the company as the manager yourself, working with many different team members could mean having a leader, managers and directors that you directly report to, and experts who have often been there for years, which you can learn a lot from. 

Plus, because your job description is much more defined than it would be in a startup environment and you have several experts whom you can learn from, in a corporate environment, you have the opportunity to specialize in the field and the specific role that you’re assigned to which can be exciting if you want to grow within a particular area. 

But if you’re someone who is interested in getting their hands wet in different things and not so keen on specializing, then working in a startup environment might be something you would want to consider instead. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, whether you go for a marketing role in a startup vs. corporate environment really depends on your priorities, personality, and the timeframe that you are in within the course of your life.

Ask yourself these questions when making up your mind

Where do you want to be in the next few years? What do you want to get out of your experience? What do you want your career to look like? 

Try mapping out your career plan; create a list of companies you think might be a good fit for you; consider your short and long-term goals. 

 Do all of these things align better with a corporate or startup environment? 

If you’re at a point in your life where you have a family, kids and are maybe looking for more stability, a job where you know when the work hours are going to be, and want this to be all laid out in front of you then maybe going for a corporate job is something for you. 

But if you’re at a point in your life where you are very eager to learn, you like working in a fast-paced environment, you want to work with a lot of talented people, you want to try out a lot of things, and take on a bunch of different opportunities, then maybe going for a job in a startup is a better fit. 

There is no right or wrong decision to take, and it really comes down to what you really want. 

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