Think back to that defining moment in your life when you graduated from college. What did you imagine would happen next? Maybe you attended every Career Fair and kept a fresh copy of your resume on hand at all times just so you could pass it off to a recruiter at a large company. You’d always imagined that your job would put you on a team of hundreds, your day would be packed with client meetings – all while wearing corporate attire. Or maybe your expectations for the “real world” were entirely different. Maybe you spent your college days crowded around your friend’s kitchen table, brainstorming ideas and churning out code to make ordering food, finding a cab, going on dates, and life even easier. Your idea of a career path meant carving your own way with a handful of other entrepreneurs just as eager and talented as you.

At Paro, many of our employees and freelancers started in the public and private sectors before shifting their careers toward startups, allowing them to experience the major difference between working at a large company and a fresh startup. We’ve outlined  several of those differences below:

Open Environment VS Cubicle Space

Most large companies still keep their employees in cubicles.  If interacting with others is too distracting and you need that personal space, then cubicle life is probably your best option. However, many of us accomplish much more at work when we can lean over to ask a co-worker a quick question or talk through a larger problem.  Open environments are more conducive to productive discussions, but in the end, it’s best to choose an environment that’s best suited to enable success.

You’re a Person, Not a Number

It’s often said about large companies, “they think of you as a number, not a person.” While this is not the case at every big company, it’s safe to assume your opinions and impact are more influential at a startup.  Due to the environmental and cultural conditions startups cultivate, it’s very common for a salesperson to suggest a design change that makes its way into the next app release or that an intern is included in meetings with the leadership team.  At a startup, everyone has a voice and is encouraged to be heard.  

Level of Exposure

At a Fortune 500 company, you may spend the majority of your time working on one small section of a subsidiary of the company.  Of course, you’ll become an expert on that section over time, but that specific skill is not as easily transferable compared to what you can learn from the broad exposure at a startup.  At a startup, you’re learning every part of your company.  You’re able to see the process from start to finish on the startup end, whereas you’ll only catch a portion of the process at the large corporation.

Org Structure

Startups are much more relaxed and transparent than large companies.  While working at a Fortune 500 company, you may have 4 levels of supervisors before you even reach your division’s Vice President. On the other hand, at a startup, you’re very likely to be working shoulder to shoulder with the CEO of your company.  A relaxed structure like this helps promote greater cohesion between all members of the company.

In the end, you need to work in an environment that best suits your personal strengths.  Both types of company structures have their strengths and weaknesses.  It’s up to the individual to determine which type of company best fits their needs and strengths. It may take some trial and error to find the right fit, but it’s worth the effort in the end.  Ultimately, there is no right answer – do what is best for you.

If you’re thinking about joining a startup or starting your own business, check out the 10 things we learned from starting a business