I used to be one of those hardcore corporate types. The girl in a pencil skirt and blazer with her work Blackberry either glued to her hand or sitting on the table at all times, including weekends and holidays. I remained rigid in the elevators, kept my head down behind my cubicle and maintained a consistent level of anxiety that was way too high for a 22-year-old.
I always knew I wasn’t cut out for corporate culture, one that was especially pervasive at the strict financial institution for which I was working. For starters, I have a problem with narrow-mindedness and authority, both of which are prevalent in traditional office environments.
And then there was also that special morning when I dared to bring in 10 massive bottles of champagne and orange juice for celebratory mimosas on my birthday. The senior partners were particularly offended; I assured them I had purchased enough for everyone to have seconds.
Needless to say, my creative passions and the finance world’s rigid objectives never fully aligned. I voluntarily quit before receiving my big bonus because the corporate setting was just that unbearable. Walking on eggshells with my out-of-touch boss and closely watching everything I had to say had become harder than the actual work itself.
Embarking on a career in the corporate world and then switching to one in the start-up community has made me greatly appreciate the people, places and ideas in this field. I’m not saying that corporate culture is evil and everyone should work at a startup, but it’s definitely a better way of life if you can’t picture wearing a suit and tie for the rest of your career.
While I’m grateful for the experiences gained during my financial job (as a recent grad, I clearly had a lot to learn about working-life in general), I would never return to a corporate position -- especially now, having tasted the many start-up freedoms and opportunities. Because working at a startup is like working on an interesting group project at a big, comfortable study lounge with all your smart friends and really good snacks.
The corporate jungle is a much different environment than a start-up field. Here are the 10 unique aspects of startups that beat the corporate world any day.
1. Every employee has a voice
The rules of hierarchy at a startup are not nearly as inflexible and unrelenting as they are in a more traditional work setting. Your boss is not only approachable, but is also always ready to listen to the ideas of his or her employees.
Your say and your input are just as important as someone in a more senior position, which is something everyone understands and values. Your boss recognizes that every employee has a worthy contribution that can advance the company and is willing to accept these suggestions.
2. It’s okay to be unpolitically correct
At a startup, you’re working with lots of liberated minds and creative thinkers. Most people didn't get there because they followed arbitrary rules other people set for them. It’s okay, and in fact encouraged, to speak your mind and remain true to your beliefs. If you’re quirky or weird or outspoken, you’ll paradoxically fit right in.
3. Relaxed dress code
Men will be happy not having to wear full suits and ties during the summer. Women will be happy not having to shell out additional money for a more professional wardrobe.
You are not judged by how long your skirt is, you are not reprimanded for your nail polish color and you don’t have to worry about your lack of pocket square. Expressing your individuality through your clothing is one major perk of working in a more laidback environment. Management realizes that the best work can be done when you feel comfortable.
4. Personal ownership of your work and company
The contributions you make are directly related to the success of the company -- you can literally see your own progress manifesting itself in the greater growth of the startup.
It’s additionally important to be self-motivated because you are the sole responsibility to get your work done. The more you put in, the more you will get out of your job. You have an immediate stake in your company and thus the work you do is visible and resonates within the startup.
5. Your boss understands you and appreciates where you’ve come from
You are hired at a startup not just due to your expertise, but also due to who you are and the potential you can live up to. Everyone around you has made sacrifices and has talent, and your boss is there to effectively harness it -- not hinder it.
Your boss can relate to your current station and understands you are there to help further the company. He or she doesn’t want to antagonize you or make your work harder -- he or she is there to guide you and work with you, as opposed to above you.
6. Greater responsibility
There are more opportunities to shine and work across the board when you have the flexibility of an expanding, nascent company. What you’re doing is always important and meaningful because it has a direct impact on the company’s success. You are given more responsibility since you’re there from the very beginnings.
7. Entrepreneurial spirit
The overall environment at a startup is one of innovation and betterment. The company culture is easy-going and supportive, whereas more corporate settings are austere and exclusive. Not only do you have access to every aspect of your startup, you also have connections to the greater start-up community.
The entrepreneurial spirit is pervasive throughout, which lends itself to appreciating and partnering with other start-up companies. You’re not afraid of competition; you welcome new, emerging companies in your space and the opportunity to learn from one another.
8. Learning your value
No one is telling you the specific tasks you need to complete, but rather you are in charge of knowing what needs to be done and how to do it most efficiently. Because you can define your own role, you eventually learn your capabilities and intrinsic value. You understand areas of improvement and strength.
9. Being a jack-of-all-trades is welcomed
Most traditional companies hire you for one sole purpose, and they prefer you to be focused in a specific area of expertise. At a startup, however, you are more valuable if you can meaningfully contribute to a variety of sectors.
Being a well-rounded employee with knowledge of different subject matters means you can pitch-in wherever help is needed. Having a wide variety of interests is more attractive to an incipient company that calls for innovation and maturation.
10. Every day is different
At a startup, every day is different, your trajectory is unknown and each day is a new challenge. You’ll never be stuck in a rut or doing the same task in your same cubicle underneath your same boss.
Exchanging ideas is encouraged, especially when you encounter an unfamiliar situation. You’re constantly pushing yourself and learning better ways to further both your career and the company. Every assignment is varied and important for different reasons.
Photo via HBO