When it comes to career aspirations, though most Millennials are likely to regard working for (enter huge corporation here) as the pinnacle of their careers, the emergence of a distinct startup culture is beginning to disrupt the stereotypical, ideal workplace.
Of course, most large and established companies carry along with them the type of prestige, legacies, benefits and resources that smaller companies simply cannot match -- that much is a given. However, for a generation that has just started to get its feet wet at the deep end of the "real world," the appeal of startups is clear.
"People [at startups] don't have absolute power to demand a higher salary or more vacation days but they do have high expectations," wrote Corey McAveeney for Wired. "They're interested in opportunities to connect with others who will help achieve their goals and find greater satisfaction in the process."
Indeed, startups have grown a reputation for living up to the expectations that McAveeney outlined. Employees are liable to fret over less-than-glamorous pay days but are also likely to benefit from the close-knit relationships that have become increasingly typical of younger companies.
Those same relationships, as well as the relaxed environments in which they are usually fostered, are central to the appeal of startups for Generation-Y. In a job market full of statistics that can strike genuine fear into any Millennial -- people from the ages of X to Y are only getting such and such amount of jobs -- all of the sudden, giving up a few dollars to gain experience in a more casual setting doesn't sound like too bad of an idea.
The friendly picture that startup culture paints stands in stark contrast to the image of the "typical" workplace, which, at its worst, can make people feel like they're just another cog in a huge, mundane machine.
It's the type of environment that could make one think, "On Sunday nights, will you dread going back to work on Monday?" asked Joseph Pigato for Fast Company. "In three years, will you want to be at the same company? These are all small, but important things. When 'work doesn't seem like work,' quality of life soars."
There are no two ways about this. Startups are seen as a more enjoyable workplace than the average, but not everyone is a fan.
In an article titled, "Why Gen Y Should Get A Real Job," which aimed at dissuading readers from buying into the hype that this generation is "different," Fox Business contributor Steve Tobak details how he benefited from joining a "big high-tech" company right out of high school:
"I learned how business and companies work. It gave me a solid foundation in business fundamentals, management skills, organizational processes, and best practices that were critical to my success in startups and high-growth companies. It paid off big time later in my career, when it mattered most."
Ironically, his praise of the "real job" provides a perfect segue to discuss the most important benefit of working at startups. After all, Tobak is right to suggest that receiving proper mentoring, which he says is highly valued at big companies, is important.
The skills and lessons that can be gained from watching people who've been there and done that, and who continue to do "that" in front of you every day, are invaluable -- even more so from a closer perspective.
In a larger company, though, one would have to question how elusive that closer view is. With many more employees, much more distance between the entry-level worker and the head of the company and multiple layers of power in-between, the likelihood of getting to see the real powers that be are slim to none.
Sure, a senior employee or manager can provide some guidance, but someone of this position is no executive, which means even their experience is limited.
Meanwhile, at a startup, employees are as likely to be getting their hands dirty every day, side-by-side with the new intern that got hired last week as much as the CEO. And, with less distance to the top, there are bound to be opportunities to soak up information on how to run a company from top to bottom.
Those opportunities are what YouTube cofounder and PayPal Mafia member Chad Hurley says were integral to his success, as he got to watch entrepreneurial legends Peter Thiel and Max Levchin in action while they were running PayPal.
"Seeing Peter and Max and the guys come up with ideas and seeing how to make things work gave me a lot of insight. You may not have a business degree, but you see how to put the process into effect. The experience helped me realize the payoff of being involved in a startup.”
As the startup culture continues to gain appeal, that payoff will be highlighted more and more. So, too, will the idea that working in a startup is the perfect match for Generation-Y.