Pros and Cons of Working at a Startup after College

It’s a dream for every student to explore enough opportunities and responsibilities for few years before settling up in his/her professional life. And to achieve this what else can be a better place other than a Startup! 

Joining a startup right out of college is probably the best thing to do for students. But working for a startup can involve a lot of risks, that’s no secret; according to the Wall Street Journal, three out of every four startups fail. But that doesn’t mean taking a job with a startup – even one that ultimately fails – won’t allow you to gain valuable experience and skills to add to your resume. 

I have been working with a startup right after college. It played a vital role in honing my skills and expertise. As a student this unique and diverse experience helped me in understanding my career goals and self growth.

Going to work at a startup has perks, from an informal atmosphere to faster on-the-job learning and more autonomy, but there are downsides, too. Before you assume that a startup is going to be your ideal first employer, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

So what exactly are the pros and cons of taking a job with a startup as a fresh college graduate?

Pros of Working at a Startup:

More Opportunities & Growth:

Startups place loads of responsibility on their employees. They’ll hire you because of your skills, but founders expect much more. You help with everything at a startup. Often, it’s work outside your job description, so opportunities for learning and growth abound. Having worked with a startup indicates to future employers that you are hardworking, proactive, responsible, driven, a self-starter, and not swayed by brand names. Founders and employees work together; there’s no middle management, so you learn from the best.

The high learning curve is an obvious result of the hands-on learning experience. You are likely to learn more things in a startup than in a corporate simply because you will be required to do a lot of other things outside your Job role. Your role in a startup would most likely involve everything from cleaning the office to planning  birthday parties. It is not as bad as it sounds. It is actually a lot of fun!

Working in a startup offers you the best chances of rapid personal growth. Based on your work, your ideas and the growth of the company, you can rise rapidly to higher positions without having to spend a mandatory number of years at a specific post. If the startup excels in success, you will possibly have considerable growth in your salary/stocks as well.

Moreover, the learning opportunities at a startup will benefit you throughout your career. Experience of working with a startup has great value in the job market and will help you stand out from the competition. 

Learn From Visionaries:

In a startup, which generally has a small team size, you will be rubbing shoulders and interacting with the top honchos of the company. Startups are an ideal place for networking and connecting with professionals who can share their valuable insights and experience.

In established companies, it is generally not as easy to access bosses and even if you do, ideas are accepted from those higher up on the work-chain. Due to the new and novel nature of startups, the typical boss-employee conventions can be overcome and you can participate more actively in the decision-making and functioning of the company.

Higher sense of Ownership and Job Satisfaction:

Everything little you do in a startup matters. Your contribution is always acknowledged and due credit is given for your hard work – be it building a new feature, product, making a sale, crack a deal or maintaining everyday accounts. All your contributions matter. This also leads to a higher sense of ownership for you with respect to the startup. This may not be the case in a corporate environment where the number of employees is high and multiple levels of management exist. There will always remain a certain amount distance between the company and the employees in a corporate company.


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Donning Multiple Hats:

At a startup, you’ll get the opportunity to wear multiple hats. This is because there’s never a shortage of work to be done. You’ll get the freedom to explore more about your creative side. For a fresh graduate, this is an ideal opportunity. In your first job itself, you will be able to gain valuable experience in multiple roles. Not only will this varied experience work as an asset on your resume, but it will also give you clarity on which roles interest you the most, helping you plan your career goals better. As an added bonus, your multitasking skills will improve as will your ability to work under pressure and handle stress.

You Learn About Entrepreneurship:

During your time at a startup, you’ll likely work closely with the company’s founders and leaders, which gives you an unprecedented look into the realities of entrepreneurship.

Through having direct access to senior management and experiencing how an organization grows over time, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of what it takes to scale a business—from hiring staff to establishing a brand identity.

Beyond the practical business insights you pick up, being part of a new venture empowers you to have a greater influence over how the company operates than you would in a more hierarchical environment. As a member of a small team, you’re afforded the chance to propose your ideas for innovation and solutions for how the organization can be more efficient.

In doing so, you’re able to think more like a business owner and come up with ideas that don’t just benefit you and your team, but the company as a whole.

You Get to Experience a Different Company Culture:

If you decide to take a job at a newly-founded company, you’ll find out first-hand that startup culture is different than corporate culture. Whether you’re looking for a change, or haven’t liked the more rigid nature of a traditional corporate office, it could be a great opportunity to experience a different kind of work environment.

You may find that you’re more suited to startup culture if you love a fast-paced, ever-changing workplace and don’t shy away from responsibility. However, a more traditional corporate culture might be a better fit if you value work-life balance, or prioritize compensation over passion. It’s important to assess both your personal and professional goals and weigh the pros and cons of each to determine which environment is best for you.

Cons of Working at a Startup:

More Work

Everyone loves to speak glowingly about the startup experience; the hustle, passion, and unrelenting will to succeed. However, it’s not always as glamorous as it may seem from the outside.

A job with a start-up would most likely not be a fixed 9-to-5 job. Since the startup is still working on establishing itself, it will typically require you to put in extra hours, whether in the evenings or even on the weekends. You might not be specifically forced to put in x number of hours, but as responsibility rises ahead of a deadline you would probably be spending more time at work than usual.

Pressure to always work:

Most startups don’t have slow days. The 24/7 environment of a startup can feel like finals week, week after week. Not only will you be working for a founding team that’s working constantly to chase their own dreams (and taking on more financial and reputational risk than you are), but also you are probably working with colleagues, just slightly older than you, who have slogged through menial internships and boring first jobs to get a chance at this opportunity. The emails, texts, and Slack messages might come at night or on the weekend, and you’ll be expected to stop what you’re doing and deliver. When coworkers delegate something to you, they’ll expect you to do whatever you need to do to get the job done — without complaining or asking too many questions. If you aren’t ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work, or even if you just don’t want to be “always-on,” you might prefer to look elsewhere for work. For example, in a larger, more established company, schedules are more predictable, and weekends often more sacrosanct.

Less (and delay) in pay:

A startup will most likely offer you a lower salary than an established company. The low salary has the potential to increase based on the success of the startup, however, even after the startup is raking in money, there may be other financial liabilities on it before it is able to boost employee salaries. In some startups your salary might be delayed due to some reasons. In such scenarios you should have patience and enough savings for paying rents and bills. 

Lack of structured environment:

Working in a startup right out of college might give you a great learning curve but it also means you work in an unstructured environment. How do you thrive as an employee in an environment that’s always changing, where priorities are always shifting, and where the goals are changing constantly, based on pressure from founders or investors? You must be mentally prepared to walk into a very fluid environment.

Might not have guarantee with your job:

One of the biggest drawbacks of working with a startup is a lack of job security. Even if you are working hard and performing your role perfectly, the company may face losses, which would most likely affect your job. This means that you might have no assured job working in a startup. Having said that, the experience and exposure that you get working in a startup is one that will fetch you a job anywhere else in no time.

Work-Life Balance Might Get Disturbed 

Startups are filled with people who are passionate about seeing a product or service come to life, and that usually entails long or odd hours. Since the startup is still working on establishing itself, it will typically require you to put in extra hours, whether in the evenings or even on the weekends. You might be asked to put in x number of hours initially, but as responsibility rises ahead of a deadline you would probably be spending more time at work than usual. 

This of course becomes a bigger concern only if you are married and have a family. As students just out of college, this might be a lesser problem. Nevertheless, it would be good to weigh this also while taking up a startup job.


The reality of startup companies is that they aren’t for everyone, and one person’s cons may be another person’s pros. For example, long working hours, delays in payments never bothered me much, But for others, this may be a serious problem. Evaluating what you want out of a company and where you see your future, you can determine the right fit for you. 

Startups may fail, but there’s always the chance it will be a success, and even if it isn’t, you will undoubtedly walk away with a unique experience to help you find your next job. If you’re a student then i would suggest you go and dive into the startup’s chaotic world and discover yourself. All the best 🙂


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