Startup vs. corporate: Which is right for you?

When it comes to finding your next role, the type of organisation you work for matters just as much as the position itself. You might be aware of the stereotypes surrounding startups and corporations—startups are young, innovative, and collaborative, while corporations are slow-moving, formal, and hierarchical.

There are benefits and downsides to both, so how do you pick between the two? The key is finding a work environment in which you can thrive.

Startups are on the rise 

Startups are often a popular choice for job seekers, as they bring innovative solutions to societal problems, disrupt traditional businesses and are seen as a “cool” place to work. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been a significant rise in the number of startups in the UK. 

The number of new businesses in the UK has increased by 14% despite the initial impact of pandemic – outpacing global average of 6% according to research by Hacker Young. With this in mind, the startup job market in the UK has also been a significant uplift with exciting new opportunities appearing across various different sectors.

Startup culture

A startup environment is typically a fast-paced culture, in which creativity and communication are valued. Startups tend to be smaller than large corporations, especially in the early stages of growth, enabling employees to build strong relationships and freely exchange thoughts and ideas. They’re also capable of acting nimbly to adjust business practices and hit shifting targets.

Startup culture is often perceived as being less formal than that of a corporate environment, and usually puts less emphasis on hierarchy within teams.

Common characteristics of startups

Opportunity to grow your skills and take more responsibility

You will gain skills that you never thought you could have across various departments. Generally speaking, the smaller the startup, the more frequently you will be picking up new responsibilities because there are fewer people to do the job. 

It can easily happen: you get hired and after a couple of months, you and the team will recognise that you have abilities in other areas as well. This can be a great learning curve - you might currently not even be aware of full list of skills you possess. 

Also, at startups, you are encouraged to manage your own time and tasks. Working in a startup, in teams that are not hierarchical, you will have the opportunity to advance quickly. Prepare to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to product development, strategies, and best practices. 

Fast-paced environment

Startups are usually very fast-paced environments, and you need to be OK with the constant change that this can bring. The work can differ from day-to-day, and your roles and tasks can change entirely from one week to the next. 

You will be accountable for your responsibilities and your time. The reason is that some of the processes in your role will not have been carried out before. This fast-paced, dynamic environment can be extremely exciting and provides many opportunities to learn and grow within the company. 

Transparency in communication and proactivity

Communication between the employees and the founders or management tends to be open and transparent. Short and simple. Feedback is appreciated as a means to validate assumptions and understand the customers and improve processes.  

Corporate culture

A corporate environment, on the other hand, is often characterised by a more structured, formal approach to company culture. Because many corporations employ thousands of workers, it’s not uncommon for employees to be unfamiliar with colleagues outside of their immediate teams or departments.

With years of experience under their belts, corporations tend to have concrete procedures, protocols, and guidelines that govern daily operations. 

Common characteristics of corporates 

Brand recognition

Well-established companies will, very likely have a well-known brand within their sector. It is great to tell people where you work, and hear that the person already knows about the company. It also adds brand value to your CV, which will look great for future employment opportunities. 

Specific roles

Corporate positions usually have clear roles and well-defined tasks. You will know what the expectations for the role are and when they need to be completed. Corporate organisations also have well-defined processes, which can make it a lot easier to run streamlined campaigns and projects across different departments.

However, this can also make it difficult to get things done or influence the “big picture”. 

Careful communication

There can sometimes be less transparency in a large corporation when it comes to sharing information with employees and the outside world. Often there is a specialised department supervising internal and external communications throughout the business who build a strategy on how and when they communicate with the wider business. 


Corporate or larger organisations are sometimes reluctant to take risks. In big companies, there are often experts who help with decision-making. Many people are involved in the decisions, and the decision process is often longer and aims to be as logical as possible.

More job safety and stability

You are not depending on rounds of capital raises and negotiations and short time success. As corporates are generally more established and have been on the market for a longer time, you can feel safer in terms of whether the business itself is, or will be successful enough. Startups, on the other hand, may only have been on the market for a couple of years and will be adjusting their product in response to market needs.

What next? 

If you need more help mapping out your future career path, get in touch with one of our expert recruitment consultants today. They’ll help you find the right job and company for you. 

Ready to find your next new role? Submit your CV today to start your job search. 

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