Most people agree there are big differences between working for a startup and working for an established company. Established companies offer big-name resume building, perception of a more predictable and secure career path, and structured training programs. Startups offer the potential to take on higher levels of responsibility earlier in your career, a more dynamic career path, and an equity position that could either be highly rewarding or totally worthless.
Some established companies have departments that are entrepreneurial in spirit, in which case you can be an intrapreneur. In those situations, you might get the creativity and innovation of a startup, but probably not the financial reward that would be possible in a truly successful startup. On the upside, with an intrapreneurial situation, you probably won’t get the total crash and burn of a failed startup, either. This might be a good middle ground for people who fall into the middle of the spectrum for tolerance of risk.
Recently I interviewed a woman who had the opportunity to choose between two job offers, one at a Fortune 500 company and one at a relatively unknown startup. Here is Kelly Gray’s startup success story of how a career risk paid off.