Working For a Startup: Pros and Cons

6 minutes

The number of start-up organisations is still exponentially growing across the globe, across a wealth of industries with the start up landscape constantly evolving. According to the Census Bureau, 5,481,437 new businesses were created in 2023 across North America. While many of these may not necessarily qualify as a start-up, it still highlights the rapid growth of new business opportunities.

What makes a start-up organisation standout?

A start-up organisation generally displays differentiating characteristics from other new businesses, and they can identified by the following:

High growth potential: Plans to rapidly scale up the business and disrupt their industry sector.

Innovation: Innovative with new or novel ideas, approaches and technologies they’re keen to develop and implement.

Scalability: Having the potential to expand their reach and impact on a significant level with huge plans and opportunities to scale up.

Which industries are we seeing the most start-up organisations?

We’re seeing start-up organisations grow across many of the industry sectors we operate in with a big focus on technology-driven industries such as AI, Fintech, HealthTech, Data Analytics and Environmental Solutions. There is start-up growth across the consumer market with more presence across e-commerce, leisure and entertainment due to change in behaviours and lifestyle. We’re also seeing more from emerging industries and areas with large investment and innovation such as construction and engineering, climate and space technology.

While there are lots of exciting elements to start-up organisations and great potential to take on a new opportunity, there is also the harsh reality of startup failure rates which results in reduced appeal for career opportunities. Some start-up job opportunities can offer lower salaries, heavy workloads and often irregular working hours, however they can offer some fantastic benefits and both short and long-term career and development, opportunities which we’ll delve into.

What can you really expect in joining a startup?

1. More responsibility 

The saying “you wear all of the hats” is very telling of a start-up experience. A smaller workforce means rolling up your sleeves and embracing every new challenge - and not always with the necessary breadth of experience behind you.

Whilst challenging, this is a great way to gain exposure to, and experience within, new areas of the business. You’ll have the chance to take on more responsibilities, most likely out of your comfort zone, and the potential for personal growth within that is unrivalled. The fast-paced nature of start-ups can often lead to steeper learning curves as you are exposed to new responsibilities and challenges.

That means more opportunities too: for career progression, for a transition into a different discipline within the business and for leading a team of your own within it, while broadening your skillsets through increased responsibilities.

2. A more fluid role

The lack of formal structure can be a major selling point for joining a start-up, with the need for entrepreneurial qualities extending far beyond the CEO. Without the protocol and set practices of a long-standing corporation, how you schedule your working day and the tasks you set yourself to reach your targets are in your own hands. In a rapidly changing environment, employees of start-ups must be flexible and adaptable, this is great for individuals to thrive in dynamic and fluid roles and be at the forefront of development and innovation.

It also means moulding to the greater needs of the business. The projects you manage and the types of strategy you carry out will all take lead from the success of the business as a whole.

3. A more unpredictable work schedule

Arguably the least glamorous aspect of a startup, so one worth considering: startups don’t have much back-up when something goes wrong, so you’ll need to be on hand to assist whenever and whenever problems occur.

Anyone considering a move to a startup - especially in a leadership capacity - needs to prepare themselves for a more unpredictable work routine. Being agile enough to respond and rise to that is crucial.

4. Real investment potential

Even with the backing of investment, the financial side of start-ups is often a major sticking point. Profits are low and, with that, staff salaries too - that’s even with the longer hours and increased responsibilities.

There are financial positives though with the potential to make much more in the long run. You are a major stakeholder, and if the start-up succeeds (whether it’s acquired, becomes an IPO or undergoes hyper-growth) you are in an enviable position and will likely take on a very senior role in the larger firm.

Stock ownership can go a long way at a startup too. As you’re working for the business you have early bird advantages, with lower stock rates for a higher percentage of the company due to higher risk.

5. The potential to make a huge impact

It goes without saying that there’s more at stake working in a startup, but that only goes to motivate the people best suited for this environment.

You’ll have the chance to make an impact from day one, as everyone’s voice is heard in a smaller company. Key decisions are not just left to the CEO or the board of directors but made by all senior staff members, so you’ll need to be a confident leader, ready to take on the pressure and take the reins in leading the business in any new challenge.

This can be highly motivating and give a strong sense of both ownership and pride in what you do.

5. Collaborative culture

Naturally, start-up organisations can often be much more casual and collaborative cultures than larger, corporate businesses. This can be a huge appeal to employees who favour a more enjoyable work environment and closer relationships with smaller teams.

Next steps…

Whether it be for the thrill of the risk or the want for new challenges, the start-up environment can pose an exciting opportunity for job seekers across all levels - and the chance to refresh from the corporate world in a wholly different environment.

It takes the right kind of person to adapt to the late nights and the extra pressure, but if you’re willing to rise to that the payoff can be huge, not only financially but both personally and professionally: pushing through your comfort zone and taking your career to new heights.

Even if that startup doesn’t become the next billion-dollar enterprise, the broader experience you gain will pay dividends your whole career.

Speak to an executive recruiter

At CSG Talent, our expert recruiters work with international startups across the a wealth of industry sectors. We help senior-level candidates move on from the corporate world and rise to a new kind of challenge, making a significant impact in early startup businesses. If you are someone considering joining a startup and would like our help - whether that be a complete career move or just general advice - please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a confidential conversation, or check out our latest job vacancies here.