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What’s Your Next Move: How Going From Corporate to Start-up Can Transform Your Career


The pandemic has forever changed the way we work. Live. Love. Travel. Our priorities shifted and our new found skills, dreams and habits paved the way towards a different view on life. Change is no longer something we fear. It’s something that happens naturally. It’s something we crave. So what’s your next Move? Let’s figure it out together!


office start up space with a ping pong table in the middle


A couple of years ago, while attending an international conference (remember those?!), we heard this as an opening phrase: “I’m recovering from a corporation and trying to return to the human race”.


It struck a chord. 


It was so powerful that a couple hundred marketing geeks lifted their heads from their laptops and started clapping. A modern miracle!


Fast forward to 2021 (or, the second year of the pandemic - evil laugh), when our work lives shifted, bent over backwards and blended with our home, the reality of going back to the office, and moreover, going back to a full on corporate existence, seems frail. Dull. Out of touch with so many of us.


Also, the possibility of remaining a corporate animal for the next decades of our professional existence doesn't seem that appealing anymore, does it? Working a 9 to 5 - that being the code for putting in 40+ hours of work per week - pulling 12 hours days or all nighters when needed was never normal. So why go back to that if your heart is set on another way of living and working?



Enter the professional promised land: start-ups.


Start-ups are empowering environments in which every person wears different hats at a time. 


It sounds exciting, fast-paced and extremely rewarding, yet jumping the corporate ship means that you’ll be leaving security, comfort-zone and structure behind. Going from corporate to start-up can transform your career and fuel your drive for years to come, but are you ready for such a huge leap?


Let’s break it down together. 


Before romanticising the start-up bubble, let’s start with the pros and cons of making the switch. Assuming we mean "go work at a startup" and not "found a startup", here are some things to consider - we love a good list!



Corporate life vs Start-ups. The ultimate pro and con list to have in mind when considering switching sides:


PROS:


  • Bye, bye bureaucracy - oh, it feels good just to say it!
  • Exponential learning curve - learn as you do. Improvise. Trial and error. 
  • Creative exploration of vision, possibilities and challenges - freedom to try new things.
  • Seeing a direct impact of your work - ownership of successes and failures and a great deal of motivation. Also, the path to a promotion is usually significantly shorter and there’s plenty of room for career growth.
  • Setting your own hours - that means having more time for yourself, but also, putting in extras, especially at the beginning, when the company is not yet off the ground.
  • The feeling of belonging - team spirit, camaraderie, and purpose build that family-like culture that pays off big time at the end of the day.



CONS:


  • Bye, bye certainty - even that of having a salary. 
  • Lack of structure - you can no longer fall back on existing and tested business models, strategies, procedures. Start-ups either have a blunt disregard for them - and that can be a good thing, or are in the process of figuring them out. 
  • No more specialized teams - at a corporate job, you can take the time to work on a specific project and rely on others to get other things done. At a startup, you're often doing many things. Your time and at can be affected by this.
  • Risky business - the numbers are scary: 90% of start-ups fail. The reasons are as many as there are companies, but it has to do with the type of product they market and whether or not it’s desirable - aka it caters to a specific need, the team and how they regroup after big blows, the quality of their leaders and even plain ol’ luck. 


Making the change from a 3000 employee office to a 50-employee startup can be intimidating


After this well-deserved reality check, let’s sit with another fact: leaving the corporate world and adjusting to a completely different work environment is scary. Also, hard, especially after a longer period of time.


You can take the person out of the corporation, but sometimes you can’t take the corporation out of the person. 


Corporate life is a one of a kind ecosystem. It's a layered environment in which you have to play by the rules. It’s all about processes, processes, processes. And bylaws. 


Even if you are ready for the rapid changes coming your way it can be overwhelming. You’ll soon find out that fear and excitement can coexist in your chest. 


Things like how to dress, how to express your opinion at the table, pitching in and socialization with the team come into play pretty soon. You’ll find yourself un-learning a lot of stuff. 


For example, one mistake ex-corporate employees make is trying to adjust their wardrobe to mirror what they’re seeing on younger coworkers. “I think women especially struggle with this, particularly if they’ve come from corporate life,” says Nancy Halpern, an executive coach with KNH Associates in New York City. 


Our advice on this: do you! If you want to ditch the power suit, go ahead! But there’s no need to dress down or adhere to a casual dress code to do your job. If your roomy work bag empowers you, take it with you. If a backpack is more up your alley and fits your lifestyle, go for that (P.S.: we’re currently working on a laptop backpack that is a life-saver, for real!).



Working for yourself is hard. But being your own boss, priceless!


Woman holding a mug with "world's best boss" written on


Start-ups are unpredictable. 


The prospect of wearing sneakers, ripped jeans and having an icecream machine in the office might sound nice, but they will not solve the problems of building a brand from ground up. 


The adjustment period might be rocky. The hours might be long. Even longer than those you had at a corporation. Your passion will take you places, but patience, resilience and perseverance will save the day. 


Your ability to make speedy decisions and sacrifices is a muscle you’ll need to grow day by day. It might get lonely at times. Mistakes will happen. And things will escalate fast. But so will the rewards! 


Rewire your mind, go through that check list again and be ready to adopt a different job ethic. Roll your sleeves up. Inspire others to do the same. And no matter what you decide for your future - start-up or no start-up, show up for yourself. Every. Single. Day!