Working at a startup looks good on your resume because it shows you can handle rapid change and can take on a variety of different responsibilities. The U.S. has 72,560 startups, the highest number in the world, so there are plenty of opportunities to add a startup to your resume.
Culturally startups are very different from established companies. Bigger companies tend to move slower and be more cautious whereas startups constantly try new things and move rapidly.
Having both well-known companies and startups on your resume is great because it demonstrates a range of experience. You’ll gain a lot from working at a variety of companies so it’s never a bad thing to have a startup on your resume.
In this article, we will look more at startups and the benefits of having a startup on your resume, then look at startups in terms of career growth.
Does working for a startup look good on a resume?
Even though 70% of tech startups fail, having one on your resume still looks good. The pace of change at startups is rapid so being able to work in that environment should help you handle pressure, make quick decisions, and take on responsibility.
If you join an early-stage startup you will likely have to wear many different hats and juggle various tasks. Often there won’t be the budget for some predefined roles so you end up absorbing some of that responsibility in your day-to-day job. It means you can have a heavy workload but this also exposes you to far more of the business than working at a big company.
Large companies are risk-averse so they are very meticulous about the smallest decisions because they have a lot of money to lose. Startups often don’t have much money and often change course until they have a proper market fit for their product. It’s also one of the reasons startups rarely pay bonuses.
Joining a company in the early stages also opens up opportunities for management and mentorship of new joiners. Most people don’t get this type of experience until later in their careers but at smaller companies, you need to take on more responsibility if they grow rapidly.
Are startups good for career growth?
Startups are fantastic for your career growth because you quickly gain a lot of experience in different aspects of the business. In traditional companies, you often stick to one small area of business operations but in smaller companies, they don’t have the manpower so need everyone to pick up the slack. Overall, startups are great for career growth because:
- You get more responsibility
- There are more mentoring opportunities
- You learn to work under pressure
- There is a bigger push to work with the latest tech
- You get more exposure to the wider business
- You get more autonomy
Working at a startup can be stressful because they generally run a skeleton crew of staff until they can get funding. It means you get experience in all aspects of the business, especially early on. It means that people are stretched thin and expected to perform a wide variety of tasks. It’s great to have these on your CV because it shows you can work hard.
For software developers, the benefit of having a startup on your resume shows recruiters you are likely working with the latest tech. When starting fresh most people opt to use the most modern technology and use cutting-edge approaches.
There also isn’t the corporate structure of big companies which means you get more autonomy to make decisions.
Is it better to work for a big company or a startup?
If you enjoy a predictable income and stability then it is better to work at a big company, if you want autonomy, flexibility, and a relaxed culture then a startup is better for you. Startups also offer equity in the company which can be financially life changing if the company IPOs or is bought.
Both business types have their positives and negatives, a lot of the time it will depend on your personality and appetite for risk. We will explore whether it’s better to work for a big company or startup by looking at:
- Work/life balance
- Job security
You will be given more responsibility working in a startup than in an established company. If you enjoy taking on tasks and owning projects, a startup may be for you. At smaller companies, you will be expected to pull your weight from day one because they probably don’t have many other people. However, big companies they can afford to give you more time to adjust.
The responsibility you are given means you have a much bigger impact on the business as a whole. If you enjoy being thrown in at the deep end, startups are a good option, if you like to take your time and build slowly, go for a big company.
You can expect considerable pressure working at a start-up, they may not even have an MVP yet so you’ll need to deliver a lot of code. There will be pressure to hit metrics, get more traction, achieve growth and results, and so on. The environment at a corporate company is comparatively less stressful because it is more established.
There are fewer people at a startup so you gain more exposure to every facet of the business. Depending on where the business is at, you may be expected to chip for various business functions like sales and marketing. Overall, it means you become a lot more well-rounded but the opportunity to specialize is rare. Established businesses allow people to specialize and rarely allow people outside of their function, it is more constrained.
Corporate businesses have better-established mentoring programs and training. You will likely have a lot of people above you in the business who can help you grow and progress in your career.
Unfortunately at a startup, you will have to figure most things out on your own. It isn’t a great environment for junior developers but can be perfect for senior programmers looking to impart knowledge to new joiners.
At an early-stage startup, you will be expected to work long hours and make a lot of personal sacrifices. Generally, they have a poor work-life balance, especially in the pre-funding days. Big corporate businesses usually have set working hours which means the work-life balance is significantly better.
It’s worth noting that a poor work-life balance is why software engineers don’t stay at a job too long.
There is poor job security at startups, 70% of them fail so it’s always a risk and job security is poor. They do try to offset this by offering shares in the business to make you part of the company and incentive hard work.
The benefit of being a software developer at a startup is that if it does fail there is such a demand for your skill set that finding a job is easier.
Startups tend to have a more relaxed and modern culture. Working from home is a given and the general attitude at work is very relaxed. There is a growth mindset throughout most startups so you can progress quickly.
In contrast, big companies have less flexible cultures that, depending on the company size, can become stuffy. However, some startups can’t even provide laptops let alone spend money on building a culture.
Should you put a start-up on your resume?
The key to getting a better job in tech is experience, so you should put a startup on your resume as it proves you have valuable experience. The variety of responsibilities you’ll get at a startup, coupled with the frantic pace means they generally look great on your resume.
Any experience adds to your credibility as a software engineer, so don’t leave it off your resume unless you spent less than a few months at the business. You don’t want to constantly switch jobs because it makes you look unreliable. However, if you spent six months or longer at the startup, or tried to found a business yourself, definitely include it on your resume.
At worst, it gives you something to talk about when asked to describe your programming experience in an interview.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.