Guest post by Kevin Zhou, FSU Tech Fellow and Former Groundswell Intern
Other than having my face stuck in a textbook, I spent most of my college years going to career fairs and workshops serenading, making small talk, and ultimately making “connections” with corporate recruiters. I’m sure many of you are on that boat and still are. I want to make things clear and say that this post is not about why you shouldn’t want to work in a corporation, in fact, I don’t think it’s bad for anyone to chase their dream job in any setting. But, I’m here to show that there is another compelling path for your career: startups.
I’m sure you heard of the word “startups” before, right? It’s a pretty daunting term that implies risk and uncertainty, but it’s also a word that encompasses the beauty of entrepreneurship and opportunity. In this post, I will offer my perspectives on startups and why they might be right for you.
To kick things off: my name is Kevin Zhou, a senior at Florida State University, and I am one of the five Tech Fellows selected to work with some of the major startup communities in the state of Florida. I was given the opportunity to work with Groundswell Startups, a startup incubator and coworking space based in Melbourne, a city in an area known as the “Space Coast.” Like I said, I was one of the many insecure and risk-averse college students who believed working in the corporate space was my only career path and the safest bet to securing a stable future. After just a few weeks spent at Groundswell, I can confidently say that there are many reasons for a college student (including myself) to work for a startup post-graduation.
Working for a startup after college can give you valuable and meaningful experience almost immediately.
A lot of companies have a formal process of vetting new employees: whether it’s lots of training, menial tasks to prove your work ethic, or even small jobs to assist established employees.
This happens because, in corporate workspaces, the important tasks are already being done. Chances are they hired you because they want to keep a pool of talent around to secure the company’s future. To get around this, you have to deal with one to two years of training and maybe some not-so-meaningful work to move up in the food chain. Because of this system, a lot of recent graduates in the corporate workspace lack the skills they could have.
On the other hand, startups can prepare you in your area of specialty: because of the scarcity of employees and talent, chances are, you will be handling most of the tasks in your field. If your specialty is software design, you are probably going to be tasked with all of the jobs involving software with multiple deadlines. Whereas, in the corporate space, you will probably be doing a couple very specific tasks with a couple of deadlines. Simply put, when you join a startup you will be thrown in a chaotic environment and expected to get shit done.
Adam Hoffmann, a mentor in marketing and UI/UX design at Groundswell, was one of the few who dared to avoid the corporate space during his years in college and decided to work for a smaller company. He says, “I interned for a small agency in college and got to create things and talk to customers, while my friends at bigger agencies were cutting out pictures.” In his time spent with the agency, he gained years’ worth of valuable experience that his friends missed out on. This would eventually earn him generous offers with top-notch agencies, something that would have taken some time if he had started out in the corporate world.
Working for a startup after college can diversify your skillset.
As discussed previously, the corporate workspace is very structured and has an established workflow for each and every role. This can be seen as a drawback for anyone who wishes to start their own business in the future.
Sure, working for a well-established company can give you strong insight and experience in the industry of your choice, but it will not give you the versatile skills that working for a startup can. For example, if you’re in the marketing department of an established company, you likely won’t know much about the finance side of that company, or even how to finance a company from scratch. But, if you’re a marketing intern for a small startup with a team of five, not only are you handling a good chunk of marketing tasks, you also are kept in the loop about the rounds of investment your startup secures.
Working for a startup straight out of college will put you in a position to work with a team of hungry and driven individuals who will undergo a series of failures, but also important milestones. It’s a valuable learning process that teaches you the do’s and don’ts of launching a startup, financial strategy and business development. Things working for a huge firm won’t teach you.
Of course, I’m not arguing against working in the corporate space. In fact, many people have come out of corporate settings to create impactful startups to solve real problems. But hey, if you’re a college student don’t think jumping into a corporate job is your only option, taking the risk and working for a startup just might be worthwhile.