One of the hardest questions to answer before starting your career is what type of company you want to go to.
There’s corporate America, joining a startup, non-profits, government, and so many more options.
Let’s focus on two that are almost exact opposites: corporate vs. startups. There are positives and negatives to each and we’re here to help you navigate both sides.
Large corporations like Marriott and Starbucks are known for having strong benefits packages, competitive salaries and being fairly stable.
But, corporate jobs are also infamous for having high stress levels coupled with a lack of work-life balance.
Some employees enjoy working in the industry because there’s more structure and consistency.
“I needed someone to go to or some standard to hold my boss to, so I would learn the traits of a good leader,” says Grace Brinkley, Social Media Coordinator at Hilton Worldwide.
In the corporate world, connections can also be a major asset. It's notorious for the saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Grace used her connections to give her a leg up in the industry. High Point University alumna, Megan, came to speak at one of Grace’s undergraduate classes and eventually became Grace’s manager at Hilton Worldwide.
Corporate life isn't always easy, one of the downfalls can be the lack of engagement. According to a Gallup poll in 2015, only 32% of employees in the U.S. reported being engaged at work.
Grace experienced this at her first role, where she loved what she was doing, but didn’t click with her boss. “I was in a place where I didn’t feel valued as an employee,” she says.
Coworkers would describe Grace as a self-motivated, quick learner, who is passionate about her work - making a large Fortune 500 company a good fit for her.
But, it's not right for everyone. “I got really lucky and things fell into place. All of my past experience, beliefs and values worked out,” she says.
Her biggest tip to current students? “Find out what your learning style is, find out what you want in a manager. Do I want a 9-5? Can I handle a 9-5? Do I want to do freelance?”
Despite graduating from the same college, just 1 year after Grace, Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani chose a much different route for his career.
“I was always interested in making things that benefit a large number of people and I found that with my major [Computer Science] and the ability to turn my ideas into tangible products I will reach that dream,” says Reza, iOS Developer, UI/UX Designer at Cirtual LLC.
Start-ups are notorious for their Millennial-vibe, complete with bean bag chairs in the conference rooms and a fridge stocked full of Red Bull.
But that wasn't what drew Reza in. Towards the end of college, Reza was more and more intentional about starting his own company.
“Even as a junior, Google invited me to interview with them but I knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my adult life in a big corporation,” he says. “Cirtual was a result of deliberate work on my end to convince some of the best students in my department to join me in making a company that values what we value.”
Start-ups tend to have less of a structured hierarchy, but that sometimes means you have to make your own hours. It can be a great fit for someone who prefers more flexibility, but Reza admits that it isn’t always perfect.
“I won’t settle until something I care about accomplishing has been accomplished,” he shares. “This typically means I will be the first person in the office and the last person out if I’m working on a part of the project that I’m passionate about, or is important to the overall progress of the group.”
Business Insider names the uncertainty of a start-up’s outcome as one of the hardest things about working at a startup. In Reza’s world, having to worry about everything is a part of his reality. But, at least for him, that’s an even bigger motivator for success.
“’Im extremely proud to be working with smart and caring people and I’m very happy that my future is a direct result of my own efforts and not that of someone else’s decisions.”
His biggest tip for current students?
“Marc Randolph, the co-founder of Netflix, told me:
“Do you like noodles? then get started!” Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about noodles. It’s about being happy with basics and minimums and relentlessly pursuing your dream until your successful. It’s all about delayed gratification.
If you’d rather have a benefits package and health insurance right out of college, then the start-up world is definitely not for you. But if you don’t mind taking some risks, working on the weekends, and are up for the unknown challenges that will come your way, then focus on the big reward that excites you at the end and start now!”
No matter which path you take, remember that everyone’s journey is unique and no two jobs are alike. Whatever company you end up working for, make sure you’re staying
1) passionate 2) happy 3) balanced.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?"
...It’s a question we get asked a lot - whether it’s your first day of Kindergarten, junior year of college, or five years post-grad.
Some people are lucky, and have had the perfect answer to this since they were a kid. But, unfortunately, not everyone’s journey to their career path has been quite so clear-cut.
“I went into college undecided. After a while, I thought I would try out the nursing program. This led me to want to be a physical therapist, so I changed my major to Exercise Science,” says Sydney Williams, 1st grade teacher at Twinbrook Elementary School.
“After taking all of those science courses, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I took a risk my junior year and decided to try Early Childhood Education. I had always worked with kids and been a babysitter. As soon as I took my first class, I loved it. I instantly knew that I made the right choice.”
Sydney isn’t alone in her experience. According to USA TODAY, a whopping 80% of U.S. college students will change their major at least once before graduating.
So if you’re feeling unsure of the best career choice for you, here are a few tips:
Identify what you’re passionate about. Don’t just think about “what you like to do,” go deeper than that.
What drives you?
What do you wake up in the morning excited to work on?
What do you want to change in the world?
You can always switch jobs later in life, but most people stay in the same general field for most of their careers. If you’re working 40+ hours a week, it better be doing something you enjoy.
Ask others around you what your strengths are. Business Insider says, “certain careers are better suited to different personality types. For example, do you like talking to people, thinking in the abstract, working independently, and using your brain more than your feelings? Maybe you should consider a career as a reporter.”
Sometimes others can see our skill set more easily than we can ourselves. This is the prime time to tap into the network you’ve been building and ask what they think.
Think about the bigger picture. It can be hard as a high school or college student to start thinking about your ultimate life plan, but it can help you figure out what you want to do with your life.
The Muse suggests asking yourself “What does my dream job look like?” and “How does this job fit into my life?”
They recommend “to look at your career choices in the context of the rest of your life - relationships, hobbies, family commitments, even things like fitness and spirituality.”
Write a pros and cons list. Get ready to go old school. Grab some paper and sparkly gel pens, because we’re making pros and cons lists!
Write the name of each potential career path at the top of the page. Then start listing out all of the pros on one side of the page, and all of the cons on the other.
After doing this for a few of your options, look over your lists and analyze them.
Is having a 9-5 schedule non-negotiable?
Do you cringe at the idea of traveling for work every week?
Can you live without a 401(k)?
Trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life is understandably challenging - it’s the rest of your life! But, whatever you decide to do in life, our number one tip is this:
Give it all you’ve got.
Ah, the elusive work-life balance.
You always hear people talk about it - as if it’s actually possible to get things completely 50-50.
When you’re at work, you’re 100% focused only on work-related things. When you’re away, you’re fully unplugged and enjoying your life.
Spoiler alert: this drastic balancing act does. not. exist. It is impossible.
When you are at work, there may be things in your personal life that are distracting.
A work emergency may come up after hours on your birthday (gasp!) that you can’t ignore. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope to having some stability every day.
Here are five tips to get the best of both worlds:
1. Set boundaries & stick to ‘em.
No checking email after 9 p.m.? No talking about work at Happy Hour? No accepting coworkers on Facebook? Check, check, check.
Mental Health America credits technology for a lot of employees’ stress. “The same technology that makes it so easy for workers to do their jobs flexibly can also burn us out if we use them 24/7.”
2. Take a day off when you need one.
Mental health days are so important. Sometimes you just need to sleep in until 10, run errands, lounge around in your jammies, or read a book all day.
It’s okay to take a personal day once in awhile, that’s why you have them! You’ll come back to the office refreshed and focused.
3. Make a list of your priorities.
If you’re 22 and your #1 priority is becoming partner before 30, you may not be able to leave at 5 p.m. every day.
If your goal is spending more time with family, you might not make it to every work Happy Hour. Write down what’s most important to you & change your habits accordingly!
4. Master the see-saw.
It’s called balance for a reason.
Understand that something urgent may come up at the office that you have to come in early to address. A family member may get sick during a busy work week. When in doubt, circle back to your list of priorities!
5. Find your outlet.
CrossFit, yoga, volunteering, meditating, adult coloring books, reading, whatever helps you relieve stress.
According to Forbes, exercise is typically one of the first things people bump from their calendars when they’re swamped - although that’s when we really need it most! Kicking your endorphins up a notch is one of the most effective (and natural) stress relievers.