I'm often asked by students contemplating job offers, "Should I start with an established company and then go to a startup later, or take this opportunity with a startup and hope that it works out?"
Even when you're drawn to entrepreneurial, fun work environments and the excitement of a startup, it can be tempting to want to take the position at the well-known company. Doing that provides name recognition on your resume, and can be a secure way to add to your bank account and maybe pay down your student loans (or avoid taking out more). But if you're drawn to startups at all, they make great internship and first job experiences. Here's why:
1. You'll get exposed to EVERYTHING.
In an established large company, it's typical for job duties to be well organized, and you'll find yourself in a specialized area on a specialized team. In a Startup, it's common for everyone to have their hands in multiple projects and aspects of the business that you'd never see or get exposed to in a larger company. This is great if you're still figuring out what you want to do with your career. Not sure if Design or Development is more your style? You'll probably get exposed to both in a Startup environment, and that exposure will help you decide what direction to move in next.
2. You'll build crazy skills.
Because you'll probably see and be exposed to different areas of the business, you'll get good at a lot of different types of tasks and processes in a Startup, and this will mean lots and lots of bullet points on your resume. Those bullet points are golden when you go to your next internship or job, your next employer will be impressed by the breadth and depth of the responsibilities and tasks you've already accomplished in your new career path.
3. You'll get exposed to new technology and unique ways of doing business.
Startups are doing new things, they're offering products that no one else is or services in a way that others hadn't thought of, and this creativity and innovation means you'll get exposed to ideas and technologies and processes you'd never thought of or heard of before. This will expand your mind, making you smarter and more adaptable to whatever job you go into next.
4. You'll probably find yourself with a job opportunity.
Startups are growing by their very nature, which means if you choose a good one, you'll have lots of career-building opportunity. If your internship or first job there goes well, you could find yourself moving up the chain much faster than you might at a traditional/established company. Faster promotion potential means more aggressive career growth and more opportunity. Startups can be career accelerators.
5. You won't get bored.
Startups grow and change, your tasks and responsibilities will too, and with all that comes lots of variation in what you do from day to day and what your job looks like from month to month. Stimulation, yo.
So get yourself an internship, preferably at an early stage company with lots of growth potential, doing something you find interesting. There's plenty of opportunity out there.