The Startup as Opportunity Myth

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For a long time now, there has been a perpetual belief that a career with a startup company has a lot more to offer a young engineer than a job with a larger corporation. The truth is that startups often do have unique career opportunities that can be great for certain individuals, but there is also a downside that many people new to the industry just do not see or hear about.

For more than a decade now, we have heard plenty of stories about the startups that have been a great success and changed the way that things are done and, in the process, changed the lives of all of the people involved. These are great stories and they can offer a lot of insight into what it takes to be successful, but it presents an uneven picture that does not accurately reflect reality. The truth is that the vast majority of startups fail and when all is said and done, many of the people that got in on the ground floor end-up a few years older and no better off than when they started.

This misperception of reality has led many of the most talented young engineers to sell their careers short. They think that a job with a startup will provide them with opportunities for positions in senior management that they would otherwise have had to wait longer for or the belief that it was an opportunity to get in on something big before it becomes big and by doing so, make a fortune.

The worst part is that this false reality has an influence on the career choices that are available to all of the professionals in the industry and not just the ones that sell themselves short for the dream of striking startup gold. When a large part of the workforce is taking lower compensation and benefits, it also has a negative effect on the salaries and benefits packages that are offered to their peers. Essentially, by undervaluing their own skills, they are creating an atmosphere where everybody’s skills have a lower value.

With all of this being said, the idea isn’t that startup jobs are not worth the time of the individual. However, when it comes to making a career choice, professionals need to lookout for being taken advantage of and they need to make sure that the potential employer is offering them a realistic picture of what their opportunities will be. Otherwise, you can find yourself leaving a company that fulfilled none of your expectations and with little more than life experience to show for it.