Should an Aspiring Entrepreneur Work for a Big Company After College, or Join a Start-up?

If you’re a recent college graduate who’s entrepreneurially inclined there seem to be two paths:

1. Go work for a big company

2. Go work for a start-up or start a company yourself

The past few weeks I’ve heard both sides of the argument.

If you go work for a big company (Apple, HP, Yahoo, P&G, whoever) you will “learn how to do things right” say some. I actually think you’ll “learn how things get done” at that kind of organization, whether good or bad. The biggest benefit I see, though, has more to do with the number of people you’ll interact with. Go work for a start-up with a few people or start a company yourself and you’re exposed to just a handful of minds on an everyday basis. At a big company you’ll see a range of management styles, methods for running meetings, sales techniques, time management strategies, etc. The main downside for an entrepreneur to working in a big corporation is the bureaucracy may deplete your entrepreneurial instinct. It’s no fun being a cog, but unfortunately, most first jobs in big companies are cog positions.

If you work for a start-up or start a company yourself, you will assume a range of responsibilities and experiences that simply cannot be matched if you’re one of 10,000 employees. You will be involved in every facet of the business, from accounting to marketing to HR. The risk here is that you will fail. Since you’ve never done it before, you probably will fail. The question is how do the lessons from failure in this case compare to the lessons you acquire humming along in a big company.

In the end, it depends on the person, his/her goals, and the opportunity, but I’m more upbeat about the potential good that can come from working in a large corporation for a short period of time than most of my entrepreneur friends.

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