1 in 2 prefers joining a start-up. But is it the right fit for you?


Robert Walters’ recent whitepaper ‘Act like a start-up' showed that 50% of professionals surveyed would opt for a start-up as their next career move. For many, start-ups sound like attractive organisations: they pursue public interests; the working environment seems very pleasant, and they look like the perfect place for self-development. But how do you know if a start-up is the right fit for you?


Margaux Schoukens, consultant at international recruitment firm Robert Walters, explains for whom a start-up is the right choice, and who would be better off joining a more traditional organization. 

Working environment

An attractive working environment, successful and ambitious people with a common goal, a flat hierarchy, and a cosy atmosphere at the office. That’s the image that comes to mind with most people when you ask them about start-ups. Who wouldn’t want to join them? 

“True” says Margaux. “But in reality, working in a start-up also means that there is often a lack of clear structure, and in many organizations, there are no well-defined responsibilities for each individual. Just because everything is new, no procedures have been drawn up yet.” Are you someone who likes structure and clearly defined tasks? Then a start-up may not be the right choice for you.


Because they are new, start-ups often have fewer resources than larger, more traditional organizations that have been operating for years. Margaux: "If you are considering quitting your current job to join a start-up, you should also bear in mind that you may have to make sacrifices in terms of salary and fringe benefits. Think, for example, of fewer holidays, no insurance package or a limited bonus." 


Everyone prefers flexible working hours, and that is one of the great advantages of working for a start-up. You get to determine your own time at work and receive the freedom and confidence to do your job the best way you can and how you prefer to do it. But this flexibility can also be a disadvantage. "Employees in start-up companies usually work hard and they are not afraid to work during weekends or holidays, which may have a negative impact on your work-life balance," Margaux warns. 


"In addition, you should not be afraid to be entrepreneurial and innovative," says Margaux. The environment and ways of working within start-ups and more traditional organizations are quite different, so it is logical that people are attracted by the different types of organizations." According to the Robert Walters whitepaper 'Act like a start-up', 39% of professionals believe that the business model of a start-up will enable them to be innovative. "That indicates that many professionals are aware of the differences. But to actually work innovatively, it is important to be well prepared for those major differences in the way of working. If you have trouble adapting quickly, the transition to a start-up will not be easy either." 


"There is a link between start-ups and entrepreneurship. That's because these organizations work in extremely uncertain conditions. Like entrepreneurs, they often face setbacks. According to a Harvard Business School study, 75% of start-ups fail. "That's a substantial number" says Margaux. "This number perfectly reflects the uncertainty in which start-ups often find themselves. It takes quick, agile, and creative actions to make a start-up succeed. If these scare you, a start-up might not be the right option for you. You really need to be a daredevil." 

"To summarize: professionals who like variety, a dynamic environment and challenges should definitely opt for a start-up. Employees who prefer not to make too many concessions and who find structure and regularity more important than variation are best off in a more traditional organization." concludes Margaux. 


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