The start-up with potential benefits or the established one with concrete benefits?
March 2, 2010 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Which job should I choose? The start-up with potential benefits or the established one with concrete benefits?

So I have a tough decision to make. I have two potential jobs and must choose.

Job A is with a rapidly growing start-up that is determined to go public. They have tens of millions of funding and will likely be cashflow positive within a year. This job includes stock options. The vacation is great. The pay is decent. The staff is awesome. I am way over qualified for the job itself, which is rather repetative. I have been told in a year or so I could theoretically transfer into another position which will probably be created as the company is adding employees at an absurd clip. The environment is not great - a bit loud and a bit of a bullpen. This job may not be easy to explain on a resume.

Job B is with an established company. It is growing slowly but has decided to add a new position covering a new marketing method. I would have the opportunity to create this position and define it. The vacation is not as good. The pay is about 25% more than Job A. The people are okay, but not fantastic like in Job A. This position would be more of a challenge. I do not see a great opportunity to move upwards here as people almost never leave the company and it is not growing rapidly enough to add positions often. This job is easy to explain on a resume. I would have my own office, unlike Job A.

So based on your experiences what would you do? It seems as if it is the potential of a start-up versus the safety of an older company.

My greatest concern is which will grow my career faster. Both jobs are somewhat what I would like to do, but Job B is probably a bit closer to what I would like to do.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total)
How old are you? Do you have to support anyone other than yourself? Etc. The right answer here probably depends on life-cycle stuff (as well as personality, of course).
posted by grobstein at 3:16 PM on March 2, 2010

We just did something a bit similar, though with slightly different considerations.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2010

What would I do? I would take Job B, but then, I'm rapidly heading for 40 and have a mortgage and a family. 15 years ago, I might have taken Job A.
posted by IanMorr at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2010

Unless you need to take Job B for some reason, take Job A. You sound like you're positioned to capitalize on the greater opportunity at A, and as the last decade shows, the security of B is an illusion.
posted by fatbird at 3:37 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do not see a great opportunity to move upwards here as people almost never leave the company and it is not growing rapidly enough to add positions often.

The thing about promotion is, a lot of the time (for me, all the time) it's been external (i.e., not advanced through the company, but each re-hire took on a bigger role). I believe this is generally because people value practical experience most of all and working with an "explainable" job at a "established" company is easy to understand for a hiring manager. Whereas once you have a job in a company, often-times that will simply just become your role you can never leave. If you're early in your career I'd take the resume job. Especially if it's paying more (start saving it) and especially if you get your own office. Doors are huge.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:38 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only reason I would consider Job A is if you were very confident that you could force your way into the job you wanted (Job C) as soon as possible. You would need to know what Job C is now as well as knowing all the obstacles that prevent you from getting Job C (like recessions, bad managers, politics, etc.). No one is going to hand you a made job in a year, since everyone else in the company is hoping for the same thing.

Otherwise Job B sounds better in all respects - it's a job that you want from the beginning and pays more. You can always leverage Job B's title and pay if the company doesn't work out for you, but with Job A you are basically stuck until you get up to Job C - which may or may not be as good as Job B. Heck if Company A is still doing well, you can apply for Job C with your new (relevant?) experience later.
posted by meowzilla at 3:41 PM on March 2, 2010

I used to job hop a lot, so I am answering from that perspective (not where are you going to now but what about the future?)

The following leaps out at me, which for job B is this:” I would have the opportunity to create this position and define it.” If you can decide what you want to learn and master those skills, how can that not translate into a great job in the future?

Vs this: “I am way over qualified for the job itself, which is rather repetitive”for job A. You are probably not going to develop new job skills for potentially a year?

Also, I’ve noticed that when you jump to another job you normally get an increase in salary base on your previous job. Job B off the bat will give you the higher salary, while job A is not. So to me, the skills you can learn in job B and the pay = go there for career advancement.

Two more things to think about: You are being offered 2 jobs at once. Use this to negotiate for things that you want. Tell job B (if you want it) that job A is offering you more vacation time, and could you negotiate for more? You may be surprised and they will offer this to you.

You can also lay your cards just a little bit on the table with job B. “I am highly interested in career advancement, where can I go next within your company 1 year from now or 2 years from now?” Maybe they can tell you a change in title, or that they plan on expanding your department, who knows. They may offer you something or a plan that you can follow for career advancement, too. Right now you are negotiating an unknown though.
Also, remember, once you get the skills down, a good salary, a good reputation, why couldn’t you then go somewhere else?

Finally, this is just me, but I don’t base a job base on the people. I’ve had the worst bosses in my life be pleasant and outgoing during the interview…and then the true psycho comes out when you are hired.

I’m sure there are great people at both jobs, you just don’t know your coworkers yet.

posted by Wolfster at 3:42 PM on March 2, 2010

The other thing that jumped out at me is "tens of millions of dollars" won't last long if they're adding employees at a fast clip.
But yeah, chiming in to say:
Repetitive=boring, conditions: Loud, 'bull-pen'
Define the job=life-changing, conditions: private office (really?! have you *any* idea how rare that is these days?!!!)

AND Job B is with a stable company.
Job B seems like a winner, IMO.

You are lucky to get to choose- so congratulations with whatever your choice is!
posted by dbmcd at 3:59 PM on March 2, 2010

...rapidly growing start-up that is determined to go public. They have tens of millions of funding and will likely be cashflow positive within a year.

I think all startup companies believe this, and not all of them come out smelling roses. There is no reason to believe this startup will be wildly successful and that you will have a chance to capitalize on their success. And as a late-comer to the company, your stock options won't be worth a huge amount either if they go public.
posted by meowzilla at 4:10 PM on March 2, 2010

I've worked at a couple start-ups that didn't pan out, and while the work itself was fun, the experience taken as a whole was very unpleasant. In part this is because start-ups don't fail all at once; you don't just show up one day and find the doors locked. Instead there's a really unpleasant period of uncertainty where you might be asked to work longer hours for less or no pay while the bosses are desperately trying to scare up funding.

Having said that, it's not like jobs with big corporations are secure these days either.

I'd say the contributing factor is this: do you believe in Company A? Are you excited not just about what you can get out of the company, but about the company itself? If so, I'd say it's worth it. If not, I'd say go for the stable job and follow your bliss in your spare time.
posted by lore at 4:45 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Job B is the right one. Here's how I see it:

Pay: Job B has better pay.
People: Job A has niftier people, but really Job B will surely have nifty people too. I call that a tie.
Work/Life Balance: Job A has more vacation, but it's a start-up. What I know about this is, you will work a lot of hours, which pretty much cancels out that extra vacation time. Also, the bull-pen environment makes me really think that too. So, Job B wins this one.
Skills: Job B is more like what you want to do, so it wins here again.
Carrots: Job A has carrots -- up-and-coming company with stock options... and they are so determined to go public! Ah, but those are promises, and you can't pay bills with promises. Job A wins for promises, but... well, if you want options, I have some Enron options I've not exercised yet -- will sell for cheap!
posted by Houstonian at 5:11 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm young and I have no mouths to feed but my own, and I would still take Job B. Higher pay, more control over your position, which you say is more challenging, and the security of an established company. I am pretty risk averse, though.
posted by sallybrown at 5:23 PM on March 2, 2010

people almost never leave the company...
I may be reading too much into that statement, but it says a lot about the work environment if people want to stay at Job B for the long term. Also, the opportunity to shape a new marketing method as opposed to work a fairly repetitive job may help you towards your long-term goal of growing your career.

I think of it this way: there's nothing written in stone that either of these jobs are the final career move for you. At Job A, you get the chance to work a fairly repetitive job and maybe move to another, as yet unknown, position. At Job B, you are being promised the chance to challenge yourself and innovate. There's nothing that says that you can't create your position and get the new marketing method off the ground and then use your skills to move on to another company with better benefits when the economy further improves.

Any employees at Job A or B who you can talk to informally?
posted by _cave at 5:43 PM on March 2, 2010

Me, I'd do Job B. More pay, more interesting position, one you get to define yourself, your own office, and more security?

Only god knows whether at Job A you'd win the popularity contest to go from your file-clerk position to something better, and even that would take a year? Would I spend a year filing in a cubicle for 25% less money? Um, no. It sounds like if you win big at Job A, you'll end up with Job B. And if you won really big, you'd end up with some IPO proceeds. I don't know; what are the chances that the stock options would be worth more than taking that guaranteed 25% and putting it in a bank account? I'm a big risk-taker. But your question didn't sell me on the IPO benefits or the coolness of your potential future position. If it had, I might swing the other way. As it is, I'd go with Job B.

Why not work at Job B for a year, and then apply when they open up that cool position at Business A, using your year of work experience as leverage?
posted by salvia at 5:45 PM on March 2, 2010

Sorry, you said it was "repetative," and I converted this to "filing" in my head. Inaccurate, sorry.
posted by salvia at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2010

These are the cynical words of someone who's been through the start-up cycle several times over: take Job B.

Job A has a lot of promise, which has so far failed to materialize. If you assume that the situation won't change, most of the time you'll be right. Assuming that the situation won't change, you're positing a choice between a crappy repetitive job you're overqualified for, versus a great job with a company with an established track record.

Don't be fooled by the razzle dazzle they're giving you at Job A, that's my advice in a nutshell. Look at what you will actually have in hand when you walk through the door.
posted by ErikaB at 6:18 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

After a lot of years working tech startups (mostly back in the heyday thereof), if I had a nickel for every company that tried to convince me I'd get rich working there, I'd actually be rich. (a slight exaggeration, but not much; a percentage or a stock option in a failed company is worth zip).

My advice would be to take B, and better pay up front. Tell A that you're real excited for them, and when they're in a position to hire you for the right job (and can pay for it commensurately), you'd love to hear from them.

Have confidence in your own value, and insist on being paid for it; you'll get more respect and more pay over the long haul. Everything else is just rolling the dice.
posted by nonliteral at 7:07 PM on March 2, 2010

From the original poster:
I ended up taking job B, the stable one. I haven't started yet, but the decision has been made. I had a feeling that was the right one, but everyone's input really helped me lose the fear that leaving Job A would be a huge mistake.
posted by mathowie at 7:56 AM on March 3, 2010

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