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Choosing your own adventure: working at start ups, scale ups or established organisations 

a female holding coffee
 
Regardless of whether the job title is the same, your work experience will be vastly different when working at different sized organisations. Start ups, scale ups, and established businesses each offer unique experiences and challenges. When choosing to work for an organisation, consider the benefits, and potential negatives, that the organisation might offer pending its size and maturity.

Start up: The Thrill of the Unknown

Working at a start up can be exciting, but it can also be exhausting. A start up is a business that is potentially only a few years old and could still very likely fail. These young companies are often still trying to find the right market fit for an innovative product that one or more of the founders passionately believes in. It’s turbulent, fast paced and somewhat risky.
 

Ambiguous Environment

Start ups are known for their fast-paced and ever-changing working environment. A role at a start up often means that you’ll be doing more than what’s in your job description as small teams muck in together to get the job done. This flexibility also means that you’ll likely be able to learn many new skills that are currently outside of your responsibilities.
 

Work with the bosses

Start ups typically have a very flat structure meaning that you'll often be working directly with the founders or top executives. This hands-on experience can be invaluable for your personal and professional growth but can also mean you can share your ideas directly with the people that can make them happen.
 

High Risk, High Reward

Start ups can be risky. In fact, 48 per cent of all new business start ups fail within the first four years in Australia, and only 77 per cent make their first anniversary. However, they can also offer substantial rewards. If the company succeeds, you may benefit from equity or significant bonuses as part of your remuneration package.
 

Work/Life Balance

With small, but passionate, teams, and plenty of work to do, hours can be long at start ups. When people are passionate about a project, they are willing to forego normal start and finish times, and even weekends to find the solutions to the problems they are working on.

Scale up: Balancing Growth and Stability

Scale up companies have gone through the initial start up phase and are focused on expanding operations. Typically, a business can be called a scale up once they are growing at 20 per cent for three consecutive years. There will be structure in place, but staff levels are still relatively small and with a strong focus on growth.
 

Structured Environment

Compared to start ups, scale ups often have more established processes and structures in place. This offers a sense of stability while still allowing for innovation even if the teams are still relatively small and therefore do require some flexibility from their employees.
 

Market Validation

Scale ups have established their product-market fit which does reduce some of the financial risks that are usually associated with start ups. However, there is still a level of uncertainty in this stage.
 

Growth Opportunities

Scale ups are growing rapidly, which means there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement. You can help shape the company's future and take on more significant responsibilities.
 

Latest technology

Scale ups have often started with forward-thinking digital architecture at its core. Teams will be working with some of the latest technology on offer giving you invaluable exposure to new ways of working.

Established Business: Stability and Legacy

Established businesses are well-settled in their industries and have a track record of ongoing success. They have typically been in operation for a number of years and have well documented procedures and processes.
 

Stability

Established companies generally offer more job security and stability. They have a steady customer base and a proven business model, reducing the risk of sudden layoffs.
 

Formal Career Paths

Established businesses are generally larger and have well-defined career paths mapped out, with clear expectations on what you need to do to progress your career. This can be helpful in planning your long-term professional growth.
 

Legacy and Reputation

Joining an established business means becoming part of a company with a recognised brand and reputation, which can enhance your own professional image.

Choosing the Right Path for You

Regardless of what the job title might say, the experience of working at these different sized organisations couldn’t be more different. It’s important to consider your own goals and preference when choosing what sized organisation to work for. Try taking these steps to help you choose the path that’s right for you.
 
  • Self-Assessment: Reflect on your career goals, risk tolerance and the skills you want to develop. Which of these work environments aligns with your values and aspirations? 
     
  • Research: Investigate potential employers thoroughly. Consider their financial stability, company culture, growth prospects and industry reputation – check online reviews and speak to current or former employees.
     
  • Network: Connect with professionals who have experience in different types of companies. They can offer valuable insights and personal anecdotes about their work experiences.
     
  • Trial Period: If possible, consider taking on short-term assignments or internships to get a taste of each type of company. This hands-on experience can help you make an informed decision. 
Choosing between a start up, scale up, or established business is a significant decision that can profoundly impact your career. Each option offers unique challenges and opportunities – pick which one works best for you. 
 

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