Differences between Corporate and Startup Companies

By: Anne Hwang ‘23


From BarkBox to Bloomberg, you’ll find plenty of businesses and companies within New York City that represent both startups and corporations. While it’s often easy to pick out which companies are which, you may not necessarily understand the differences between the way in which these companies operate and what it’s like for employees at the companies. Here’s a simple breakdown of some of the key differences between working for a startup versus a corporation and things you should consider when deciding which one is right for you. 


Roles and Responsibilities


When comparing job positions at a corporate versus a startup company, one of the most notable differences is the roles or responsibilities. In a corporate setting, when you’re hired for a specific position, you tend to stick to tasks and responsibilities that were listed in the job description. Since corporations already have a very well-established structure, you’ll be focusing on set skills and tasks that were defined for your position. On the other hand, working in a startup often means that you may find yourself with responsibilities that weren’t necessarily included in the job description.

Since startup companies are often very new, their employees tend to take on tasks that may cross into another department or field outside of their own. It’s not uncommon for startup company employees to be working on projects that are far from their job position, yet it’s quite rare to see employees in corporate companies working on tasks outside of their job title. Thus, depending on whether you prefer a more rigid or dynamic work experience, you may be more inclined towards either a corporate or startup position.





Similar to the roles and responsibilities, corporates and startups also have drastically different structures within their respective companies. In a corporate structure, there usually exists an established hierarchy with more clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Therefore, you’ll find you may not have much influence over the decisions that are made. However, since employees at startup companies often balance multiple responsibilities both within and outside of their fields, working at a startup tends to provide you with a bit more influence over the final decisions that are made.

Based on your preferences, if you are more comfortable with having a set structure, you’re more likely to favor corporates, but if you enjoy the flexibility of tapping into many skills and projects while having more of an impact with your opinions, then startups are the way to go. 




Last but not least, stability between corporates and startups can also vary. Since corporations have been around for a longer period of time, the companies already have a system in place as to how the entire corporate structure functions. As a result, you’re usually to have more stable hours and set time off. For startups, because the companies are still often very new and working to establish a structure and efficient system, it’s very likely that you’re going to be working more unstable hours and time off may be less predictable.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both the corporate culture and startup culture, but one of the main differences to consider is whether you prefer a set and rigid structure or a more flexible structure. If you’re unsure of which to pick, it’s always a good idea to reach out to alumni and/or professionals from both fields. For networking opportunities, feel free to check out Macaulay’s LinkedIn groups! 


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