Discussion: Should I Jump to a Startup?

A Dice News reader asks:

Decision Pros and ConsI’ve spent my entire career in the corporate world, but there’s an interesting startup I’d like to work for. How can I decide whether to make the jump?

The answer, of course, depends on how you feel about your own situation and the company’s prospects. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will this move impact my career? If you’re a well-connected professional with highly marketable skills, then you may have little to lose — and possibly much to gain — by joining a startup, even if it fails. Will you acquire valuable skills and experience? Where will you be in 24 months if you stay or go? Remember, every job change should advance your career.
  • Does the startup have a viable business plan? There’s nothing wrong with taking a risk as long as you know the odds. In this case, has the startup defined its target market? Does it have customers? Is the management team seasoned and smart? Does the company have enough funding to make it to the finish line? Research shows that successful startups have sound leadership and are flexible enough to shift with changes in the tech climate. Do your own research on the startup’s market and its management, and be sure to ask detailed questions during your interviews.
  • What’s my risk tolerance? Your risk tolerance is a key consideration. Which opportunity offers the best return on your investment and how does that square with your penchant for risk? No job is completely secure but some offer more security then others. If you like security, a startup’s not for you. But if you don’t mind taking a chance and you’ve got the funds to cover you if things don’t work out, making the jump could be worth the risk.
  • What’s my financial situation? There’s an old saying that goes “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” In this case, what happens if the startup goes under and you find yourself out of a job? Be sure you’ve got emergency funds put away to tide you over in case you have to spend months on another job search. Also, a startup may not pay as well as a more established company does. Be sure you can live on the reduced income.

Do you have other advice for people contemplating a startup job? Share them in the comments below.

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