For some people, a successful career means staying in startups, forever. But there are others who make the jump from startups to corporate companies, to try something new. Making the leap is possible, but it can be difficult. To find out how, we talked to three people who’ve successfully made the change.
1. Jump in with a startup attitude
Joelle Pang had worked in startups before she decided to join FastJobs, a mobile-first non-executive job platform founded by Singapore Press Holdings. It was two weeks before she was due to start, and she worried that she wouldn’t fit in.
It turns out, however, that the startup mindset she’d gained was the perfect attitude to making it work. “When you’re making a big change, it’s always scary because you’re stepping into the unknown,” Joelle explained. “But in startups, we learn to be agile, to adapt and to solve problems. If you know that you’re good at problem solving, fitting into another culture is just a problem to be solved.”
2. Do your homework
Michelle was pitching her startup to Oracle Corporation when they turned around and offered her a job. She’d worked in startups and SMBs, but never in a corporate environment, and she was open to trying something new. But before she made the plunge, Michelle did her homework.
“When I told my friends I wanted to try a corporate job, I got a lot of cautionary advice that made me do my due diligence,” she said. “I researched what was happening in Oracle and discovered that there was a big organizational shift to become more innovative. I also got to know the team I was going to work with. It was a long process to understand what they wanted to do, but I took my time.”
3. Find something you’re passionate about
As a co-founder of a retail technology startup, Stefan Jacob loved building things. But after funding at the startup ran out, and with a family to support, Stefan joined Solaria Labs at Liberty Mutual Insurance.
But even though financial stability is an important goal, Stefan says it shouldn’t be the only one. “Compared to a startup, the bureaucracy in a corporate job can be frustrating. If you don’t care about what you’re doing then you’re going to struggle to be motivated. Find something that you’re excited about, because that’ll help you push through the barriers.”
4. Relationships are key
The corporate environment is greatly different from a startup, and one thing that all three of our interviews agreed on is that relationships are key to success.
“As a startup, we needed to move quickly, whereas in a big company, there can be a lot of steps just to do simple things,” Stefan said. “I had to learn how to navigate and make sure that what we’re doing is relevant to the global business. I feel like building relationships internally has helped clear the path for that.”
“You’re now in a large organization,” Joelle added. “And you have to understand that the stakeholders you’re working with have their own KPIs to meet as well, so learn to be more patient with everyone’s needs and perspectives.”
5. It’s not as bad as you think
“It’s not as bad as it seems,” Michelle laughed. “When I told people I was going to corporate, they looked at me like I was going to the dark side. But the leadership here is great, and access to resources is different from a startup. If leveraged right, it really enables you to get things moving.”
After starting work at FastJobs at SPH, Joelle realized that her early fears were unfounded. “I was just being whiny and emotional, there’s no other way to put it,” she shared. “I’m actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would.”