As a recent college graduate, should I work in a tech startup?

10 June 2022 ยท Updated 07 July 2022

I worked for a small startup in college. Now that they're offering me a full-time gig right out of university, I'm kind of torn. The salary is on the low side, but they offer generous stock options. The technology they're developing can probably succeed if it's done rightโ€”investors are piling in money (relatively speaking), but they're still small. It's a risky bet: if the company fails, I'll have spent my good years for worthless paper stock options instead of working for promotions at an established tech company.


As someone that has worked in startups and large companies in their career, it depends on what you want to achieve and your disposition really. I’ve learned the most at startups that I did myself, but was the most relaxed at bigger companies that were filled with boring tasks but a lot of stability.

You’re young, so it’s a great time to jump into the startup world. Do it while you’re inexperienced and broke and have no other responsibilities. Worse comes to worst, you can take your skills and put them on a resume and go somewhere else.

If you had a family to feed, and a mortgage to pay, you might ask what the company’s runway is (in terms of months they can sustain without extra investments) and how long before it becomes cash flow positive, also be sure to ask them how far along they are in it development.

Sometimes startups prey on the new and inexperienced software engineers who come into the tech world right from the universities and are eager to embark on their journey.

Pay attention to the culture โ€” startups tend to be less rigid, meaning more flexible hours and a flat team hierarchy. Founders’ personalities and attitudes toward their business are also important. They should be 100% invested in the company and not just doing it for the money.

From the financial perspective, if you can negotiate stock options with a short vesting schedule while keeping your equity if you resign before the schedule is complete, that would be the perfect outcome for you. Taking on some risks and defining the fruits that you’ll reap if the risk pays out.

Overall I must say – just go for it. Will be fun, and if not, you’ll learn a lot of new stuff.

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  • Indrajit

    Jumping into startups early in my career taught me to adapt quickly and think on my feet. It wasn’t just about coding; I had to understand the business side too, which made me more versatile in tech. I’d recommend asking about a startup’s financial runway, it gives a clear picture of stability. Overall, the unique challenges of startups sharpened my skills in ways a larger company never could.