When young people ask me what one piece of career advice I would give them, I reply, "Work for a big company."
This advice is not popular, and there is no shortage of articles that encourage the millennial workforce to cast away tradition and join the exciting world of startups.
But as a big business alum who now runs a successful startup, I would not be where I am today without working for a global leader first. Here’s why:
One of the most valuable takeaways from my career at a large tech corporation is the positive, productive community I found there—a supportive network that rightly takes pride in working for the industry’s best company.
Today, it is not uncommon for me to receive business referrals from former team members who can vouch for my work from a past, successful project.
While smaller organizations are known for their ability to move swiftly in response to changing business conditions, large companies have an equally valuable advantage: established processes and systems.
People who spend their entire careers in the startup world can miss out on this vitally important structural support, which ensures attention to detail and emphasizes the significance of quality.
Another skill people learn at larger enterprises is the ability to communicate across multiple disciplines and levels. In a small startup, communication is simple, speedy, and direct within a fairly flat organizational chart. In a larger company, employees learn the chain of command and how to influence people they don’t directly manage to build consensus among employees at all levels, an invaluable skill set that is also applicable in all aspects of business.
Many large companies choose to invest heavily in developing their people. My experience was no exception. In addition to formal training classes, employees were also mentored by the top experts in their field, who also play a key role in the larger technology and InfoSec communities. This is a considerable asset for employees, especially those new to the industry and workforce.
Working for a smaller company is a great education—an opportunity for a manager to wear many hats and gain experience with a variety of roles. But working for a large company is equally valuable: Being part of a diverse, knowledgeable team is an education that is just as essential and also transferable to all business environments.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the advantages of both a startup and a big company, and while it may not reflect the trending advice, I encourage younger people to consider working for a large company before going the startup route.
—Sarah Isaacs is managing partner and cofounder of Conventus, a Symantec National Platinum Partner that specializes in endpoint and server security, compliance, and data loss prevention.
[Image: Flickr user Nathan Forget]