A Founder’s Take on Changing Careers and Corporate vs. Startup Life

By: Lizette De Arkos

“Is it Time for a Career Change?”

We Spend Most of Our Lives at Work

When I first saw the viral video “Time is Precious” I felt like I had been instantaneously plunged in and out of an ice-cold tub… but in a good way. Realizing that we spend the greater portion of our lives dedicated to our careers is sobering and forces us to adopt a macroscopic perspective of our life.

As this video cleverly illustrates, we spend most our lives at work. We spend more time there than we do with our loved ones, our family and friends. Each week we clock in on Monday morning and clock out on Friday afternoon and before we know it years have gone by with us on autopilot. The upside is that by reading this article you are ready to critically analyze your career goals and what you would like to accomplish in the hopefully 80+ years you’ll spend on this planet.

Discover What Matters to You Most

Changing careers begins with discovering what matters most to you. Self-awareness is a life long journey, but it can begin by making a list of your values. It may sound dark but a great place to start is by asking yourself, “When I die what do I want to be remembered for?” This will enlighten you to your ultimate goals, your passions, and the impact you wish to have on others. Finding your values will help define the value you want to add to the world.

From there consider your character traits and strong suits. The easiest distinction is defining if you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert. You may either prefer working alone (introvert), working with others (extrovert), or a combination of both (ambivert). This distinction will help you narrow down career options by their level of social interaction. Why torture yourself in a high energy sales position, when you would rather conduct research in solitude? Or vice versa? An internet search for the best jobs for your personality type is a great place to start searching for a new career.

Most importantly, be completely honest with yourself as you delve into this. In our society, certain characteristics are deemed of greater value than others, but it is imperative that you authentically identify what inspires you. Having clarity in this realm is a crucial step in finding the perfect career.

Take Inventory

In tandem with discovering what matters to you, take inventory of your skills, your professional experience, and your education. The great part of this inventory process is that if you find that you are lacking in certain areas, you can make a plan to improve them.

Begin to brainstorm what new career would make getting out of bed in the morning a breeze. Do you have the skills and experience necessary to get this new job? If you don’t, can you take educational courses? How long will these take? Should you go back to school? With these answers make a plan and stick to it. If it seems overwhelming, break it down into easily accomplished tasks and take it one by one.

Corporate versus Startup Life

When changing your career there are several sectors to consider. These sectors include: non-profit, public service/government, corporate, startups and entrepreneurship. Below I will compare the pros and cons of the corporate to the startup realm.

The Pros of a Corporate Career:

  • Stable income and financial security
  • Access to benefits
  • Set schedule
  • Structured workplace
  • Opportunity to grow within the company
  • Existing revenue stream
  • Access to industry leaders/mentors
  • Large reach of company
  • Access to existing ecosystems

The Cons of a Corporate Career:

  • Lack of autonomy
  • Red tape
  • Hierarchical organization
  • Fixed company culture

The Pros of a Startup Career:

  • Collaborative and dynamic environment
  • Ability to challenge the status quo
  • Greater sense of ownership
  • More responsibility and opportunities
  • Being surrounded by people driven by innovation
  • Greater ownership and recognition
  • Less hierarchy and more transparency
  • Social and casual environment
  • Being part of the startup culture and access to startup specific networks

The Cons of a Startup Career:

  • Limited stability, the company could lose its funding
  • Volatile revenue streams
  • High expectations and accountability
  • Doing multiple jobs
  • Frugality
  • Blurred lines between your professional and personal life

In the end the largest contrast between a corporate and a startup career is stability. A corporate career offers an opportunity to work within a predetermined structure that offers a stable income. On the other hand, a startup career offers the opportunity to be driven by innovation and the ability to play a greater role in the creation of the company. Are you interested in maintaining or challenging the status quo? If your answer is the latter, you may want to work for a startup or become an entrepreneur.

Is Entrepreneurship Right for You?

If you are driven by an innate desire to change the world; and if exchanging your time, skills and ideas for a paycheck feels restrictive, being an entrepreneur may be the right option for you.

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur relies on the ability to identify a problem and create a viable solution. Entrepreneurs are driven by innovation and work tirelessly to ensure that they add value to the world. The realm of entrepreneurship is complex and consists of a spectrum of problems and opportunities. Below find a brief overview of its pros and cons:

The Pros of Being an Entrepreneur:

  • Autonomy
  • Dynamic environment
  • Ability to showcase your diverse skill set
  • Flexibility
  • Complete ownership
  • Leading your company and team
  • Chance to make a difference in the world

The Cons of Being an Entrepreneur:

  • Solitude
  • High stress
  • High risk
  • Volatile income
  • Responsible for financial stability and well-being of your employees
  • Multiple responsibilities, wearing multiple hats
  • Never ending job, no 40-hour weeks here
  • Possible failure and loss of investment

Entrepreneurship is a beautiful manifestation of the importance of your perspective. Each of the aspects listed above can be seen as either positive or negative. An entrepreneur thrives on being able to turn a detriment into either a win or an opportunity to learn.

The recurring theme among the pros and cons of entrepreneurship is stability. If instability petrifies you, entrepreneurship is not right for you. However, if it excites you and you thrive on knowing that you can influence any outcome, being an entrepreneur may be a great choice for you. To further delve into what it takes to be an entrepreneur, I highly recommend taking the Harvard Business Review’s test titled “Should You Be an Entrepreneur?”

Plan Ahead

Changing your career is an exciting life altering choice. The key to a successful transition is being strategic. Thoroughly think through all your options and create a sustainable plan to help you achieve your career goals.

The importance of planning for the unexpected is a lesson that I have learned the hard way as I have transitioned from a stable local government career to being an entrepreneur in a high risk emergent industry. Six months into the transition, the biggest lesson I have learned is to create a meticulous budget for your transition and add in money for the unexpected. Consider your monthly expenses but also include at least a couple of thousands for emergencies. Even though life will throw you curveballs, if you authentically pursue your values and passion, changing your career will prove to an immensely rewarding choice.

About the author: As an innovative entrepreneur and Mexican immigrant, Lizette De Arkos is dedicated to accelerating communities through the advancement of minority-owned businesses and their economic development impact. 

Her dedication to the improvement of communities through third metric enterprises began when she created an ethical apparel and decor line while attending University of California, Santa Cruz where she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Art in Community Studies. Her business acumen was sharpened by attending University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, working for startups in the Bay Area, running two e-commerce businesses, and being a fellow in San Francisco’s Startup Leadership Program 2018 Cohort.

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