Bradley-Morris answers questions from transitioning military job seekers.
Q: I will be transitioning out in the next year, and I’ve had a lot of friends tell me I should work for a “start-up.” What benefits would I gain from working with a company that may be in its formative stages and, barring that, is it better to work for a public or private company?
A: There is no “right” answer to this question, unfortunately. The fact is that start-ups, private and public companies all offer their own unique advantages as well as differing levels of job security (we’ll save the subject of nonprofit companies for another day).
Public companies are owned by shareholders/stockholders, so their finances are public. Usually, these are well-known brands, and it may be an attractive proposition to say that you work for one of them – a “resume-builder” that may be a feather in your cap going forward.
At some point in history, a public company was viewed as a more stable career than a start-up or private company. However, macro-economic trends can impact your job at a public company even if you are performing at a high level. If a public company is unable to meet share price projections due to these trends, it can result in cost cutting measures and/or mega-mergers, both of which could lead to wide-spread job losses as associated outcomes.
Private companies don’t have the same kind of public financial scrutiny and can operate within their own profit goals and corporate goals. Typically, they have a smaller group of owners and/or investors and can vary in size from mom-and-pop shops to multinational firms. Many times, a private company can be a great option for a military-experienced job-seeker, especially when they are looking for a top performer to bring new leadership to a team. Promotion opportunities can come quicker as there may be less bureaucracy than at a public company. However, some private companies are family-owned and there may be a ceiling as to how high you can go in the company if only family members occupy the highest leadership roles, for example.
Start-ups are usually very fast-paced with shifting priorities and intense cultures. Working long nights and weekends if you want to keep up is not uncommon. You will be expected to deliver from day one – there probably won’t be any training wheels. If you thrive in this type of environment, the rewards can be considerable in terms of added responsibilities, growth and potentially lucrative stock options when and if the company “goes public” and becomes traded on a stock exchange. But the Amazon.com successes are few and far between. Most start-ups don’t make it out of the start-up phase, so don’t make a potential big pay day the main reason to take a position at this type of company.
The bottom line is that any type of business can offer a rewarding career, but there are no guarantees for long-term stability whether the company is public, private or a start-up. So consider each opportunity for the right balance of compensation, culture, responsibility, geography and growth, and trust your gut.
Mike Arsenault is Vice President of Candidate Services at military placement firm Bradley-Morris, Inc. He can be reached at (800) 330-4950 ext. 2105 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.