There’s no grabbing intro story here. No great quote. And no numbered top-10 list. There’s just some simple advice: don’t join a start-up when you graduate. Or, at least, don’t join a small, unknown start-up if you can instead get into one of the top big tech companies.

The problem with joining a start-up when you graduate is that most start-ups fail. Sure, if you get into FourSquare or Twitter or Facebook when it’s young, that’s great. But no one really knows what next year’s hot start-up will be.

When you join a start-up when it’s still young and unknown, you’ll probably be jobless in a couple of years. That’s just the reality of start-ups. They fail more often than they succeed. And since anyone can get a job at a start-up, your now-prior job offers little credibility. No one looks at your resume and says, “ooh, this person is probably a great engineer since they worked for UnknownCompany.”

On the other hand, when you work for Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Facebook (and other top tech companies), that credibility will stick with you for a long, long time. Having “Amazon, Software Engineer” on your resume will establish a minimum amount of credibility in a way that “Failed Unknown Company, Software Engineer” will not.

You don’t need to stay at BigTechCompany for long. One year, or even six months, is long enough to establish that credibility. (In fact, if you want to join a start-up, make sure you leave quickly – or if you stay, you’re staying for a very good reason. It’s really easy to get sucked into the nice, cushy jobs that big tech companies offer.)

That technical credibility will help you get a job with the really hot start-ups, or help you recruit people when you found your own start-up, or help you get funding for your start-up.

Isn’t 10 or 20 years of technical credibility worth pushing off your entrepreneurial goals for just six months? I think so.

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Gayle Laakmann McDowell is the founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview, Cracking the PM Interview, and The Google Resume. Gayle has worked as a software engineer for Microsoft, Apple and Google. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Computer Science, and an MBA from the Wharton School. She currently resides in Palo Alto, CA.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook