Study hard, get into a good university, study even harder, get a 4.0 GPA, join a big MNC, and you’re set for life! Or are you? 

Whatever your “promised land” might be, climbing the corporate ladder and getting to the top of your field is one way to get there. But another arduous path through the world of startups could potentially propel you to your endgame too!

Given the vast differences between the two, it’s often said that people in the corporate world and entrepreneurial world would usually be unable to survive if they swapped worlds.

But what exactly are these differences? And which path is the one that suits you better as an employee?


Workplace Culture

The corporate ladder is simple. You start at the bottom and you climb (hence the name). You answer to your boss, who answers to his/her boss, who answers to the VP and so on. 

Your job scope is defined and you work to perfect your craft every day. However, that also means that it’s easy to get bored of your work and feel stuck. 

Which is why corporate workers switch companies every couple of years to refresh their environment (but it’s kind of lame because your job is the same and all that’s changed is the company, which means you’ll switch companies again in 2 years hoping things will be different but it won’t). 

The endless loop of job hopping and hoping things will get better does indeed take its toll on some people.

But with the right mindset and motivation, climbing the corporate ladder is the clearest, albeit slower, path to reaching whatever goals/dreams you have.

A startup, however, is pretty flat in terms of structure. There’s really not much strict hierarchy that can exist in a team of 10 people (run if such a hierarchy exists in your startup) and everybody literally knows everybody else.

The free-loaders get found out really quickly and get weeded out while hard work benefits everyone. In a nutshell, it’s more chill.

However, the lack of guidance in a startup does not suit everyone. Each person in a startup has to wear multiple hats and is packed to the brim with work. This means that the only guidance you’ll get (most of the time) is from Google.


Skills Development

Corporate jobs help you master hard and technical skills. Working on the same things every day means that you should become proficient as heck at what you’re doing.

At a startup, you’re more likely to develop an array of skills that you’ll be proficient at but not the best. In short, you’ll be a jack of a couple of trades.



Having the name of a company that everybody can recognize turns the tables on job hunting for you. Having multiple large and recognizable MNCs in your resume means you’ll probably never want for a job; they’ll come to you.

Similarly for startups, some startups are powerful enough to bolster your resume with just their names (which ironically means that they technically shouldn’t be considered startups anymore). Plus points are added if you’re part of the founding team or a key member in the startup.


Compensation & Benefits

Perhaps the simplest comparison here. MNCs pay more and have better benefits. Health insurance, annual bonuses, and frequent company retreats are the norm.

Granted, there are startups who have grown to the level of MNCs and are able to provide very very attractive benefits. But joining a startup usually means a financial sacrifice in exchange for an environment that pushes you to learn quickly and become adept at handling stress and multiple roles. 


Picking The Right Path

So, with the basic comparisons down, what is the path that suits you? For the perfectionists who like to master their craft and be the top 1% in their fields, then the corporate ladder might suit you.

There is a certain joy in honing your technical skills while watching your pay increase alongside your improvements (assuming your company rewards you accordingly). On the flip side, there will likely be office politics that might prove to be a significant obstacle.

Plus, with the (usually) higher payday and benefits, the corporate path is more stable and is a clearer path. The drawback of this is that there are few people who reach the 0.1% of the corporate world and it might take a much longer time to reach your goal.

For those that prefer to have more flexibility and learn to go for the big payday, the unicorn ride might be more appealing. 

The ability to work in multiple roles simultaneously is not to be underestimated. The mental resilience needed to function efficiency and be under constant pressure prepares you for almost any other future role that you might take on.

The lack of guidance might prove an issue for some, so will the lack of clear work hours and job scope. But for those with ambitions of starting their own firm but do not have the confidence to do so, the best way to learn how to start a company might be to help build one.


How Do I Decide?

There is, of course, no right or wrong path to take. What is most important is to understand yourself and choose the road that suits you the most. 

And when in doubt, the solution is of course to speak to someone. And this being a post written on Kalpha, it is only fair to mention that Kalpha is probably the best platform to speak to experienced individuals if you feel like you need some guidance!

With both corporate individuals and startup founders on Kalpha, speak to them to gain insights into both worlds before making a decision!


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