Startup vs. Corporate: Which Path To Management Is Faster And Why?


Corporate path to management

Traditional corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, and McKinsey, dominated business graduate employment up until the mid-2000s. They often started their career trajectory by working in one or two junior-level positions before going to business school to receive an MBA. Then they would either return to their previous employer to climb the corporate ladder in a management level position or transition to a similar corporate firm. The average time it takes to get to a Director-level role is 12 years.

Startup path to management

In contrast, startups along with a lot of agencies (creative and digital) adopt a completely different approach. You can graduate college, work in a junior-level role and get promoted fairly quickly to management. These organizations grow at a rapid rate and you’ll quickly gain more responsibility and be in charge of others that join the organization. Unlike corporations, the vast majority of startups do not require you to receive an MBA and the average time it takes to reach a Director-level role is 6-8 years.

How are startups able to promote individuals to management-level positions faster?

  1. Startups have more leadership gaps than corporations.

If a startup has raised funding, there will be a need to hire more people to fill more positions. Since high-growth organizations need to scale quickly, there will be more demand for existing team members to move into leadership roles. It is impossible for companies to hire fast enough to meet the growing demands of their organization, giving you the opportunity to move up to a management role much quicker.

2. Startups are flexible and value merit over years of experience.

Old school business thinking requires you to have a certain amount of years of work experience and an MBA as a stamp of approval in order to run your own team. Startups value performance over the number of work years or degrees you have. Also startups have various different career trajectories that are flexible based on the varying needs of the company that change frequently versus a corporation that has a very set structure and is not as flexible.

3. Startups need to keep their top performers.

Recruiters pitch job opportunities to highly sought after startup and tech employees forcing employers to promote them or risk losing them to competitors. In addition, millennials are more likely than previous generations to switch jobs more frequently because they are less loyal to their employers. This incentivizes organizations to keep their employees happy by promoting them to leadership positions sooner rather than later.

4. Startups are contrarian by nature.

Startups are built by going against traditional norms. This is why you see a lot of startups adopting flat structures or unique management quirks like Netflix. MBAs and corporate ladder climbing are seen as unproductive and inefficient for the growth demands of these organization.