This guest post is by Alexandra Levit, author of “Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.”
Today, it’s fashionable to say that you’re going to become an entrepreneur, that you’ll shun the corporate world to go out and start a business according to your own values and your own rules. But here’s the thing. Running a business is harder than it looks, and the idea that entrepreneurship is the best solution for everyone is a myth.
There are some things about corporate jobs that we forget about, things that we don’t truly value until we don’t have them anymore. These are the three little P’s: peace, prestige and perks. Peace is what you get when you are one player in a cast of thousands. You can show up to work, do your job and go home at the end of the day having collected a paycheck. You don’t have to worry about where that paycheck is coming from or if it will be there tomorrow. If your project fails at your big company, the project gets canceled and you move on. But if it happens at your startup, you’re out of luck.
Even if you work long hours employed at a large organization, you don’t put in as many hours as the average entrepreneur. You are better able to leave your work at the office and disconnect your smartphone without the business crashing down. You are given weeks of vacation that you are encouraged to take, and you can go out to dinner with your significant other or take a mental health day that you can spend watching daytime talk shows and eating Ben & Jerry’s. A more narrow set of job responsibilities means that you can focus on doing your job extremely well and let the rest of the company take care of itself.
Most corporate employees have a set career path and can reliably predict where their career will be in five or 10 years. Their organizations are very explicit about how they should present themselves, how they should behave, and what rules and processes they should follow. There is something safe, comforting and peaceful about clear expectations and a set structure.
Let’s tackle prestige next. If you are a smart cookie with great interpersonal skills, with time you can get to a very good place in the corporate world. You can get a job at a top tier company whose name you will be proud to share on your resume and on dates with a new love interest or friend. Your parents will understand what you do and will be proud of you. When you spend a certain number of years at a firm with excellent name recognition, the credibility of that firm will provide more career options for life.
If your ego is important to you, a job at a large organization will be easier on it. Even if you are one of the lucky few whose small business doesn’t fail in the first few years, it is likely you won’t be a big success either. Most entrepreneurs and sole proprietors aren’t famous or rich. If you want the former, go on reality TV and get your 15 minutes. If you want the latter, work your butt off for somebody else in big business.
And finally, there are the perks. In today’s world, the money your employer contributes to your health insurance and retirement plans is a major benefit. Have you ever tried to fund these plans completely on your own? I’ll tell you from personal experience — it’s scary. And although beefy bonuses seem to be a thing of the past, the other goodies a large organization throws into your compensation package add up. Depending on your company, you could have access to free or discounted gym memberships, child care, on-the-job lunches and dinners, retail products, cars, entertainment venues and vacations.
Being employed at a large company also brings with it a benefit that can’t be quantified, and that’s access. From a networking perspective, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with individuals with valuable knowledge and contacts that can help you drive your career forward. You may have the chance to become part of an official mentoring program, which will formalize your relationship with a more senior colleague. As a representative of a major organization, you will be introduced to representatives of other major organizations, and your professional network will take off more quickly than if you had tried to build it as an entrepreneur. Since everything that happens in the work world happens because of the people you know, this perk is priceless.