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Growth vs. Compensation: What If Joining A Startup Is Your First Job?

Previously, I wrote about growth vs. compensation. I didn't get into specific scenarios or cases, but spoke generally about the decision of choosing between the two factors for the first job in your career.

I chose growth for various reasons. However, that choice is based on me joining an established, mature aerospace company.

What had it have been an aerospace startup instead? Would my answer change?

Throwing in the option of working for a startup as a first job complicates the decision between growth or compensation.

An easy, cop-out (and obviously right) answer is: it depends.

My take: I would choose compensation.

Here's why: to be clear, the question of compensation becomes a little more complicated when considering a startup. The two main forms of compensation a startup offers are salary and equity in the company. Depending on the startup (especially its stage and industry space), your compensation package could be salary-heavy, equity-heavy, or balanced between the two.

With this complication explained, I would choose a salary-heavy compensation package if I were taking a new job. There's the old age: "one in the hand is worth two in the bush." If salary were to be the thing in hand, then equity is what is in the bush. You don't know what the value of the shares you are given in the startup will be a month, a year, or a decade from now. You could be holding on to something incredibly valuable or completely worthless over time.

You don't know whether the startup will be alive or dead in 18 months.

I would rather have the security of having cold, hard cash being deposited into my bank account every two weeks given the inherent uncertainty in startups as a first job.

Of course, my answer doesn't fully take into account the risk one is willing to take, especially considering your family background.

But that will be for a future post.

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