44% of your grads want a job at a startup. Here are 6 things they should know first.

According to a survey by Accenture, 44% of college grads say they want to work at a startup—and only 14% say they want to work at a large firm. 

Those who want to work at a startup say they're attracted to the idea of:

  • More autonomy;
  • An informal atmosphere; and
  • On-the-job learning opportunities.

But Lauren Berger, the CEO and founder of InternQueen.com, says working at a startup isn't always all it's cracked up to be—though it can be a great experience, there are a number of drawbacks. If your soon-to-be grads are set on pursuing an opportunity at a startup for their first jobs, consider sending them off into the real world with the following advice:

Don't expect standard salaries and benefits

Berger says that depending on how well the startup is funded, or how recently it began, salaries can fluctuate a great deal. This makes it difficult to benchmark a job offer from a startup against other job opportunities. Startups often don't leave room for negotiation either, Berger says—and they don't always include benefits.

The No. 1 factor that determines salaries

Be ready to establish company culture yourself

At startups, Berger says there aren't usually standard practices or norms. It's up to the current employees to create their own culture, which Berger says can be disorienting.

You might have to be your own boss

At startups, new hires don't automatically get their own direct managers, says Berger. Instead, they will often be in charge of setting their own goals and responsibilities. Berger warns that this can be a difficult adjustment coming from the close supervision, clear goals, and consistent feedback that college provides.

Get comfortable with the 24/7 workday

Launching and maintaining a startup is a full-time job (literally). Berger says startup employees should expect emails and text messages to come through in the evenings on weekends, and should be ready to drop everything and act on them. "In a larger, more established company, schedules are more predictable, and weekends often more sacrosanct," says Berger. 

Related: 5 things you do that make your employees want to quit

Get ready for YouTube, MOOCs, and Google to become your best friends

Berger says larger companies often have training budgets that exist for the benefit of their new employees. You'll get to attend conferences and workshops to develop your skills. But at startups, you'll be on your own. Berger says when startup employees don't know how to do something, they have to turn to free resources, usually on the internet.

The rug could be pulled out from under you at any moment

At startups, there usually isn't much financial security. Investors can pull out, the funding can dry up, or something else can go awry—putting your position on the line.

"You'll have to be prepared for this possibility," Berger warns, "no matter how hard you work" (Berger, Harvard Business Review, 5/1). 

Also see: How to save your English program

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