How to Choose the Right Career Path?

Door to new opportunityThere are a several of key factors that you should consider when picking a career path. I am going to share with you three not so well-known things to consider that I wish someone would have told me about before that can help get your feet moving in the right direction a little sooner.

Operations or Sales?

Employees typically fall into two roles, operational or cost employees and sales or revenue employees. It is the role of revenue employees to bring in the sales and the money. Operational employees don’t earn the company money, but rather their role is to save the company money.


If you are a revenue employee, you are typically a sales, marketing or business development professional. If you are a people person and like nurturing relationships and consumer behavior and psychology fascinates you, then this type of position is for you. Or if bringing in the dough is exciting to you then step right this way. But a revenue employee in a startup versus a mature industry can differ quite drastically. In mature industries, it gets more difficult to close new sales because you have already saturated the market. Current sales colleagues might see you as a threat and therefore it may be difficult to make close trusting friends with your colleagues. On the up side, revenue employees enjoy more job security at startups, because they can ride out the momentum from the natural growth which can launch you into a strong career trajectory.


If you are an operational employee, then you are also considered a cost employee. There tends to be more management roles in this area as there is more scrutiny here. As costs go up every year, you must be good at what is called continuous improvement, a concept from lean methodology.  If you are good with statistics, processes and regulations then this role is for you. Operational employees are more abundant and tend to have a higher longevity at mature companies.

Large Corporation or Small Startup?

Large Corporations tend to be in more mature industries where they dominate market share, but lack the strong growth of a younger company. If you value stability and getting essentially the same pay every year (adjusted for inflation) then a large corporation is for you. If you want an opportunity to grow quickly, including your pay, despite having to possibly start out with less pay, then a startup is for you. If you don’t mind to do essentially the same thing every day, yet becoming more and more specialized, then a larger corporation is for you. Large corporations have all of their processes and formulas for success figured out and they just need you to hop on and follow SOPs. They make small improvements on things that are already perfect. This is small gain territory.

They don’t need you to reinvent the wheel, and even if they did need a little reinvention, you will most likely have to convince them of that. If you like to have some down time at work or work at a slower pace and value work-life balance, then a large corporation is for you. If you are still a student then I recommend to work for a large corporation that way you can have the stability to pay your school tuition until you graduate and use your breaks to study or get some homework done. Large corporations don’t generally have the capacity to clock-watch you and honestly don’t care as long as you are getting your work done. They are also places where you will hear a lot more “no’s” than “yes’s”.

Small Startups

On the contrary, if you value coming to work to something new almost every day and to an environment that is charged with a lot of energy, spirit and excitement, then a startup is for you. If you are looking to ramp up fast in your career and take on a high level of responsibility with the possibility of your salary to do the same, then start-up land is where you should look to be. Start-ups attract problem-solvers and people who get bored easily. You will find people who like to engage their minds, think on their feet, and come up with the new processes and structure to run the place. They are builders and creators who are impatient with small gains and like to see big gains quickly. Because they are making such big gains, it also means that they have less down time. Here every hour counts, but in every hour, you will hear a lot more “yes’s” than “no’s.”

Public or Private Company?

Public companies are those that are publicly funded on a stock exchange by traders. There are lots of regulations imposed by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) by which the company needs to abide, such as issuing quarterly reports. Public companies are always under pressure to boost their numbers and stock price quarter over quarter and must maintain a positive image in the public eye. Since they are in the public eye, they are always under scrutiny, thus managers and senior executives of public companies will often carry more stress, especially at the end of a quarter than their counterparts at private companies. They are places where you will hear a lot more “no’s” than “yes’s”.

Public companies don’t want to grow too quickly and then stall out. They ultimately want to sustain a rate of growth that is competitive enough that it will appease its investors. Thus, in some cases, you may be in a position where you have to hold back and wait until a new quarter to implement initiatives or release product.

Politics seem to favor the executives whom have a positive public image and are able to satisfy the public investors and the board. There are many people to appease. If you are not a people pleaser and don’t care for constant self-image upkeep, then public companies aren’t for you.

Private companies can either be self-funded or have other investors, such as VC firms supporting them. At the rare ones that are self-funded, I find the executives to hold much less stress and are more laid back because they can operate at their own pace as long as it’s competitive enough. They don’t have to do as much paper work to report earnings or worry about satisfying investors. They are also allowed to keep their financials confidential if they so desire. They don’t have the eye of public scrutiny on them in quite the same way as at public companies. As a result, they tend to be more mysterious and lesser known because they aren’t in that spotlight. Instead of people coming to you to find out who you are and what you did last quarter, you have to make more of an effort to create your own publicity.

Politics seem to favor the executive who can make best friend or side-kick status of the owner.

It should be noted, that these assessments are generalizations that aren’t necessarily true for all organizations. You must do your own research of the company that you are interested in to see how they make or break these norms to find out if they should be your next stepping stone in your career path. What I discuss here are the extremes of the spectrums. There is a middle ground, for example, mid-sized companies, it’s just a matter of figuring out which extreme you lean towards.

Lastly, you can’t go back in time to tell your former self things that you wish you knew. If you are still unsure about what career path is best for you, then the next best thing is to find more experienced individuals who are where you want to be and pick their brains, because in a sense they are your future self. Be sure to ask them what about their job they don’t like, then from there, you can decide if you are able to tolerate those things and stay on your desired career path.


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