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Career Corner
Corporate Life vs. Small Business vs. Self-Employment

Shana Spooner -- Mark graduated college and joined corporate life. He tried a series of jobs in different industries. He did everything from Public Relations, to Human Resources, to Buyer and more. What he found was that the corporate environment was just not for him. As he explained, "You're told what you're going to do. You're really not allowed to be creative. It's just not me."

Turns out Mark would love to be self-employed but isn't sure if self-employment is right for him.

So, for all of you wondering the same, here are the top three pros, cons and success factors for corporations, small businesses and self-employment.

Working for a Corporation

Pros
* Steady paycheck -- You at least have the illusion of job security and generally, pay is good in corporations.
* Paid benefits -- With insurance costs constantly escalating, employees pay for a portion of their insurance. However, benefits which include paid sick days, vacation days, and matching 401K contributions add 30% to your salary.
* Ability to job hop within the company. Most corporations allow transfers between departments after working in a job two years. You can change jobs without losing seniority.

Cons
* Can be laid off at anytime. Job security is a fallacy. Moreover, lay-offs may have little to do with ability and performance. It's more of a bean counter exercise.
* Ageism is rampant. It's difficult to get a corporate job when you're over 45. Most corporations prefer younger, less expensive help.
* Difficult to feel like you're making a difference. Personal satisfaction is minimal when a small cog in a big machine. This is probably the biggest reason most want to leave corporate life.

Success Factors

Those who do best in this environment:
* Are politically astute. The old saying -- it's who you know not what you know is so true. The successful do at least one of the following: enroll a mentor 2 or 3 levels up, volunteer for high profile committees and/or join clubs where executives belong.
* Enjoy implementing others marching orders. When you don't have access to the top of the house, change in direction and priorities may appear arbitrary. Yet, the successful in this environment accept and champion change with grace.
* Like working in teams. Teamwork plays an important part of being successful in the corporate world.

Working for a Small Business (under 50 people)

Pros
* Age friendly. Small business owners are more interested in results than in your age.
* Educational. If you're considering starting a business, working for another who has already done it can teach you a lot.
* Weekly paycheck. There is something to be said for that.

Cons
* Lower pay than corporations. Pay in small companies is generally not as generous as in corporations.
* Possible stagnation. After awhile, there may be nowhere to grow within the company.
* You toil making others money. You're spending your time growing someone else's company. It's kind of like renting instead of buying. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Success Factors

Those who do best in this environment:
* Have same values as CEO. The successful feel comfortable with the CEO's values and ethics.
* Prefer high visibility. The successful like being a big fish in a small pond.
* Like the people. The office is another functional/dysfunctional family. The successful enjoy close relationships with co-workers.

Self-Employment

Pros
* Can't be laid off. You are in charge and not at the whim of others.
* You decide business focus and company values. You can mold your work to your preferences and ethical standards.
* Experience direct impact on individuals. Success is being redefined to mean "contributing directly to the success and happiness of others." Having meaningful work is a great reward.

Cons
* Success of the business is totally up to you. There's no one to point fingers at if you don't make your business what you want it to be. You put yourself on the line and take personal risks.
* Income is unpredictable. It's not a steady paycheck.
* Pressure of keeping work coming in. Even when busy, the pipeline needs feeding. Customers come and go.

Success Factors

Those who function best in this environment:
* Don't give up. Obstacles are everywhere. The successful are self-starters who regularly overcome obstacles. Growing a business takes longer than planned.
* Feel the fear and do it anyway. The successful go beyond their comfort zones. They are willing to screw up, learn from it and move on.
* Partner with customers. The successful don't meet about customers, they meet with customers.

Shana Spooner provides her clients with clarity on the career direction they would be happiest pursuing and then gives specific actions to get there.

© 2003 CareerBuilder.com

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.