Should you give up 3 years of your career to try a startup? It’s a common concern from first-time founders, but the question is meaningless because it’s phrased to ignore a startup’s career benefits. Namely, that your employability keeps growing while you’re away.
For example, when I first graduated university, I could only have been hired as an entry-level programmer. But after a couple years in a [doomed] startup, I could get work in a bunch of different jobs (sales, strategy, product management, marketing, etc) and could also have been hired back as a more senior programmer. Since then, I’ve only ever felt my options expanding. In terms of your career, taking some time to work on a startup is all upside, even if you go back to the corporate world; you re-enter at a higher level than you left. Of course, this isn’t going to be true for some specialist jobs like surgery. But I’m quite convinced that it’s true of your career in general.
As long as you avoid big personal risk (like taking on lots of credit card debt), you can’t really get hurt by a startup, even if it’s a write-off. The years aren’t wasted; they’re building options.
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