Most of the region’s fresh graduates start their careers chasing jobs with big corporations, because they believe that will allow them to build up their CVs and get better opportunities later.
On the other hand, many entrepreneurs face difficulty in recruiting the caliber of employees they need to scale up. Usually founders of startups don’t have enough resources to recruit experienced staff members, and they think that they can’t count on inexperienced fresh graduates to work for them.
So far in my career, I’ve worn both hats: as a fresh graduate working for a startup, and a founder of a startup who only had the option of recruiting fresh graduates.
Discussions around youth unemployment in the MENA - the highest in the world at 27% for the Middle East and 29% in North Africa - and the huge potential entrepreneurship has to solve it has been significantly increasing during the last few years. A lot of advocacy work is currently being done to spread a culture of entrepreneurship in the region, but there still isn’t enough being done to highlight the value of being a startup employee, and the problems working at a startup could potentially solve.
I’m writing this piece to illustrate a simple comparison between working with a big corporate and a startup from the perspective of an employee, and what’s for a founder in recruiting fresh graduates.
From the perspective of a fresh graduate, working for startups is better than working for big corporates for the following reasons:
More room for innovation: Startups need fresh minds to come up with creative solutions to challenges. Because of the ever-evolving nature of the startup world, entrepreneurs are some of the best people for fresh graduates to learn from. This also contributes to a culture of entrepreneurship in the company and between all team members.
It’s never about a job title: As part of a startup’s team, you potentially have the chance to get involved in every single aspect of the company’s work. This helps in identifying your areas of interest beyond your academic expertise, in addition to the steep learning curve you’ll no doubt experience.
More flexibility: Away from the rigid bureaucracy of a corporation, you get more flexibility at a startup on many levels (i.e working hours, uniform… etc). These small details may make you feel more comfortable, and therefore productive.
Growing faster: Working within a small team and potentially doing more work than you’re hired to do will give you the experience and opportunity to get promoted faster.
No bureaucracy: Working within a small team means you’re more likely to be friends with the founders and all other employees; this means things can get done done at a faster pace.
Sounds great, right? There are, of course, downsides to working for new companies including potential job instability, since the company is by definition an experiment that might succeed or fail, financial instability, due to startups limited resources, and lack of structure that can potentially lead to abuse.
Putting my entrepreneur hat on, recruiting fresh graduates was the only option I had to move forward with my business given my very limited resources. Here are some of the advantages of hiring fresh talents beyond its being financially affordable.
Thirst for knowledge: Fresh graduates are always striving to learn new things. Entrepreneurs should take advantage of this and give their employees the space to learn, because these employees are the ones that will help the company grow.
Easily molded: One of the most important benefits of having a fresh graduates working for you is that they are easier to shape to meet the requirements of the company. Most graduates in the MENA don’t stick to their academic specialty when they are looking for jobs, and the lack of job opportunities is the main reason behind it. Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this by helping them build a career path that doesn’t necessarily align with their degree.
Enthusiasm for company culture: Fresh graduates have never experienced a corporate culture first hand. Having young and new talent joining your company supports your efforts to build an entrepreneurial company culture that keeps improving as the company grows. This also facilitates a culture of entrepreneurship between employees who might graduate one day to become entrepreneurs themselves.
In both cases, whether I was the employee or the founder, taking advantage of mentors was the best approach to acquire the knowledge and advice needed to connect the dots and bridge the gaps caused by talent gaps.